Kara Chaplin visits Sarge in detention.
Kara Chaplin visits Sarge in detention.

Death row dog fight goes to Supreme Court

A Sunshine Coast mother has taken her long-running fight to save her "dangerous" dog from destruction by the Sunshine Coast Council to the Supreme Court, believed to be the first time such a case has ever been heard in this court.

Kara Chaplin, from Cooroy Mountain, says Sarge, a 10-year-old american staffordshire terrier cross, is a gentle and docile family dog with her young kids and other family pets, including rabbits and guinea pigs, and he doesn't deserve to be put down.

Sarge, with whom Ms Chaplin has a "special bond", was put on death row last year because he escaped from her yard without her knowledge, and attacked a dog walking past the home, after a kids' toy scooter kept the garage door ajar.

The attack came a year after Sarge was taken out of the home for a run by Ms Chaplin's partner without wearing a muzzle, when he has been required to wear one since 2016 when he was declared a dangerous dog for fatally attacking a small dog outside their former home in Cooroy after escaping through a faulty gate.

Last Friday Ms Chaplin's appeal was filed in Brisbane Supreme Court after she lost her appeal in the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal on June 3.

That ruling refused to overturn the original QCAT decision which upheld the council's decision to destroy Sarge because he was declared an unacceptable risk of attacking again.

Sarge, who has lived with the Chaplin family since he was an eight-week-old puppy, has been living on death row at the council-run pound for nearly 16 months while the case is fought in the courts.

Kara Chaplin says Sarge is a gentle family dog.
Kara Chaplin says Sarge is a gentle family dog.

His family can visit him but must pat and talk to him through the wire of his enclosure.

The decision that he should be destroyed was made by a council officer on April 16 last year, the QCAT ruling states.

Ms Chaplin has used social media campaigns to raise $14,379 from 340 online donations from around the world, to pay her legal costs of appealing the ruling.

Ms Chaplin has told her donors on GoFundMe that she has spent $5000 building a new 2m fence and an enclosure with self-closing gates to keep Sarge contained on her 13ha property if she wins his freedom.

As a dangerous dog he must wear a muzzle when he is taken out of the home, and she told the tribunal that she now has a clearer understanding of the obligations on owners of dangerous dogs.

Ms Chaplin has paid for animal behaviourist reports to be used in QCAT hearings and the tribunal heard she was very remorseful for Sarge's actions and paid for the veterinary bills of the dog that was attacked in March last year.

She was also charged as a result of the incident and fined $3,829 in the Magistrates Court.

"Euthanasia should be the absolute last point of call," she wrote on GoFundMe.

"We understand the importance of community safety. We have everything put in place to comply with all rules of owning a dangerous dog," she wrote.

"Sarge is not just a dog, he is our family member and he is loved dearly," Ms Chaplin wrote.

"Sarge had a very normal life interacting with all kinds of dogs at off leash beaches and off leash parks where he had no issues at all," Ms Chaplin posted on Facebook.

"He went to puppy pre school and passed everything and was always well behaved," she wrote on her "Help Save Sarge" Facebook page.

No court date has been set for the Supreme Court hearing.

Ms Chaplin's lawyer Anne Greenaway from Lawyers for Companion Animals said her client declined to comment about the case because it was before the court.


Kara Chaplin with Sarge
Kara Chaplin with Sarge

Originally published as Death row dog fight goes to Supreme Court