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Family loses high court battle to save pet husky ‘Aspen’ on death row after he killed two other pets


Family loses legal battle to save their pet husky Aspen from death row after he killed Bert the guinea pig and a chicken while going for a beach walk

  • Owners of death row Husky appealed to NZ’s High Court to spare their dog’s life
  • The dog bolted 300m when let off its leash and attacked the small animals
  • Their two year court battle ended in failure with the dog set to be put down 










A beloved family dog that killed two pets will be put down after a last-minute High Court appeal to save him failed, devastating his owners.

Aspen, a Siberian Husky owned by Alexandra and Graham Johnston, was ordered to be destroyed in a district court decision after the dog bolted during an off-leash beach walk and killed a chicken and a guinea pig in May 2020.

Allowing Aspen off the leash without the training to return on command cost the dog 18 months in a pound cage and ultimately his life. 

The Johnstons, who live in Auckland, New Zealand, filed a High Court appeal in a desperate attempt to save their dog from death row.  

Aspen, a Siberian Husky owned by Alexandra and Graham Johnston, was ordered to be destroyed in a district court decision after the dog bolted during an off-leash beach walk and killed a chicken and a guinea pig in May 2020. They appealed to the High Court and lost

Aspen, a Siberian Husky owned by Alexandra and Graham Johnston, was ordered to be destroyed in a district court decision after the dog bolted during an off-leash beach walk and killed a chicken and a guinea pig in May 2020. They appealed to the High Court and lost

The beloved family dog which killed two pets is due to be put down after a last-minute High Court appeal to save it failed, devastating its owners

The beloved family dog which killed two pets is due to be put down after a last-minute High Court appeal to save it failed, devastating its owners

The couple’s appeal was based on the ‘exceptional circumstances’ argument that it is in a large dog’s nature to pursue smaller animals.

Ms Johnston also argued the chicken’s owners, Sandra and Cesara Chwieduk, were to blame because the bird was roaming outside its home – which the dog ran 300m to reach.

The Johnstons also argued the guinea pig’s enclosure was not sufficient to prevent Aspen from reaching it. 

Eight months before Aspen killed the animals, he chased chickens outside the Chwieduk’s property, and evidently remembered where they lived.

Judge Edwin Wylie was not convinced by the Johnstons’ arguments.

‘The appeal against conviction must be dismissed,’ he said. 

‘There does not appear to be any authority to suggest that the onus is on owners of domestic animals to prevent a dog attack.

‘The onus is clearly on the owner of the dog to prevent attacks on domestic animals.’

The Johnstons posted photos of chickens roaming outside a suburban property in a Facebook group used to campaign for Aspen. Part of their defence was the dog couldn't help its nature and was compelled to chase the loose chickens

The Johnstons posted photos of chickens roaming outside a suburban property in a Facebook group used to campaign for Aspen. Part of their defence was the dog couldn’t help its nature and was compelled to chase the loose chickens

From the failed court appeal it appeared that allowing Aspen off the leash without the training to return on command had cost the dog 18 months in a pound cage and ultimately its life

From the failed court appeal it appeared that allowing Aspen off the leash without the training to return on command had cost the dog 18 months in a pound cage and ultimately its life

The judge accepted the decision could cause Aspen’s owners and their son ‘distress’ as the dog was ‘a much-loved member of their family’. 

‘I acknowledge that distress, however I must apply the law which is very clear. There were no exceptional circumstances,’ he said.

The Johnstons were fined $750 and ordered to pay $150 for ’emotional harm’ to the chicken’s owners, and Belinda Tustin, who owned the guinea pig.

The couple used social media to try and campaign for their dog, arguing animal control laws are ‘draconian’.

‘Fine me, blame me, throw me in jail but don’t destroy a beautiful dog,’ Mr Johnston wrote in an emotional Facebook post.

‘That just isn’t right.’

He said the case was ‘two years of hell’ and lamented that Aspen was locked in a pound cage for months while the court cases rolled on with no visits allowed.

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Written by Bourbiza Mohamed

A technology enthusiast and a passionate writer in the field of information technology, cyber security, and blockchain

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