‘The fight’s begun’ – dog’s death launches petition

Woody was picked up roaming the traffic in south Auckland by police officers.

A pit bull’s controversial euthanasia has led to a petition being aimed to abolish Breed-Specific legislation (BSL).

Woody was picked up in traffic by police officers and taken to Manukau Animal Shelter on January 18. He was found to have no microchip or registration.

Janine Hinton, co-founder of Saving Hope Foundation, claims that the officers, who are not identified, were horrified that Woody would be put down in seven days if not collected by his owner.

Animal Management manager Elly Waitoa told the Times he was identified as being a pit bull type by experienced shelter staff.

“Under the Dog Control Act, we have a responsibility to hold dogs that are found without an owner for seven days,” she says.

“We tried to locate its owner by checking lost dog reports and putting out messages on the Auckland Council impounded animal Facebook page.”

Saving Hope, who have foster families in east Auckland, repeatedly posted Woody’s picture and information on their social media during his time in the shelter. They also offered to take the dog themselves.

Several individuals reportedly came forward to claim the dog was theirs. One man, Jesse Thompson, thought the dog could be his brother’s dog or one he had sold from a litter.

“While a number of people came forward, under investigation the claims were found to be false,” Waitoa says. “Those who came forward were without evidence and could not provide details such as the dog’s name or age.”

Woody was euthanised on January 27.

“While it is never our first choice to euthanise an animal and is not a decision that is made lightly, we are required to follow the Dog Control Act which automatically classifies dogs that are wholly or predominantly made up of these breeds as menacing, no matter how they behave individually,” Waitoa says.

This refers to the Breed-Specific Legislation in the Act which prohibits or significantly limits the possession of dogs basely solely upon their breed or type. This applies to American Pit Bull terriers, Brazilian Fila, Japaense Tosa, Dogo Argentino and Pere de Presa Canario.

Woody’s euthanisation caused a flood of outrage and disbelief on social media. Hinton was equally devastated. “It breaks my heart,” Hinton says. “It was the straw that broke the camel’s back.”

Waitoa says that they understand “this has been an upsetting incident”.

“We empthasise with those involved,” she says. “We ask that pet owners please ensure their animals are microchipped and registered so that incidents such as these do not occur.”

A petition has been launched to have BSL ended for all pit bull breeds. “We wish to encourage local councils and the NZ government to abolish BSL, which has recently resulted in a loving, healthy ‘pit bull’ being put to sleep in Auckland after numerous attempts from fellow rescuers to save him,” the petition states.

It currently has 3574 signatures. The ‘Justice for Woody’ Facebook group has 6.1k members.

“We have to make a change in NZ. The fight’s begun,” Hinton says. “They’re not qualified to go what’s a pit bull and what’s not. It’s the owner, not the dog. Any dog can bite.”

SPCA also advocates for the removal of this legislation.

There is currently a lawyer and barrister working on the petition. The petition, Hinton says, has to be worded “absolutely perfectly” so when it goes to the government it won’t be “thrown out”.