Man living in Mount Maunganui cave convicted for beating dog

WARNING: This story details animal abuse and may be distressing for some readers.

What was supposed to be a relaxing lockdown stroll turned into a distressing display of violence for a teenager who discovered a man abusing a puppy in the middle of a public park.

The Mount Maunganui teen took the stand in the Tauranga District Court today, speaking of her shock as she stood watching the innocent animal take a beating.

The man accused of abusing the dog, 65-year-old Gerald “Awhi” October, was found guilty on a single charge of ill-treatment of an animal at a judge-alone trial today – a conviction that carries a maximum penalty of a year in prison.

The man denied mistreating the animal.

October, or “Awhi'” as he is known to many Mount Maunganui residents, was living in a cave with his dog at the Hopukiore/Mt Drury Reserve at the time of the offending.

The former rough sleeper told the Bay of Plenty Times in an interview last year that he felt a sense of safety living under the maunga – the only place he knew before moving to the region in 2020.

At around 10.30am on September 4 last year, the teenage witness was walking near the reserve when she noticed October kicking a dog.

The teen told the court she heard the dog “yelping and screaming” as it was kicked against a rock.

At one point the dog was picked up off the ground by its neck, she said.

Also giving evidence was another witness – a man assisting his courier driver mate with his deliveries.

The man was near the reserve at the time of the incident – he said he witnessed October attempting to move the dog by kicking him – described as a “not a full-on kick but a shunt kick”. While being kicked, the dog was yelping and trying to get away.

October then picked up the dog by the scruff of the neck to waist level and threw the animal a distance of around a metre, he recounted.

The violence was finally put to a stop when a group of bystanders intervened – with one calling the police.

Neither witness could say what led to the abuse.

The defence’s case rested on the claim that October was using reasonable force to prevent the dog from running onto the road.

At one point during cross-examination, defence lawyer Tim Conder asked the teenage witness if it was fair to say the puppy was making “excited noises” during the beating.

“It sounded terrified. If a dog was getting hurt it would yelp – that’s what it sounded like to me,” she said.

Conder also raised questions about the accuracy of the second witness’s evidence, after he originally said in a statement that he witnessed the offending at 1pm.

He later corrected that while on the stand, saying 10.30am in the morning sounded more accurate – the same time the teenage witness saw the abuse.

October’s lawyer did not call any witnesses and the accused did not take the stand himself.

In finding the man guilty, Judge Bill Lawson said the evidence of the witnesses was convincing.

“I consider that both [witnesses] were honest and reliable. They made concessions where appropriate, but were confident the kick was to illicit pain.”

“While I accept Mr October was dealing with a dog close to the road, kicking the dog against the rock wasn’t, in my view, in any way necessary.”

October is set to reappear for sentencing on July 29.

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