by Chris Tobin
Timaru woman Siobhan Butterworth says her life has been ripped apart after her dog was killed in front of her in an attack on the Dashing Rocks walkway and made worse by what she calls the Timaru District Council’s lacklustre and unsympathetic response.
“The council has swept what happened to me under the carpet. My dog was my life. She was like my little girl. She went everywhere with me.
“I’ve no family. I’ve had six years taken from me.”
Timaru District Council group manager environment Tracy Tierney said the council was sorry about her loss but felt that it had offered sensitive and thoughtful support.
Siobhan was walking her dog Rayne, a 6-year-old German Spitz, on the Dashing Rocks walkway near the Timaru abattoir early in the morning of Friday, September 28, when a mixed-breed dog being walked by another woman attacked.
“The two dogs sniffed each other for a start and then bang! The other dog just tore her to shreds.”
She said the other dog, a pitbull crossbreed, was not on a leash and did not have a collar.
“It kept attacking and attacking.”
She managed to take Rayne in her arms and started walking home when the other dog leapt up, snatched Rayne and “finished her off”.
“The other girl never said anything and gave no name or address.”
Siobhan’s veterinarian notified the council the same day of the attack and three days later she went into the council to make a statement.
“The council said the dog that attacked was still at the owner’s address and it was OK because it was padlocked up.
“The dog should have been removed.”
She wanted to know from the council what had happened to the attacking dog, whether the other dog owner was to be prosecuted and if she could be recompensed for her vet bills.
On October 11 she rang a council staff member seeking answers to these questions. That staff member was not available, so she left a message.
The council staff member did not ring her until Wednesday, October 17, which she found unsatisfactory since she had made it known that her dog’s death had left her severely traumatised.
“I just feel council are sweeping it under the carpet and don’t want to deal with it.
“She [the council staff member] said ‘I understand.’ No, she doesn’t. She has no idea what I’m going through but I’ve had everything taken from me. She was my only family.
“I’ve had to take time off my job at Fonterra, who’ve been really good. I’ve sought counselling and went and got stuff to sleep. I’m having nightmares.”
She believed the council did not give her information, should have advised whether it intended to prosecute or not, was slow to respond and lacked compassion.
Ms Tierney said council worked hard in such situations.
“Our animal control staff always try hard to provide support to people, during what can be a traumatic experience, while they undertake their obligations under the law.
“Our animal control officer had visited the owners of the offending dog the same week as the report and ensured that the dog was secure and risks to people and animals were appropriately managed.
“We had initially advised the owner of the dog that was attacked that we would be in touch with her again following our investigation and the 14-day objection period. A letter is on its way to her outlining the actions that had been taken against the owners, which have been fully complied with.
“While this notification did not come as quickly as expected, our staff had been working on a resolution within the timeframes that are set out in law.”