$500,000 to keep dog off death row
Thomas Chamberlin | April 6th, 2010
John Mokomoko with Tango
A COUPLE who say they have spent almost $500,000 in a fight for their dog to live on the Gold Coast should today learn if they have won their six-year battle.
Kylie Chivers and John Mokomoko have taken on the Gold Coast City Council in the Supreme Court over the identification of their dog Tango as an American pit bull, as opposed to an American staffordshire terrier.
The council's ruling of Tango as a pit bull meant the dog, which originally cost them $300, was automatically deemed dangerous and needed to be put down.
To keep the animal safe the family moved it to a kennel just south of Tweed Heads more than five years ago, where it could be registered as an American staffordshire terrier.
Today, hundreds of thousands of dollars later, a judge is to decide Tango's fate in a decision which could have wider ramifications for thousands of dog owners, after council lawyers argued the American pit bull and American staffordshire terrier were the same breed, meaning both were dangerous.
"The fallout of the decision could be horrendous," said Mr Mokomoko, 47, who works as a Brisbane airport security officer.
The couple had made an agreement with the council to move Tango to NSW instead of having him destroyed, which has fueled the council's argument why the dog should not be returned to the Coast.
Their case prompted Mr Mokomoko to work 98-hour weeks at his former security job at the Tugun desalination plant to pay the cost of the kennel, weekly travel, lawyers and documentation including Freedom of Information requests, and video evidence.
At one point he was paying another security officer to drive his wife down to see Tango.
He also helped other dog owners successfully overturn 57 dog identifications through the courts, which he said had brought his total costs close to $500,000.
Along with thousands of pages of documents, the couple also obtained DNA samples from Tango's parents and submitted a breed identification test to the court, arguing the 22-point identification checklist from southeast councils was flawed.
Mr Mokomoko fears if today's decision goes against them it could set a precedent and affect all American staffordshire terriers.
The American staffordshire terrier clubs of Queensland, Victoria and Northern Territory have written to city council CEO Dale ****son expressing concern and calling on the council to drop the case.
"This has the potential to negatively impact upon an entire recognised pure breed, representing tens of thousands of dogs and their owners, for the sake of one court case involving one dog," said Victorian secretary Lincoln Hancock in a letter.
If the family wins today and if a judgment is made on the 22-point identification checklist, Mr Mokomoko believes it will prompt litigation from other owners who may have had their dog wrongfully identified as pit bulls
The Mokomoko family is also seeking costs from the council.