'I don't want my dog on death row'

A KNOCK on the door from an angry neighbour last December led Jade Applebee to a hearing room at the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal last week, fighting to save her dog's life.

The neighbour told her that Kerser, the dog she says was sold to her as an American Staffordshire terrier, was in the custody of Monash Council. The neighbour had called council's animal control officers after the dog broke into his backyard.

So far as the officers were concerned, Kerser looked clearly to be an American pit bull terrier, and their suspicions were apparently confirmed by a formal inspection at the Burwood RSPCA pound the next day.

All this was just 24 hours before Ms Applebee planned to register Kerser. She had only moved into her Mount Waverley home three days earlier. Her dog, Kerser, had been staying with a friend.

SEE: City in new dogfight over pit bull ruling

Within the next 24 hours, Ms Applebee called the council four times. "I had no idea what was going on," she said. "I was gutted because — and I'm sure a lot of pet owners will sympathise with me — if you do get a pet, you treat it like a child. It's your baby."

Ms Applebee, 27, bought Kerser from a friend of a friend in April last year and she was shocked when she learned of the council's assessment of him.

"I understood him to be an American Staffie Cross. That's what he sold to me as. He has never showed any signs of aggression."

Ms Applebee last week took Monash Council to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal in an effort to save her dog from being put down.

Under changes to Victoria's dangerous dog legislation, councils have the power to seize unregistered, restricted breed dogs and destroy them if they are found to match the standard characteristics of the breed.

Outside the tribunal last week, Ms Applebee maintained that Kerser was not a pit bull. But she conceded that she "should have registered him" and been aware of local laws.

She condemned the council for seizing dogs based on their appearance.

"I'm disappointed that [Monash Council have] put so much time and effort into putting dogs to death. To commit a dog to death because of its physical appearance, it just doesn't make sense. I don't want my dog to die for no reason."

But it is believed that once officers have decided that an individual dog is a restricted breed they have no powers of discretion.

Ms Applebee said that she has already spent up to $1500 on the legal case and she was prepared to take it to the Supreme Court if she did not win at the tribunal.

She said she would not seek costs from Monash Council if she won.

"Yes, it would be nice to be reimbursed, but if I get my dog back, I don't care."

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