Monash dogfight: Legal fees bite in protracted battle

MONASH ratepayers are facing the possibility of another $100,000 Supreme Court battle over the classification of a pit bull terrier.

Jade Applebee, of Mount Waverley, is preparing to appeal against a Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal decision that backed the council's finding that her dog, Kerser, is a pit bull.

Her last-ditch attempt is expected to cost her and the council thousands of dollars.

Monash mayor Micaela Drieberg said that appeals can only be made on the grounds that there was an error in law.

"We haven't received the paperwork yet so we don't know what the suggested error is," Cr Drieberg said.

The case is unlikely to be heard for several months until after a directions hearing.

This will be the second case Monash Council has fought in the Supreme Court under the state's dangerous-dog law.

The first, against David Dudas and his dog, Rapta, resulted in a $100,000 legal bill after the council lost the case. Cr Drieberg said the council was trying to recover the costs of the Dudas case through the Appeals Cost Board.

"We're very keen for the government to change the legislation so councils don't have to carry so much legal responsibility," she said.

"We're willing to play a role in protecting the community, but we need more support."

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.

In December last year, Ms Applebee's dog was seized by the council after it was found in a neighbour's backyard. Ms Applebee, who maintains her unregistered dog is an American Staffordshire terrier cross, rejected the council's finding and sought to overturn it at the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal.

After a two-day hearing, which included a physical inspection of the dog at the RSPCA in Burwood, VCAT deputy president Heather Lambrick upheld the council's decision.

"The overall impression of Kerser is one of compliance. He may not be a perfect example of a pit bull. However, such a dog probably does not exist," Ms Lambrick said.

"Even in the areas where he does not meet the standard to a substantial degree, he meets the standard to some degree and importantly in the areas of musculature and strength."

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