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Decision over Tallarook dog shooting slammed

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Mitchell Shire Council may soon learn that the community’s bite is a lot worse than its bark if its reaction to the charges against Tallarook farmer Denis Leahy is any indication.

Last week the Review reported that council is taking Mr Leahy to court claiming he unlawfully destroyed two dogs.

Mr Leahy is charged under section 84ZA of the Domestic Animals Act, which states it is an offence to unlawfully seize or destroy a dog or cat. However, section 30 of the Act also states the owner of any animals or birds kept for farming purposes, may destroy any dog or cat found at large in the place where the animals or birds are confined.

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At present an offence under section 84ZA carries a penalty of not more than three penalty units, raising the question of a cost benefit to both council and its ratepayers. The maximum fine would be $576 – far less than the legal costs of obtaining that result.

This has raised questions from the community ranging from council wasting rate money to apparent unfair double standards.

The Review asked council why the owner of the dogs has not been charged as they were allowed to wander at large in contravention of the act and could council justify yet another expense against ratepayer funds.

Mitchell Shire chief executive Brett Luxford responded saying that council was unable to comment on the details of the matter as it was before the court.

In last week’s Review, Seymour farmer Lance Mark questioned why council had decided not to prosecute the dog’s identified owner, by allowing their dogs to wander at large.

“Our Human Rights law requires Mitchell Shire to treat everyone fairly and equally. There are no two options to ensure justice,” Mr Mark wrote.

“What a disgusting use of ratepayer’s money to pursue a farmer for protecting his livelihood and animals. Surely there are more important things to spend our money on,” Pyalong farmer, Leone Ryan wrote.

David Waye, in this week’s Letters to the Editor, expressed concern that if council is successful in prosecuting Mr Leahy, then all farmers should be worried.

“If affected by wandering predatory dogs, they may be forced to make choices between sacrificing their own stock to avoid prosecution, or protecting their stock and facing prosecution,” he said.

Mr Waye suggested that council is refining its campaigns by zeroing in onto a respected farmer for the ‘crime’ of protecting his own property.

Kim Studd suggested that if the farmer saw the dogs attacking his sheep, he had a right to protect them.

“And what do council and RSPCA do with harmless animals if no one collects them? They put them down rather than allowing rescue centres to save them.”

Rural journalist Fran Cleland described the situation as an “absolute disgrace” stating that Mr Leahy was defending his flock.

“If you have ever seen what a dog attack does to a helpless sheep you would understand his actions,” she wrote.

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9 COMMENTS

  1. Ian Blyth you have single handedly used your power within the NCR to turn this story around to make the farmer the victim. These dogs were caged and then shot. Some poor family is now grieving at the fact their dogs will not be returning home. People wanna whinge about dogs being out on the loose. They need to have a hard look at themselves. People don’t just open their door and tell the dogs to go for a run. They could have got out due to fences falling, door not secure, scared and bolted. Accidents happen. Here is a question. If i run a shop of some sort and i get burgled, I can’t do anything about it and the police won’t do anything about as you are just expected to have insurance to cover theft. Why are farmers not required to have insurance if a dog destroys a few livestock? Seems as though it’s a one way street. I see countless horses, sheep, cows and other livestock out on the road all the time. Why can’t I pull over and shoot them in fear that they may damage my car if i hit them. Again if that was the case then i’d be expected that i was insured to cover the damage. It just amazes me how farmers have such high regard for one animal but not the other. These old draconian laws need to be changed to make it fair for all animals.

  2. … Have you ever seen sheep running around the paddock terrified with their belly dragging behind them… death imminent… and the dogs chasing after another victim…tearing at their wool and flesh… the sheep cannot get away.. they are fenced in. The only defense the sheep has is its Sheperd and hopefully he/she is close by to what is necessary to save those with no other defense…. very sad very ugly… No farmer ever likes having to go to those measures.

  3. So sad to have ignorant people question the rights of a farmer to protect his business and his animals. The law exists for a reason. It’s so sad that the dogs had irresponsible owners that let them roam and kill. But the farmer is the victim and doesnt deserve an unnecessary court case. And where is the accountability of the dog owners who committed offences when they let their dogs kill sheep on someone’s farm. Its just ridiculous when money is so short at MSC that our ratepayer funds are used on a court case that is not going to achieve anything but dragging a victim through the courts.

    • The law is clear. If he shot the animals whilst attacking / to prevent an imminent attack, he was well within his rights. It’s the whole caging them, waiting until morning and then killing them as they weren’t claimed over night that is the issue. A dog killing my stock I will take action against and destroy if necessary. If I’ve already dispelled any threat, caged them over night – I know I am not legally protected if I then destroy them.

  4. I’d hardly call 16 comments “slammed”!
    People can’t go around shooting dogs and expect their story tp be enough to justify it. This is why it is being investigated! As it should be!
    Having experienced a farmer wanting to shoot a dog with out evidence or witnesses to the accusations, who would not listen to facts, reason or evidence that we had to prove innocence. He put a $1000 bounty on the dog’s head and raised hell about it and everyone believed him! There needs to be tougher laws in place.
    I am not saying this farmer was not within his rights but let the judge decide that, not one sided public.
    A neutral comment posted on the Facebook story has been manipulated here to be against this when the person said they are not on either side. Disappointing to have a local paper do this!
    It’s an exaggeration to say it’s a waste of taxpayers money. There is no where that costs for these charges have been published. Just a cop out!
    I expect more from NCR than this attempt to exaggerate opinions.

    • Disgraceful council wasting our $ to prosecute someone protecting their livestock. Council just wants $ All need to be sacked. There were 3 referendums held not to have a 3rd tier of government, anything councils do is totally illegal.

      • Council just want $??
        How does that work? Did you actually read the article?
        Hang on, they’re wasting money or they want money? Make up your mind because the $576 fine is not going to go far if he’s found guilty
        They are rightfully seeking to have this case heard and evidence given to experts for a decision to be made.
        There are holes all over the story.
        Dogs in a killing frenzy would not come when called to a stranger.
        When he did call them and they came to him, he should have called police or Council, showed them the injured or killed stock and the owners would have been charged and he would be compensated. Instead he didn’t call anyone, left them over night then killed them.
        I do not know the story but it seems from what his family and friends have said that he didn’t actually provide evidence that his sheep were killed.
        People lie every single day to get out of trouble…
        I have had a farmer lie to have a dog killed! So this is close to home.
        You cannot kill and not provide evidence for your reasons. This isn’t the 1800s.
        Law needs to change and this is a good start.

        If evidence is presented and the court finds he was within his rights, great!
        I’ll be pleased for him.

        Otherwise you can’t kill a family member willy nilly without consequence.
        He should have followed the correct procedure.

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