‘Loving pet dogs’ removed

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Shea Johnston has been classified as “unfit” to own a dog, but his family’s pet dog Scruff seems to think otherwise.

Mr Johnston used to be the proud owner of two dogs.

Bichon frise Scruff and Jess, a 2-year-old Rottweiler, were removed from his care earlier this year.

“I had two loving pets dogs that I absolutely adored,” Mr Johnston said.

“I had Jess since she was 6 weeks old and Scruff for nine years – she was a huge part of me and my family’s lives” he said.

“When Jess was 1 year old, she got out of the yard and went wandering. This led to the dog control officer seizing her, which I received a fine for.

But that was just the beginning for Mr Johnston.

“I would find him [the dog control officer] outside my house all the time.

“One night at around 10.30pm, he came to my house to seize Jess while accusing her of wandering again.

Wandering ways… Rottweiler Jess, seen here as a 6-week-old puppy, was removed from Shea Johnston’s home by the Gore District Council when she was 2.

“He came on to my property and Jess, who was still a puppy, was frightened of him. She began to growl and bark at him.

“Because of this, Jess was classified as a dangerous dog. I was not allowed to take her out of the house without a muzzle on.

“I was told I would need a dog enclosure because Jess was such a big dog. She could jump over pretty much any fence and loved to run around.

“So I got one and spent heaps of money getting it built.”

The situation improved until one day the family came home to find Jess gone.

“The gate was wide open. It had been locked shut and to this day we still do not know who it was that came on the property and let Jess out.”

Mr Johnston was then deemed unfit to own a dog by the Gore District Council.

“From then on in, I was not allowed to own dogs. They took them from the premises. I still am not allowed any dogs here.”

Scruff was now in his father’s care, but it was not out of the ordinary for her to return to her former home.

“Scruff will be sitting on my doorstep in the mornings, waiting for me .. She will have run all the way from my dad’s to my place – she does it a bit.”

Despite having been prohibited from owning dogs, he would still find the dog control officer on his property, he said.

“He was trying to find the dogs – he had a camera on him. If he did find them, the consequences would go to Jess, not me.”

He was prohibited to own dogs for up to five years but expected Scruff would continue to turn up on his doorstep, Mr Johnston said.

“There’s no changing that.”

Council chief executive Steve Parry said only one person in the area was registered as being unfit to own dogs.

“If we were as stroppy as everybody says we are, we’d have more,” Mr Parry said.

“This is issued to dog owners who receive three or more infringements over the course of two years. We must disqualify them,” he said.

All owners had the right to contest claims their dog was being menacing or dangerous, Mr Parry said.

“The claims of a menacing dog have to be backed up with evidence. For example, maybe somebody felt threatened by the dog.”

People claiming a dog was dangerous had to provide hard evidence to back it up, he said.

Such claims did not mean owners did not care for their dogs.

“Don’t get me wrong – we know these people love their dogs.”