A woman's beloved pet pooch was dognapped while she was sitting on a public toilet. 28-year-old architect Patricia Abel fell foul of an overzealous council dog catcher while out for a jog on the Nightcliff foreshore in Darwin, Australia early on Monday. Ms Abel has been travelling around Australia in a campervan with her husband Brendan and much loved three-year-old Labrador-Cross Pepper since February this year, and only arrived in Darwin in the Northern Territory six weeks ago. On Monday, she was out on her usual morning run with Pepper, when a severe case of diarrhoea meant she needed to find herself a public toilet - and quickly. "I was running and thought `oh my goodness' I really need the toilet','' she said.
"I've been unwell and had a funny tummy, probably because of changing water, so I was quite desperate to get to a toilet and it could not wait until I got home. I'd jogged past the last public park toilet and it was a few hundred metres back, so rather than take Pepper all the way back with me I tied her to a bollard thinking she would be fine for a few minutes. I just thought I wouldn't be able to make it in time if I had to drag Pepper all the way back to the toilet with me. By the time I got back she was gone.'' A distraught Ms Abel then flew into a frenzy, racing along the foreshore and onto the beach searching for her dog for about 45 minutes. "I was in a panic. At first I thought I'd tied her on a different bollard, but after running up and down a few times I could not find her,'' she said.
As it turned out a Darwin Council dog catcher just happened to be passing at that moment, spotted young Pepper tied up, microchipped beside the bollard, and decided to take her away. Ms Abel, who says she was only in the loo for 10 to 15 minutes, realised Pepper had been taken by Darwin Council after her husband raced to the foreshore to let her know he had received a phone call from them. Ms Abel said she had to pay $330 to get her dog out of the pound, and was not impressed that council did not take her explanation into account. "I spoke to the dog catcher and she was a little apologetic when I explained my situation, but at the same time she said I should have taken Pepper into the toilet with me,'' she said.
"I just thought `really, is that really the right thing to do? Obviously the dog is very well looked after, she is registered and microchipped, so I would have thought that their first course of action would have been to wait for a little while until the owner showed up. But instead they took her.'' Darwin Council have now confirmed it will refund Ms Abel the money. Council general manager Community and Cultural Services John Banks said: "After waiting in excess of 15 minutes with the unaccompanied dog, our ranger acted in accordance with the City of Darwin By-laws. In this incidence Council has taken the extenuating circumstances into consideration and will not be pursuing the fine,'' he said.