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Horse fear dog found not guilty

A BULL TERRIER accused of biting a horse, which then unseated its rider and bolted was found Not Guilty under the 1871 Dogs Act by Ipswich Magistrates’, writes Nick Mays.

Three year-old Bull Terrier Jake is owned by Mark and Louise Reeves from Suffolk. The couple have owned the dog since he was a puppy and have experienced no problems with the dog being aggressive. Jake plays happily with their two young sons without incident.

On January 20th 2002, a very windy day, Mr Jeeves was out walking Jake on heathland when he was suddenly aware that there was a horse and rider almost on top of them. The rider, Judy Carroll also had a dog – a Labrador – walking near the horse. Fearing that Jake would be trampled beneath the horse, Mr Jeeves began to panic, as the rider could not see what was going on. The horse reared up and threw Ms Carroll off and then bolted.

Ms Carroll said to Mr Jeeves that she thought his dog had bitten the horse, and stumbled off after the horse. Mr Jeeves checked Jake over, found he had no blood on his face and then took him home.

When he subsequently read an account of the incident in the local newspaper. Mr Jeeves went to his local police station voluntarily in an attempt to clarify the matter.

Despite doing so, he was subsequently charged under the 1871 Dogs Act. Mr Jeeves engaged local solicitors and contacted the East Anglian Bull Terrier Club for assistance and also made contact with the Fury Defence Fund for advice and support.

On the FDF’s suggestion, local Bull breed expert and judge Alec Waters was instructed for the defence, and duly examined Jake and prepared a report for consideration in court.

The case was heard at Ipswich Magistrates’ Court on November 25th. Judy Carroll gave evidence, describing how she was riding her horse Alice on the day in question down the bridle path and saw Mr Jeeves and Jake ahead of her. "I called out to attract his attention that I was behind him because the wind was carrying my voice away he didn’t hear me. He didn’t turn around," said Ms Carroll. "Then when I was only a short distance from him the dog was trotting, turned, saw me and came running at me. At that point the man did turn round. I stood the horse still and he started calling the dog’s name."

Shocked

Ms Carroll then detailed how Jake had somehow got around Alice’s feet, causing the horse to panic and rear, at which point Ms Carroll was thrown off. As the horse galloped away, Mr Jeeves apologised profusely. "I was shocked, I was looking for where the horse was," Ms Carroll said, adding that she told Mr Jeeves she thought his dog had bitten the horse. When she recovered the horse, she was shocked to see blood running down her leg and she later needed stitches.

Under cross examination, Ms Carroll pointed out that Alice, the horse, was in foal, at about four months, but, despite the incident, later gave birth to a healthy foal. She said there was no confrontation between her dog and Jake.

The court heard evidence from Alec Waters, who showed a video of his examination of Jake, which included scenes of Jake taking a titbit out of Mr Water’s mouth, ignoring a group of barking collies and also ignoring some horses in a field.

When questioned about whether Jake bit the horse, Mr Waters said that Bull breeds tended to hang on to whatever they were biting. As Jake was grossly overweight, he estimated that the dog could not jump more than 3 or 4 inches at most. Mr Waters concluded that Jake had "the most wonderful temperament".

Two local police officers who had know Mark and Louise Jeeves for several years gave character statements on Jake’s behalf, stating that he was "well mannered" and "obedient".

The Bench retired to consider the evidence for 30 minutes, and then returned, pronouncing that on the balance of probabilities, Jake was not dangerous and was not out of control.
Mr Jeeves’ defence counsel argued for defence costs, which the magistrates agreed to.

Mark and Louise Jeeves left court with a feeling of great relief and expressed their thanks to their whole defence team.