Fine for Russell owner of kiwi-killing dog a national record

The $4500 fine handed down to a Northland man whose roaming dog killed kiwi is a national record, the Department of Conservation says.

Last week the Advocate reported Martin Christopher Allen, of Russell, had been sentenced in the Kaikohe District Court for owning a dog causing the deaths of two kiwi in 2018.

Tested showed canine DNA on the dead birds, found by members of the public about four months apart, which also had injuries consistent with a dog attack.

When Allen’s husky-labrador cross, Weka, was seized by council animal control officers after another complaint it had ben wandering, a saliva sample showed a match for DNA on the dead birds.

Judge Deidre Orchard said it was unfortunate Weka would have to be destroyed because, in her view, the fault lay with the owner, not the dog.

She said she was being ”merciful” by reducing the fine from $5000 to $4500 for Allen’s guilty plea, given that it came on the day his trial had been due to start and more than two years after charges were laid.

DoC solicitor Mike Bodie said the fine was a New Zealand record.

The previous record fine for owning a dog that killed kiwi was $1000, though that was for one bird rather than two. Allen also had a number of previous convictions.

Bay of Islands senior biodiversity ranger Adrian Walker said DoC was pleased with the court’s decision.

”Particularly in this case, given the defendant’s previous offending and his failure in terms of his duty of care for the dog and the impact on kiwi in his area.”

Allen’s defence was that Weka was kept on his deck so someone must have entered his home on each occasion while he was at work and let the dog out.

Only a few dog attacks on kiwi in the Bay of Islands in recent years have resulted in successful prosecutions.

In December 2020, according to court documents, Rose Paraha, 50, pleaded guilty to owning a dog that caused the deaths of six kiwi.

The birds were found on a private property in July 2019. Several were next to a house.

Paraha was convicted and an order was made for $300 reparation plus destruction of the dog, which had been allowed to roam freely. She was not fined due to the family’s financial situation.

The bodies of another two recently killed adult kiwi have been sent away for tests to check for canine DNA.

One was found next to Lake Rd, Ōkaihau, on December 24, 2020, and the other beside Paroa Bay Rd, Russell, on January 10 this year.

Two more kiwi were attacked, but survived, at Waimate North in December and on the boundary of Puketi Forest in mid-January.

In June 2020 five dead kiwi were found at Signal Rd, Ōkaihau.

The cause of death was severe musculoskeletal trauma consistent with a dog attack. The only body fresh enough for testing came back negative for canine DNA so there was no prosecution.

The Far North District Council, however, dealt with the owner of two dogs that were not under control in the area around the time the kiwi were killed. It is not known what action was taken.

In 2018 another five kiwi were killed on Hansen Rd, on Purerua Peninsula.

Sixteen dogs in the area — 14 working dogs, one pet and one pig dog — had DNA samples taken. One dog was an exact match but the others were inconclusive so DoC eventually dropped the charges.

Documents obtained by the Advocate under the Official Information Act showed the owner of the dogs, or the property where the dogs lived, was unco-operative and would not allow DoC staff to be present while samples were taken. As a result an entire batch of samples could not be used as evidence.

DoC spokeswoman Abigail Monteith said since January 1, 2020, 55 kiwi deaths had been recorded in the Bay of Islands. Of those 16 were dog kills, 19 were vehicle strikes and 20 were of unknown causes.

It was up to the whole community to help with dog control, she said.

Dog owners needed to know what their dog was doing at all times, even on their own properties, and walk dogs on a leash in kiwi zones.

In 2020 DoC’s Bay of Islands staff dealt with five dog owners who approached the department after their dogs attacked kiwi.

DoC had worked with those owners to reduce the risk of their dogs killing more kiwi, she said.

”Many dog owners whose dogs kill kiwi may either not know it’s happening or don’t come forward for fear of being prosecuted or being stigmatised.”

Kiwi aversion training on its own was not enough with DoC recording a number of attacks by dogs that had been through the programme, she said.

The maximum penalty for owning a dog that kills protected wildlife is a fine of $20,000 and/or three years in jail.

■ The previous record fine, $1000 plus $2150 in reparation for DNA testing costs, was imposed in the Thames District Court in January this year. No reparation was sought in the Russell case.

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