An animal rescue volunteer is vowing not to change her practices, despite facing trial and potentially prison after taking a dog she says is suffering.
Summer Johnson from Bay of Islands Animal Rescue has been charged with theft of livestock or other animal. If found guilty, she faces up to seven years in prison.
Johnson appeared in the Kaikohe District Court on Tuesday, where she pleaded not guilty and elected trial by jury. She is due to reappear in December.
Outside of court, Johnson explained the charge is about Northland dog, Sheba, which was previously hit by a car – breaking bones and causing nerve damage to her front paw.
The dog’s vet recommended amputation or the dog be put down, she said.
Johnson said the dog’s owners confirmed what had happened, then asked for Sheba to be given back.
When she refused – due to concern for the dog’s welfare – the owners went to police, who laid the charge.
Johnson said her main concern is Sheba is still suffering, with her front paw dragging on the ground.
Bay of Islands Animal Rescue is still looking after the dog, including giving her pain medication and monitoring her exercise to ensure she doesn’t scrape her paw too much.
Johnson would like Sheba’s leg to be amputated, as per the vet’s recommendation, but she is not allowed to order the surgery – despite the organisation being willing to pay the $4000 vet fees.
She was told the family consider Sheba to be a well-loved pet and had sought a vet recommendation that she would be okay without the amputation.
But Johnson said the vet is now retired, had not physically examined the dog and did not want to put his name to the recommendation.
Many of Johnson’s supporters travelled to Kaikohe on Tuesday – from as far away as Cambridge and Houhora – to stand outside court in support.
Amongst the crowd outside court were numerous dogs and a couple of goats.
Johnson said she is disheartened the case has got as far as it has but she is prepared to fight the charge.
“What needs to change is the law, and the people with the power need to start standing up for our animals and holding animal abusers to account.”
SPCA national inspectorate manager, Alan Wilson, said this proceeding is a police matter and SPCA is unable to comment further as it is before the court.