Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Australian man abandons family for death row dog

A father has abandoned his young family and is on the run after breaking his pet dog out of death row minutes before it was to be destroyed. Ronnie Gilbertson, 41, of Moorak, near Mt Gambier, and his Staffordshire-cross, Max, have gone into hiding, prompting a police call for help in tracking them down.

But Mr Gilbertson's partner, Fiona Harvey, 32, says the former champion amateur boxer has her full support because "he loves his dog as much as anyone would love his son". "I don't have a problem with what Ronnie has done," Ms Harvey said from her parents' Barmera home yesterday. I would hope he would do the same for our kids in similar circumstances."

She said their two-year-old daughter, Kloe, and 11 week-old-son, Kobi, were concerned about their father, who does odd jobs around the district. "Kloe is missing her dad big time and I wish this all never happened, that he could just come back home to us," Ms Harvey said.

Photo from here.

Mr Gilbertson's mother, who did not want to be named, said her son had bought the dog for company after his father died eight years ago. He had "made an oath" to protect Max whatever happened - and he was following through on that now.

That meant hiring a lawyer and spending more than $6000 fighting the Grant District Council, which issued a destruction order against Max in May after he seriously injured a neighbour's dog. The council dismissed Mr Gilbertson's appeal on August 14, saying the dog was "unduly dangerous" because he had also previously fought and injured other dogs and, in 2005, had killed two sheep at a farm near his home.

Max remained on death row at the Animal Welfare League in Mt Gambier, and was to have been put down last Monday afternoon. With just a few minutes alone to say goodbye to his friend, and determined to uphold his oath, Mr Gilbertson did the only thing he could think of - he busted Max out. Using a pair of wire cutters he had smuggled into the depot, Mr Gilbertson cut Max free from his enclosure, grabbed him and ran. He has not been seen since, although it is understood he may have fled interstate.

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