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Byron Shire
October 25, 2021

Local man killed dog to ‘protect children’ court told

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A local homeless man who killed his dog at Brunswick Heads believed he had no choice because the animal had bitten two children, Byron Local Court has heard.

But the magistrate found that Robert Kim Mitchell should have found a more humane way of putting the animal down, and forbade him from owning another pet for 10 years.

Mitchell, 53, had pleaded guilty to aggravated animal cruelty over the death of the dog on November 28.

But Byron Local Court heard on January 11 that he did not ‘resile from his reasons for acting as he did’.

Mitchell’s solicitor, Rebecca McIlveen, told the court that the dog had bitten two children in the space of two days.

‘The first was a little girl aged around six or seven who was running across the grass outside the community centre,’ Ms McIlveen said.

‘The next day the dog bit a young male child.’

Ms McIlveen told the court that Mitchell could not afford to take his dog to the vet to be put down, and that he did not want to wait for a council ranger to arrive because it would take too long.

It had not occurred to Mitchell to contact the RSPCA, the court heard.

‘He accepts that the way he dealt with the dog was well below community expectations, but he did it to protect young children,’ Ms McIlveen said.

Magistrate Geoff Dunlevy said the 53-year-old should have found another way.

‘While on one view your motivation might be seen as noble, that is, to protect children, there are far more appropriate ways to deal with such an issue,’ his honour said.

He sentenced the 53-year-old to a good behaviour bond and made an order forbidding him from owning another pet for 10 years.

In reaching his decision, Mr Dunlevy took into account that Mitchell had spent three weeks in custody while on remand and that, once released, he had been required to report to Brunswick Heads police every day.  

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  1. With all due respect in this very sad situation, dogs that are properly restrained – as ALL dogs in public places are required to be, by law – are generally not able to attack children or anyone else. Please, Byronites, respect the law and each other, and KEEP YOUR DOGS LEASHED when they’re not on your property!

  2. This unfortunate chain of events now needs to be put away into the past.
    This man has been unfairly judged by his community and has now faced a magistrate who, in my opinion, was (throughout the day) a fair-minded and compassionate man. I was impressed with his humility and his care with the scores of unfortunates placed before him.
    In my opinion Mr Mitchell was fairly tried and convicted and he was truly regretful. Keep in mind that now his best mate, Rebel has gone forever.
    Mr Mitchell is from an ‘old-school’ farming area and that’s how men dealt with a rogue animal. You looked after the matter yourself and got on with it!

  3. I only knew Rebel as a loving, gentle and obedient dog. Last time I saw Rebel was about 48hrs before he was bashed to death. At that time, he had about 3 to 4 small children aged about 6 to 7 years playing with him. Rebel was enjoying himself. I joined in with the kids and so witnessed it all. Consequently, any implied reference to him been a ‘rogue animal’ fails my scrutiny as indeed it does for the whole time I knew the dog and that was over quite a number of months.

    Like everyone else, we are bound by the rule of law, irrespective of where we live or our personal circumstances. The magistrate has made his decision.

    However, I will forever be indebted to him/her/them who had the courage to report this cruelty and the police and ranger who were involved in bringing it to court. The ugliest they had to face in resuming Rebel’s body would have been sickening.

  4. Every time we saw the dog and owner the owner was always drunk and treated the dog like crap that poor puppy trusted his owner with his life and I don’t believe for a second he hurt any children he was a amazing loyal dog and was always playing with children don’t know how anyone could do this to their so called best mate

    • Katie, I unreservedly share your sentiments and endorse your observations after months of knowing Rebel. However, we are under the rule of law and the Court has made it’s decision. Mr Mitchell is on a two year good behaviour bond plus the 10 year prohibition on owning a pet.

      Regrettably, the legislation on Animal Cruelty is lenient compared to what would apply if a person had been the victim.

      Perhaps the severity of the penalty imposed will be measured by the self-discipline now required to meet the good behaviour bond?


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