A dog owner is asking his local council to show some flexibility in the way nuisance dogs are dealt with, after clocking up nearly $4,000 in fines. Justin Brow, of Bellingen in New South Wales, Australia, has spent years trying to dog-proof his backyard, but his unusually resourceful kelpie Honey keeps finding new ways to escape. "She's the canine equivalent of Houdini. And my yard is like Fort Knox," he said. Mr Brow has attached extra wire barriers to his regular timber fence, reinforced parts of it with corrugated iron, and poured cement along the fence-line to prevent Honey digging holes underneath. He said no matter what, the dog always managed to get out and roam free.
"I've had dogs since I was four years old, but this dog is different.
She'll sit and look, and you can see that she's reasoning, trying to find a weak spot.
There's a feeling I get sometimes, that she turns into smoke and re-forms on the other side of the fence," he said.
"There are times when she's been contained in the enclosed verandah and she's dug up the floorboards."
Mr Brow said Honey's escapes had not gone unnoticed by local authorities, and he was now on a payment plan to help him deal with dozens of fines issued by the local ranger.
"It's become this ongoing war between me trying to contain the dog and the local ranger," he said.
Mr Brow said the way the system was set up meant he was always fined before he had a chance to get Honey off the street.
"[The ranger] doesn't do anything about getting her off the streets. He just takes a photo from his car and I get a printout attached to a fine," he said.
"I understand he's got his responsibility, but this is simply revenue-raising.
He could quite easily give me a buzz and I'd happily come and get her. That would be entirely reasonable.
There's a different way he could be doing his job, that reflects Bellingen's sense of community."
Mr Brow said the main reason behind Honey's repeated escapes was a desire to socialise, and plans were in the works to make her an official therapy dog at Bellingen's aged care facility, Bellorana.
"She has a really sweet energy and I think as a therapy dog that's perfect," he said.
"She doesn't jump up, she doesn't lick, she'll just sit by someone's side."
He said Honey had already spent a few days at the facility, and the feedback had been positive.
"The doctor told me there had been one guy who had a stroke and couldn't use his hands, and when Honey turned up he started patting her totally normally," he said.
"There's talk of [Bellorana] actually adopting her full-stop, though my family will still hang out with her.
It's going to be a really good outcome."
Bellingen Shire Council general manager Liz Jeremy said in a statement there was a process in place to discuss strategies with dog owners to prevent their pets roaming.
"Most dog owners will voluntarily comply with the legislation and are not usually the subject of any future incidents or complaints," she said.
Where dogs had been declared a nuisance dog, as Honey had, Ms Jeremy said there was a requirement that they be managed more responsibly.
"Generally these dogs have been repeatedly observed to be roaming in a public place," she said.
The council declined to comment on Mr Brow's particular circumstances.