Kerser was just 8 months old when he moved with his mom Jade Applebee to their new home in Mount Waverley, Australia, last December. But just a few days of arriving, Kerser was sentenced to be destroyed.
When Jade let her two dogs outside into her new fenced yard, she was unaware that the planks of the fence were rotten. Kerser and her other dog escaped and ended up in the neighbors' backyard.
Her neighbors called Animal Rescue, who took the dogs to the local RSPCA in Monash County. Kerser was immediately seized by the Monash City Council and judged to be a Pit Bull. As he was unregistered, which is required in Victoria by law, the Monash Council sentenced him to be put down in accordance with the state's breed specific laws.
Australia's state of Victoria restricts Pit Bull terriers through Breed Specific Legislation (BSL). Pit Bulls need to be specially registered and their owners must adhere to strict rules or their dogs face euthanasia.
Jade immediately appealed this decision with Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal in an effort to save Kerser's life. She said her reason for not registering Kerser earlier was that she had just moved into her new home two days prior to Kerser escaping. Apparently, she had requested the paperwork in order to register Kerser and received it the day before Kerser was seized.
Jade also maintains that Kerser is not a Pit bull mix. When she purchased Kerser from a friend in April 2012, she believed him to be an American Staffordshire Terrier cross and not an American Pit Bull terrier as the Council alleges.
During the civil tribunal held earlier this month (May), the Monash Council heard from Lynne Harwood, an international dog judge, who was called as an expert witness. Harwood has experience judging American Pit Bull terriers in competitions in the United States. She told the Council that Kerser's muzzle was not broad enough or his skull large enough be be considered a Pit Bull. She also said that his overall body type and head did not fit the pit bull standard outlined in Victoria's BSL legislation.
When Harwood later viewed Kerser in person, she said that the council's animal officers had been mistaken in their measurements of Kerser.
But Harwood's qualifications came under question by a member of the Monash Council, according to Monash Weekly. The council member pointed out that Harwood did not hold a degree in animal science and was a gift shop proprietor. During the questioning, Harwood stated that she did not have an opinion regarding BSL and had appeared as an expert witness in several other cases.
Regarding the question of Kerser's measurements, the Bless the Bully blog reported that:
Although the tape measurements indicated that Kerser was not a pit bull, the animal management officer simply stated that the dog can have "flaws," and the measurements don’t necessarily mean the dog is not a "pit bull."
At the end of the two day hearing, the Council's decision was upheld. The Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal deputy president Heather Lambrick said, "The overall impression of Kerser is one of compliance. He may not be a perfect example of a pit bull. However, such a dog probably does not exist."
Jade wanted to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court, but on Wednesday, her request was rejected. Kerser is scheduled to be destroyed Monday June 3, 2013. Jade will get to spend 1 hour with him before he is put down.
Details to note about Victoria government's BSL legislation:
What you can do to support Kerser:
Update June 3, 2013:
According to the Free Kerser Facebook page, Jade's hopes for a miracle came true, "Kerser has a stay of execution. He is not being euthanized today."
Although Kerser will not be destroyed today, his fate is still unknown. The stay of execution is valid for 14 days.
Jade and Kerser during their visit today.
December 9, 2013
Jade has won a Supreme Court appeal which could possibly save Kerser's life. Kerser has now spent over a year with Monash Council after being seized from Jade in December of last year. Since then, Jade has been fighting in court to win Kerser's freedom and save his life.
Kerser was given a last-minute reprieve in June when Jade indicated she would be appealing the Supreme Court judge's decision. She went to the Supreme Court's common law division, judicial review and appeals list.
The case was heard before Justice Michael Croucher, who overturned the decision by Supreme Court associate judge Rita Zammit. Justice Croucher's decision will allow Jade to have Kerser's case heard again before the tribunal.
The judge called into question the tribunal's deputy president's use of her "overall impression" to determine Kerser was a dangerous breed.
The Age Victoria reported that Justice Croucher said, "In truth, her conclusion [the deputy president] – whether it be described as being based on her own observation or an impression – could be no more than speculation. The tribunal's ability to inform itself in any way it sees fit does not extend to engaging in guesswork."
The judge has ordered the tribunal hear Kerser's case again.
On Tuesday, Jade posted on the Free Kerser Facebook - "I have just won my appeal...!!!! Now we must go back to VCAT to win Kerser's freedom."
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