Owners of potentially dangerous dogs have an obligation to ensure people’s safety, a Christchurch judge said today.
District Court Judge Raoul Neave sentenced Ralph Sparks to 250 hours’ community work after Sparks’ two rottweilers attacked his stepson.
Judge Neave said the sentence “will be sufficient to meet the needs of the case to send the appropriate message about the need for caution”.
Sparks, 44, had admitted a charge under the Dog Control Act of owning the dogs that injured the boy in September last year.
The family agreed to both dogs being euthanised immediately after the incident.
Judge Neave said the two unregistered rottweilers had previously rushed at people but had never attacked or bitten anyone.
The boy had taken them for a walk at a park near the family’s home in Bromley, as he had done on other occasions, the court heard, but for some reason they turned on him and attacked him “quite severely”.
Sparks’ stepdaughter tried to call the dogs off, and other family members had to intervene.
The boy was taken to hospital for treatment for extensive injuries but the judge said they were not as serious as in some other dog attacks.
There were four puncture wounds to a thigh and cuts to his scalp and face.
“There is some suggestion that there may be scarring or surgery required but there is no suggestion that he is grossly disfigured,” Judge Neave said.
In similar cases, people had gone to prison and there were high obligations placed on owners.
“These dogs are to be regarded as having significant potential danger to the public and to their owners,” the judge said.
“As long as they are not illegal, you are entitled to have these dangerous animals, but there are strict obligations imposed to make sure they don’t cause mayhem, damage, injury, or worse.”
In retrospect, the boy was probably too young to have had control of the dogs, and he noted that the family had co-operated after the incident and the dogs had been destroyed.
“There is no suggestion that there is any lack of care in the home,” he told Sparks.
“I have no reason to doubt that you are as distressed as anybody.”