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'Dangerous' dog's name cleared

Owner spends more than $20,000 fighting council
Owner spends more than $20,000 fighting council

A MAN has gone to extraordinary lengths to save his best mate and farmhand, an Australian cattle dog-cross named Copper.

Mark Watt, of Coolgardie, north of Wardell, has already spent three years and more than $20,000 in an effort to have his dog removed from the dangerous dogs register.

But he says the battle is not over yet.

Ballina Shire Council declared Copper dangerous after he was involved in an attack on another dog at a beach in 2007.

That dog was severely injured and needed extensive treatment.

In 2008, Copper attacked another dog near Mr Watt’s Coolgardie property, and the council issued Mr Watt with an infringement notice.

He challenged it in the local court, but the magistrate ruled in favour of the council.

Mr Watt then appealed the decision in the District Court and the judge let him off on a Section 10 bond. It is understood Copper did not attend court.

Since then the cattle dog has undergone extensive training and has been desexed.

At a council meeting last week, councillors reluctantly agreed to revoke the dangerous dog declaration.

It has been an expensive ordeal for Mr Watt, who now wants compensation.

“I am seeking further advice on whether I should take legal action against the council,” he said.

“I don’t know how much of the money I’m going to get back.

“But I want to stop this kind of thing from happening to other people.

“There aren’t a lot of people who are prepared to spend that much money for their dogs.

“So a lot of people get jammed up in the system. This has just about sent me broke.

“But Copper’s a working dog. I couldn’t have all those restrictions on him.”

Mr Watt has repeatedly refuted claims that Copper was even involved in the first attack.

He also criticised the way the council has handled his case.

“It was proven that Copper was not a dangerous dog,” he said.

“But the council can just declare a dog as being dangerous, and that’s that.

“I had no choice but to go to court.”

Last week, in making the decision to revoke Copper’s dangerous dog declaration, councillors expressed concern that he might re-offend.

Cr Sue Meehan said it was a ‘terribly serious situation’.

“Who is to say that it won’t attack a child next time? I think it’s a public safety issue,” she said.

But Cr Keith Johnson said Copper had only got into trouble because he ‘ran with the wrong pack’.

“I think the catalyst here is that dogs are pack animals,” he said. “Not only has the dog been trained, but the owner has been trained.

“The level of risk in this case is low.

“The dog comes from a breed which is not extremely savage.”

Cr David Wright said he hoped the council had made the right decision in revoking the dangerous dog declaration against Copper.



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