City in new dogfight over pit bull ruling

MONASH Council is embroiled in a new and potentially costly row over an unregistered pit bull terrier.

The 12-month-old dog, called Kerser, has been identified by council officers as a pit bull. Under Victorian law the dog must be destroyed, but the owner has disputed the finding and appealed to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal.

SEE: Kerser's owner speaks out: 'I don't want my dog on death row'

Last week the tribunal heard that officers seized the dog when they were called to a Glen Waverley address on December 4 by a man complaining that two dogs had broken into his backyard from a neighbouring property.

Pit bull terriers, also known as American pit bull terriers, are a restricted breed under the Domestic Animals Act. Since an amnesty ended in 2011, any pit bulls found to be unregistered must be destroyed.

Just one week before the officers were called out, the council learned it had lost a similar, $100,000 case when the Supreme Court overturned a VCAT ruling that a dog fitted the pit bull standard. The dog in that case, Rapta, has been returned to its owner.

The owner of the current dog in question, Jade Applebee, maintains it is an American Staffordshire terrier cross and said outside the tribunal that she was prepared to take the case to the Supreme Court.

During last week's hearing, VCAT deputy president Heather Lambrick heard from three of Monash's animal management officers that the dog, Kerser, was a restricted breed.

"When I first saw Kerser, I thought he was an American pit bull terrier," officer Rebecca Graley said. "In my experience, he looked like one. He fit the description."

Under questioning from John Hoey for Monash Council, Ms Graley was asked about assertions made by Ms Applebee's expert witness, Lynne Harwood.

Ms Harwood argued that the measurements of Kerser were incorrect and that the shape of his head, eyes, cheeks, and neck showed he was not a pit bull.

Asked by Mr Hoey whether she agreed with Ms Harwood's statement that the dog's cheek muscles were not as prominent as required by the standard, Ms Graley said: "I found that to be untrue."

Ms Graley later said: "The dog can have flaws and that's the case in this scenario.

"It doesn't mean it's not (a pit bull)."

But Ms Harwood, an international all-breeds dog judge, said the council's use of a tape measure to assess Kerser would yield the wrong results. She said a tape measure was prone to curving. "It wouldn't be accurate."

The hearing was told that there were 18 registered pit bull terriers in Monash.

Inspections by the council to ensure the dogs are securely constrained on their owner's property are held twice a year. Owners are informed of one inspection and the other is at random.

The case is continuing and will include a physical inspection of the dog at the RSPCA centre in Burwood next month.

RESTRICTED BREEDS

Victoria has restricted the ownership of five breeds of dogs because they are considered to be a higher risk to the community than others. Restricted breeds must be muzzled and leashed in public. Declared restricted breed dogs:

■ American Pit Bull Terrier

■ Fila Brasileiro

■ Japanese Tosa

■ Dogo Argentino

■ Perro de Presa Canario

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