If you read this earlier blog you may remember that I had taken my 13 year-old, partially blind, small dog to the beach to cool off one afternoon and was stunned when an officious council employee arrived and issued an ‘infringement notice’ for ‘ANIMAL NOT UNDER EFFECTIVE CONTROL’. Although the dog had been on a leash, I had removed it while she waded in the shallows.
Here’s a part of what I wrote:
‘The man with the badge on his shirt is not amused when I ask, ‘Surely we’re not in trouble for having a dog on the beach?’
He writes in his note book and informs us that dogs must be ‘leashed’ at all times.
I suppose I should not have told him that it was ‘a pathetic rule’ because that made him more belligerent - which then caused me to take on the role of ‘assertive female being talked down to by an officious and obnoxious man’. ‘
My February blog ended with me attending a meeting with a councillor to dispute the validity of the fine, owing to the fact that there were no signs forbidding the public from having dogs on that part of the beach - and that I had seen lots of other dogs frolicking with their owners along that exact foreshore on many previous days.
The whole experience was most upsetting, but, two months after the meeting with the councillor, having not received any further notification, I supposed that the fine had been retracted and thought nothing more of it.
Until….in April, I received (in the mail) a ‘FINAL NOTICE”, stating that I had ‘only 28 days’ to ‘choose an option’ of how I was planning to respond to the fine.
My options were:
1. To pay the fine of $121 in full,
2. Apply to pay by instalments – but this option was only available to recipients of fines over $200.
3. Elect to have a court hearing or
4. Lodge a statutory Declaration – only available for ‘vehicle related offences’.
So, there was really not much of an option for me.
To choose none of the options available – such as they were – invited intervention by the ‘State Enforcement Registry’, which could lead to the following:
1. suspension of my driver’s licence,
2. an order to my bank to collect the money owed,
3. deduction of money from my wages,
4. seizure and sale of my ‘property’,
5. an ‘arrest and imprisonment warrant’.
But what to do?
I wrote to the ‘Animal Management’ section of the local council (and to the councillor whom I had met with in February) stating that I had not received any further notification and had assumed that the matter was closed.
What followed shocked me.
Letters from the ‘Animal Management’ person and the councillor arrived; both disregarding any of my concerns.
I was provided with a copy of a letter claimed to have been sent to me some months before, which I had NOT received. There was also a copy of the original ‘infringement notice’ – the one that the councillor had taken from me – but now changed a little, with more details added; details of which I was previously unaware.
If it were not so infuriating, it would be laugh-out-loud funny.
Here are the ‘observations’ of the ‘issuing officer’, (as written):
‘Sighted female at waters [sic] edge with dog off lead. Male sitting in chair watching dog walk towards (a word scrubbed out) female’
Added was a description of the ‘female offender’ (that’s me). I will not list all he wrote, suffice to say he increased my height by 5cms and lowered my age by 10 years, which was the only nice thing about this whole debacle!
There followed ‘Other notes’ which were all written in angry upper case, including his observation that ‘female became argumentative…’ Of course I was ‘argumentative’!
So, here I am again. And on and on it goes.
Although Animal Management have refused to withdraw the notice, they have kindly (?) ‘granted me an extension’ until July 1, whereby I have to decide whether to pay the fine or ‘consider electing to have the matter heard before a Magistrate’s Court’.
Apart from venting my frustration at such a petty approach to a minor ‘infringement’, I felt a need to write about all of this to demonstrate an example of how money (that could otherwise be spent more wisely) and time is wasted on such matters.
Take note: There were two (TWO) officers in a council owned vehicle conducting ‘random patrol of area’. I was with my elderly little dog at water’s edge – nowhere near any signs prohibiting such actions. The small dog was (temporarily) ‘off leash’ so a fine of $121 was issued, stating ‘ANIMAL NOT UNDER EFFECTIVE CONTROL’ (she was!).
Every word I spoke was filmed and recorded.
After declining to hand over the fine, the two officers then drove all the way to my house (some 15 kms away) to deposit the infringement notice in my letter box.
So, now the decision is whether to pay the fine or waste more time and money by requesting a Magistrate’s Court hearing.
As a law-abiding citizen, I am far too respectful (and wise) to insult the honourable institution of the Magistrate’s Court with such a matter, so seems as if my only option is to pay this excessive and unnecessary fine.
I truly think that a gentle warning, probably taking less than a minute, would have been more appropriate.
Am I right or wrong?
Would love your comments.