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‘Dangerous’ St. Bernard Yogi goes home

YOGIE, THE ST. BERNARD seized under the 1991 Dangerous Dogs Act by Sussex police after biting an officer who blatantly ignored a 'Beware of the Dog' sign on the owner's property and a warning from the owner has been returned to his owner after nine weeks at secret kennels, writes Nick Mays.

As reported previously in OUR DOGS, 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 Dangerous Dogs Act, for being 'dangerously out of control in a public place'.

Mr Prestage's solicitor has been 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 last month. 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 is set for June 20th at Haywards Heath magistrates’ court.

Yogie was released from custody and brought back to Mr Prestage that evening, 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.

Mr Prestage also expressed his joy and Yogie's release, but also added that he would fight "all the way" to ensure that his pet was found not guilty and subjected to ant sort of restrictions, as he was provoked by the police officer failing to heed repeated warnings.

Sussex police commented that Sgt Huntley was carrying out his normal duties when he was attacked by Yogie, and therefore some form of restriction being placed on the dog would be appropriate.