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19/11/01
Reprieve for death row Westie

A dog which was sentenced to death for barking has won a reprieve - but will have to find a new home.

On Tuesday of this week, Appeal court judges in Edinburgh overturned a destruction order which was imposed on West Highland White Terrier Sam after a neighbour complained about his barking.

The decision to have the eight-year-old pet put down sparked a campaign to save Sam which won the backing of animal lover and film star Brigitte Bardot.

A petition calling for the terrier to be reprieved also gathered some 1,700 signatures.

The judges have ruled that Sam should be placed in the care of the Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SSPCA) with a view to finding him a new home.

Presiding judge Lord Kirkwood, who was sitting with Lord Weir, said: "What we have decided to do is quash the order for the destruction of the dog."

As he left the court, Sam's owner William Shaw, 56, of Aberdeen, would only say he was "glad" that Sam would not be destroyed.

However, the National Canine Defence League's area manager, Jack Johnstone, said: "Mr Shaw is very upset and we are upset for Mr Shaw because we thought it would have been better if he could have stayed with his owner."

But Mr Johnstone added that the "smashing wee dog" would be found a good home by the SSPCA. "That's the important thing - that Sam has not been destroyed and that other dogs who bark won't be put forward for destruction because of this case."

Sam was sentenced to death in September at Aberdeen District Court when Justice of the Peace John Logan ruled that he should be put down following a complaint from Mr Shaw's neighbour, who said the terrier's barking over many years was a nuisance.

Last month a court decided that Sam should undergo retraining in a bid to correct his behaviour. The terrier was released from the care of Aberdeen District Court after Mr Shaw agreed to have him rehoused at a rehabilitation centre.

The National Canine Defence League in West Lothian had been retraining the dog over the last three weeks in an attempt to correct his behaviour. The court was told that the terrier did not bark more than other dogs, although he had caused distress to an elderly neighbour.

Despite hearing that measures were being put in place to ensure that Sam was quiet at home, the appeal judges ruled he should be given to the SSPCA to rehome.

Local MSP Nicol Stephen has questioned why the case had to come to the highest court in the land instead of being heard by a sheriff in Aberdeen.