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Facing prosecution, a stressful time for dog owners

Written By: Nathan Batts and Olivia Rose

How to work with Council for better outcomes for you and your dog

Recent legal developments mean dog owners need to carefully consider their approach if they find themselves charged with an offence under the Dog Control Act.

A dog owner’s main priority is to prevent the Court from ordering the destruction of their dog. However, these latest changes mean dog owners will require a wide range of options to help them avoid a destruction order.

The Court has to make a destruction order when a conviction is entered for a dog attack. Nevertheless, if the Court is satisfied the circumstances surrounding the offence are unique or exceptional then the destruction order can be waived.

Recently in Auckland Council v Hill, the Court of Appeal clarified what is necessary to deem the circumstances exceptional when relating to an offence. The result of the decision has made it more difficult to satisfy the requirements of the exemption.

The Court will only consider the circumstances of the dog attack itself. This means factors such as whether a dog has received training after the attack are irrelevant in terms of special circumstances. 

The Council as prosecutor has a discretion to amend the charges against the owner of a dog who has attacked. This means working with Council is key to increasing the chance of a positive outcome for the owner and dog.

Engaging a lawyer to negotiate directly with Council regarding a possible amendment to the charge could be a good idea as these negotiations can be complicated.

Haigh Lyon has successfully negotiated charges laid against dog owners and helped to avoid destruction orders being issued.

Generally, Council needs to be presented with good reasons for changing its charges. This usually involves identifying factual or legal deficiencies in the Council’s evidence against the dog owners. The starting point is almost always a careful review of the Council’s case.

There are also other options available to Council, such as a charge of rushing which does not carry a mandatory destruction order.

It is a stressful and worrying time for a dog owner when they are dealing with potential prosecution for the behaviour and misconduct of their dog. However, by working with Council there are ways to negotiate and find a solution that will benefit both you and your dog.  

Haigh Lyon can provide advice to dog owners facing prosecution and how to work with council to negotiate better outcomes. Contact Nathan Batts on   or 09 306 0608 or Olivia Rose on or 09 306 0624

More information: Find out more about what happens if a dog owner is charged under the Dog Control Act