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Control order for St Bernard

A ST. BERNARD accused of attacking a police officer was made the subject of a control order when its case was finally heard in court, writes Nick Mays.

Steve Prestage was putting some tools away in his garage at his home in Copthorne, near Crawley, West Sussex on the morning of March 22nd when he saw a police van pull up in the lane near his home. Police Sergeant Paul Huntley 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 Sgt Huntley 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. Sgt Huntley is said to have spent two nights in hospital receiving treatment for the injury.

Sussex police seized Yogie a week later under Section 3 of the 1991 Dangerous Dogs Act, for being ‘dangerously out of control in a public place’.

Mr Prestage’s solicitor was advised by well-know DDA solicitor Trevor Cooper, and experts have been called in to assess Yogie’s temperament.

Mr Prestage opted for trial by jury when the matter came to court in May. However, just 24 hours before the case was due to be heard, the Crown Prosecution Service dropped the charge under the DDA and opted instead for a lesser charge under the less draconian 1871 Dogs Act. The new trial date was originally set for 20th June. However, the hearing was adjourned and the new date set for July 22nd.

Yogie was later released from custody and brought back to Mr Prestage, now apparently no longer considered to be a ‘dangerous dog’. Mr Prestage confirmed that Yogie had been well cared for during his incarceration and that he was in good condition.

The case was adjourned yet again and was finally heard at Crawley Magistrates’ Court on Monday, November 18th.

Prosecuting counsel Jonathan Wintle outlined the sequence of events leading up to Sgt Huntley walking up Mr Prestage’s front drive and being bitten on the arm by Yogie. However, he told the court that the Crown was not seeking a destruction order on the dog.

Nick Sampson, for Mr Prestage said: "The injury to the officer is regretted, but his own conduct led to it. He came onto the property, waving his arms around, ignoring a dangerous dog notice and a shouted warning from the owner."

Mr Prestage was ordered to pay £200 costs, but no direction was given for compensation to Sgt Huntley. Imposing a control order on Yogie, the magistrates specified that the dog would have to be muzzled in public and securely fenced in when at home.

Mr Prestage expressed his relief that the death threat to Yogie had been lifted, reiterating that he was not a ‘dangerous dog’.