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First Notting Hill dogs to go home

Press Release 19th September 2008

The first hearings for dogs seized under the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 (DDA) as illegal pit bull types during West London's famous Notting Hill Carnival were heard at West London Magistrates Court on Wednesday 17th September resulting in each dog being ordered to be returned to their owners.

Police seized a total of 21 dogs during an operation to “crack down on crime” at the Carnival and Wednesdays hearing saw the first owners attending court, under section 4b of the Act, to ask the judge to spare their dogs life. Sarah Goss, a representative of the newly formed group DDA Watch, was present to offer support to owners during and after the court hearing having recently been in the same stressful position after her pet dog Bishop was held as a “pit bull type” for an exhaustive nine months before being exempted and returned home two weeks ago. Sarah comforted owners and distributed DDA Watch information to everyone present.

None of the dogs whose lives literally lay on the line had shown any sign of aggression during the Carnival or during their time in secret kennels. One of the dogs seized by the police was only 16 weeks old when removed from her owner and taken to secluded kennels to await her fate; she now spends her days locked in a kennel instead of socialising like all puppies her age should be.

The owners began arriving for court at 9.30 am however their cases were not heard until 12.40. Kathryn White, owner of “Chi” said that the atmosphere was fraught as owners waited to be seen. Ms White told us:

“The worst moment for me while waiting for court was seeing another owner arrive with his dogs lead. We had been in touch with Endangered Dogs Defence and Rescue and DDA Watch who had explained how everything worked and had supported us but this owner had not reached anyone for advice.  He believed he was going to have his dog returned to him that day and to see his face as he realised his dog wouldn’t be back for a few more weeks was heart breaking. Everyone had a story to tell and all the dogs are clearly friendly pet dogs. Everyone was so worried.” The owner who arrived expecting his three year old bitch Zena to come home has since been contacted by DDA Watch and offered support through the registration process.

Further anxiety spread through the waiting owners as an unconfirmed report surfaced; three of the dogs seized at Notting Hill Carnival will never go home as they have died whilst under the custody of the police. A number of the nine owners who have contacted DDA Watch tell us two of the dogs died of “unknown causes” while a third died of pneumonia. The welfare of seized dogs is a serious concern and this latest news has caused further upset to owners forcibly separated from their canine companions.A Freedom of Information request recently revealed that over a year on average one seized DDA dog had died every week whilst under the care of the Metropolitan police.

However as the owners went before the magistrates court the judge ordered each dog to be added to the Index of Exempted Dogs which will allow them to be handed back to their owners once certain requirements, including neutering and tattooing are met. Once registered and 'exempted' each dog will be returned and registered owners will then have to abide by strict restrictions including keeping their dog on a leash and muzzle at all times in a public place.

None of the owners received a criminal record as the cases were heard under section “4B” of the Act- a civil action rather than a criminal charge. This normally leads to a much shorter period of time for the dog in kennels however it does have it downsides as some of the owners experienced. Under a 4B application you cannot claim legal aid. As the burden of proof is reversed under the DDA it is up to the dog's owner to prove their dog is not a “pit bull type” and for many this is impossible to do as the cost can run into thousands of pounds. As a result most owners are not in a position to challenge the issue of whether their dog is or is not of the prohibited “type” and are desperate for their pet dogs to come home as soon as possible.

For further details – please contact:
DDA Watch – Alison Green
Tel: 0844 844 2900 - Email: alison@petparliament.com

Dogs Worldwide.com - (Correct at time of publication)

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