A sheep is at the centre of a $60,000 battle between a Melbourne man and his local council. Vu Ho, 54, has taken the fight for his sheep, Baa, all the way to the Supreme Court after Greater Dandenong City Council threatened to remove his beloved pet. If he loses the case on September 7, he faces $30,000 in legal costs plus a similar bill for the council's lawyers.
The Springvale mechanic said Baa had become like a "younger sister or child" to him and he would do whatever it took to keep her. "It started off that I got her as a more civilised way to cut the grass at my workshop," he said. "But she became a pet, like part of the family. It's like she's one of my children. I have to take care of her and look after her welfare." Mr Ho said he had kept Baa at his workshop and in the backyard of his nearby home for 10 years.
But Greater Dandenong City Council local laws officers hit him with a $220 fine on February 25 for "keeping livestock on land under half (a) hectare". Mr Ho, who moved to Australia in 1981 as a Vietnamese refugee, said under the council's 2005 local law, "livestock" referred to any animal, including cats and dogs. He will argue before the court that all pet owners in the municipality would lose the right to their animals if that section of the law were strictly applied.
The council updated the laws late last month, exempting cats and dogs from the term "livestock". Mr Ho moved Baa to a farm at Cranbourne three months ago while he prepared his challenge. But he said he "could feel" that Baa missed being around him at his workshop, which he also shared with his dog, Chucky. "About two weeks ago I could feel that she was missing me. I felt a warm feeling, it was a connection with my sheep," he said.