MONASH resident Kathy Zini is at the centre of an unofficial support network for dog owners who are prosecuted by councils for having an unregistered pit bull terrier.
Members of the group have become a source of solace and support for distressed dog owners. The group contacts owners in the lead-up to hearings in court or the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal,arranging for members to attend cases across Melbourne, providing advice and representation.
Ms Zini has worked on nine cases since attending a VCAT hearing and meeting two other members of the group. She is outraged at the results of breed-specific legislation that seeks to seize and destroy dogs on the grounds they are a restricted breed.
She insists the treatment of dogs in this way is comparable to Nazi persecution of Jewish people before and during World War II. "Under breed-specific legislation, all that matters is do they fit that set of physical characteristics. Their temperament is completely irrelevant and not admissible in court. The only thing relevant is their physical shape," she said.
"It's literally exactly the same as Hitler. I have actually done a comparison between the characteristics in the (dog breed) standard versus the characteristics that Hitler used to decide on who would and would not go to the gas chamber, and it is scarily similar."
At present Ms Zini is caring for Rapta, a dog that Monash Council tried to seize and destroy in a high-profile case that was decided in the Supreme Court. She says the dog, also known as Baby, is a "sweetheart".
"Everyone who meets her can't help but fall in love with her. "She's probably a pit bull for all I know ... she's not, according to our law now."
Victoria has restricted the ownership of five breeds of dogs, including pit bull terriers. Since an amnesty ended in 2011, any pit bulls found to be unregistered must be destroyed. Monash Council is embroiled in a row over a 12-month-old dog, Kerser. The owner Jade Applebee maintains the dog is an American Staffordshire terrier.
Ms Zini said the true definition of a pit bull is a dog that is put in a pit to fight. "You can't describe it by a particular shape. It's a flawed concept to think that a pit bull is inherently vicious or that any creature is inherently vicious based on their physical characteristics."