Yesterday, in Isbester v Knox City Council  HCA 20, the High Court unanimously quashed a 2013 decision by a local council ordering that the plaintiff’s dog, Izzy, ‘be destroyed’, observing that the decision:
affects the owner of the dog. Whether one describes an interest in a dog as a property right, or acknowledges the importance of a domestic pet to many people, the appellant is a person who may be affected by a decision which will require her interests to be subordinated to the public interest.
The Court held that, because the panel the Council formed to decide Izzy’s fate included a council employee who had prosecuted the plaintiff for the offence of owning Izzy when the dog bit a person’s finger (a ‘serious injury’ under Victoria’s Domestic Animals Act 1994), her involvement in the later decision about Izzy’s destruction created a risk of apprehended bias. Izzy’s fate now depends on a fresh decision by the council, made without any involvement by the earlier decision-makers or the prosecutor.
The case is an unusual illustration of how a final court of appeal like the High Court can sometimes be required to make decisions about life and death. Continue reading