A High Court judge in New Zealand has denied a family’s appeal to save their husky from being put down because it killed a guinea pig and a chicken.
Aspen’s owners, Alexandra and Graham Johnston, appeared before Justice Edwin Wylie earlier this week to plead their case, saying Aspen’s conviction was unjust.
Aspen originally began chasing the chickens in the northern suburb of Torbay in 2019.
Nine months later he was off-leash again in the area and killed one of the chickens at the same property.
In the same incident, Aspen killed Bert, a child’s guinea pig, at a neighbouring property.
“In making my decision I am acutely aware of the distress that an order for destruction will have on Mr and Mrs Johnston and their son,” District Court Judge Jocelyn Munro said at the conclusion of the April trial.
“Aspen is a much-loved member of their family.
“I acknowledge that distress, however I must apply the law, which is very clear.”
The judge also fined the Johnston family $750 NZD and ordered emotional harm payments of $150 to the other pet owners.
Alexandra Johnston argued in court this week that the chicken owners were to blame for the incident because the birds were outside of a property when Aspen saw them.
She also withheld an argument she had made previously that there’s no proof Aspen killed Bert the guinea pig, saying the animal could have died of fright.
She maintains there were no bite marks on the guinea pig. The Johnston’s claim they saw the guinea pig after Aspen attacked it and said it was alive, but died later that night.
They claim they offered to replace the pet, but the family chose not to accept the offer.
They said on social media they never called for Aspen to be put down but requested the dog be rehomed.
Justice Wylie dismissed both arguments.
“It seems that no one actually witnessed Aspen killing the chicken or the guinea pig but he was seen with both animals in his mouth at different times,” he said.
“The inference that it was Aspen who killed the chicken and the guinea pig is irresistible. The [district court] judge cannot be criticised for drawing this inference.”
Aspen’s story has been well covered in the lead up to the appeal, with the Johnston family filing a petition to Parliament to give judges more discretion when making rulings associated with pets.
The petition pushes for dogs to be given three chances in the instance where an attack is not fatal or against a person.
They have previously used the argument that cats are not sentenced to death for killing birds and that Aspen was acting within his nature when he attacked the chicken.
“It has become bigger than our dog,” Alexandra Johnston said in court on Monday. “It is an issue for all dog owners – they are being prosecuted for dogs being dogs.
“You are crucifying dogs that are good dogs.”
A Change.org petition for Aspen has gained over 10,000 signatures, but Justice Wylie said the case was beyond the scope of appeal.