Couple are being dogged by the microchip police in case dating back to their choice of farm dogs

The workers can be a handful...

The workers can be a handful…

When Alf drives from Eketahuna to Parliament to apply his enormous talents to the country’s governance, he passes through the town of Greytown.

And somewhere in the district in or around Greytown (he hasn’t actually gone looking) he would find a couple who are making a name for themselves for defying the microchippers.

One of the stroppy twosome is 72-year-old John Edward Phelps, who a year or so ago failed to persuade a judge his 10 lap dogs had been mustering sheep on his family farm.

His crime – if you can call it that – was the consequence of the legislative folly of the previous Labour Government, which made microchipping of pooches compulsory in response to a few maulings of children.

Any dogs registered after July 1, 2006, are required under the 1996 Dog Control Act section 36A (1 December 2003) to be microchipped by their owner. Working dogs are exempt. The maximum fine for not doing so is $3000.

It hasn’t stopped people being mauled by dogs.

But the law has been good business for microchip makers, microchip installers and microchip policing.

According to this report last year:

John Edward Phelps was found guilty of 10 counts of failing to microchip the nine pekingese and one jack russell by Judge Arthur Tompkins following a defended hearing in Masterton District Court.

South Wairarapa District Council brought the charges after Phelps repeatedly failed to provide evidence any of the animals were working dogs.

Phelps and his partner Mary Phillips own 23 dogs in total. The others don’t require microchipping as they were registered before the legislation came into force.

Readers can check out who said what at the court hearing in the newspaper report.

Suffice to say Phelps said the dogs had been working sheep on their 48ha property since they owned them.

He provided photographs to the court showing the small dogs on his bike and with sheep in the background.

But:

Judge Tompkins said that in the 2000 or so years in the history of the pekingese breed they had never been used as working dogs.

He said Phelps’ claims were “nonsensical and artificial” because of the breed’s “diminished” size and physical constraints.

Outside court Ms Phillips declared the “law is an ass” and talked of appealing the decision.

TV3’s Whena Owen went to the property to see for herself.

Her report (with a video) can be found here. 

In recent days the couple were back in the news for refusing to accept a High Court decision that their small, fluffy pekingese are not working dogs.

John Phelps and Mary Phillips, of Greytown, have continued defying South Wairarapa District Council’s insistence they microchip their nine pekingese, and a jack russell, despite losing a court battle last year.

The couple register their dogs each year but maintain that, as working dogs on their 49-hectare sheep farm, they are exempted from microchipping under the Dog Control Act.

But Phelps was convicted in Masterton District Court last year on 10 counts of refusing to implant a microchip, and the High Court upheld the convictions on appeal.

The local authorities, inevitably, take a dim view of being defied.

A council meeting on Tuesday heard it was no closer to getting the couple to comply, as they now claimed all 10 dogs had been sold, died, or transferred from Phelps’s ownership.

Planning and environment manager Murray Buchanan said Phillips, who apparently now owned some of the dogs, was “in complete error and denial” and “putting up the usual smokescreens around her failure to comply with the Dog Control Act”.

“These changes may simply be a ruse to avoid the microchipping requirement.”

Further enforcement action is among the council’s options if the couple do not notify ownership changes in writing, as the law required.

But Phillips said the accusation was “a load of rubbish”, and that another council staff member’s personal vendetta against her was behind the case. “This is malice with a capital M … here we are, the most compliant dog owners, our dogs have never been on council land, yet we are vilified.”

She said all the surviving dogs had left south Wairarapa and were in a district whose council did not require rural dogs to be microchipped. She would not say if she still owned them.

It was “laughable” that the council had spent more than $10,000 on the court case, which had not proven the couple did not use the dogs as farm dogs, and instead simply ridiculed them for saying they did.

A council big-wig rejects any “vendetta” against her.

“We have better things to do with our time… All [the] council is doing here is respecting all the law-abiding dog owners who have done the right thing and had their dogs microchipped.”

According to the Stuff report, no other dog owner in south Wairarapa had failed to comply.

But this does not tell us how many other owners of Pekingese in the Wairarapa – or anywhere – are using the wee buggers for farm work.

Mind you, the Greens might be able to find use for a few Pekingese to help their musterer, the caucus officer they appoint to keep their MPs in order because they are repulsed by the idea of calling these people whips.

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