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St Bernard seized under DDA


A ST BERNARD was seized under the 1991 Dangerous Dogs Act by Sussex police after biting an officer who ignored a ‘Beware of the dog’ sign on the owner’s property, and a warning from the owner, writes Nick Mays.

Steve Prestage was putting some tools away in his garage at around 10 am on March 22 when he saw a police van pull up in the lane near his home in Copthorne, Crawley, West Sussex. A sergeant got out of the van and walked up Mr Prestage’s drive, apparently ignoring a prominent ‘Beware of the Dog’ sign fastened to the gate, to ask directions to a nearby cottage.

Mr Prestage’s six-year-old St Bernard, Yogie, started barking at the officer, whom he saw as an intruder on his territory. Mr Prestage called out to the officer to stay where he was and that he would get Yogie indoors, but the officer ignored him and continued to march towards the dog. Yogie lunged at the officer and bit him in the arm, leaving a puncture wound. The officer is said to have spent two nights in hospital receiving treatment for the injury.

Mr Prestage, a 56 year-old architect, expected a possible warning from the police, but was astounded when, three days later, six police officers - two of them wearing full body armour - turned up at his property with a warrant to seize Yogie under Section 3 of the DDA, for being ‘dangerously out of control in a public place’.

Speaking exclusively to OUR DOGS, Mr Prestage expressed his astonishment and outrage at the turn of events. “This police officer blatantly ignored a warning sign and my shouted warning,” he said. “He could see and hear Yogie barking at him, yet he arrogantly persisted in marching - not walking - but marching, with his hands swinging military-fashion by his sides - up the driveway.

Support

“I’ve been on a steep learning curve about the 1991 Dangerous Dogs Act these past few days, but since my story originally appeared in the local newspaper and the Daily Mail, I have been inundated with calls of support from well wishers and anti-DDA support groups. I am particularly grateful to the Fury Defence Fund for all their help, as they have put me in touch with solicitor Trevor Cooper who is advising my own solicitor at this time.”

Mr Prestage and his wife Tina first acquired a St Bernard in 1984 after being burgled five times in nine months. Since that time they have not been burgled.

A Sussex police spokesman declined to comment on the case before it appeared in court, as it would be subjudice, but added: “It is understood that the officer was attacked outside the owner’s property.”

The case was due to be heard in a preliminary hearing in court on Thursday of this week.

OUR DOGS will report any developments in due course.