VCAT: Shire, dog owner make another pitstop

AFTER more than a year without his best mate, Arthur Kalamaras will front a second Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal hearing in a final attempt to be reunited with his beloved dog.

Mr Kalamaras has been embroiled in a 14-month legal stoush with Cardinia Shire after his dog, Rocket, was seized in March last year as an alleged American pit bull.

Mr Kalamaras said it was up to the council to allow him to see Rocket, after the dog’s location was revealed at directions hearing late last month.

“I would love to see Rocket. It’s been more than a year since I have seen him.”

Mr Kalamaras said he would rely on expert assessments of Rocket by a vet and breed judges to form his defence, for the May 30 hearing at the VCAT — “we are hoping a breed judge will find that Rocket does not fit the restricted breed standard”.

Rocket will be judged on a range of physical features including body shape, legs and tail to determine if he fits the characteristics of a restricted breed.

But Mr Kalamaras said DNA tests — which show Rocket is a Staffordshire terrier cross miniature bull terrier — were not admissible at the tribunal.

Canine geneticist at Australian Specialised Animal Pathology, George Sofronidis, said DNA testing should be used to determine if a dog was a restricted breed.

“Genetic testing is a lot more accurate than someone looking at the physical features of a dog,” he said. “When it comes to restricted breeds [in Victoria] they fall into the bull terrier breeds. The tests can distinguish [which type of bull terrier a dog is].”

Mr Sofronidis said it was difficult to develop a DNA signature for pit bulls given their restricted nature. Genetic testing was 98 per cent accurate for purebred dogs and tapered off as breeds were crossed.

Mr Kalamaras said Rocket was a “calm and friendly” dog but Cardinia Council argued that he was a potentially dangerous American pit bull.

Rocket escaped Mr Kalamaras’ Cardinia backyard last year and council officers impounded the dog under Victoria’s Domestic Animals Act.

Mr Kalamaras appealed to the VCAT and when the tribunal ruled against him in July last year, sought to take the matter to the Supreme Court.

But Cardinia Council said a Supreme Court hearing scheduled for April this year was “unnecessary” as both parties had agreed to return to the VCAT.

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