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Princess Royal’s terrier to face
Dangerous Dogs Act prosecution

PRINCESS ANNE, the Princess Royal faces prosecution under the 1991 Dangerous Dogs Act after one of her dogs allegedly attacked a couple in Windsor Great Park. The Princess and Commodore Tim Laurence, her husband, have been summonsed to appear before East Berkshire magistrates next month. They could face a fine of up to £5,000 and six months' imprisonment and the Princess’s dog faces a control order or possible destruction.

The incident is believed to have taken place in July when the Princess, 52, and her husband were exercising their dogs in the park. It is believed that one dog was let off its leash and attacked an Asian couple who were walking nearby.

After one of the walkers was allegedly bitten on the leg, Thames Valley Police were called. Following an investigation, the couple were summonsed to appear at the court in Slough on October 9.

It is unlikely that either the Princess or her husband will attend the court in person, although magistrates have the power to order their presence. It seems unlikely that any magistrate would make such an attendance order, however.

Buckingham Palace refused to give details of the alleged incident, saying it was a private matter for the Princess. A spokesman added, however: "We can confirm that the Princess Royal and Commodore Tim Laurence have received a summons to appear before magistrates in due course."

Under the 1991 Dangerous Dogs Act, an offence is committed on any occasion when a dog is deemed to have been "dangerously out of control out of control in a public place", creating "reasonable apprehension that it will injure a person, whether or not it actually does so".

Since the mandatory death sentence was removed when the DDA was amended in 1997, magistrates have discretion in sentencing if a dog is found guilty. The court may order the destruction of any pet whose behaviour results in a conviction for its owners, although they may also impose a control order. The courts can also disqualify an owner from keeping a dog in future.

It is believed to be the first time that such a senior member of the Royal Family has received a summons to appear before a criminal court for an offence other than exceeding the speed limit, - a charge faced on previous occasions by the Princess. It is not known which of Princess Anne's dogs was involved in the alleged attack but the animal is thought to have been one of her Bull Terriers.

The most notorious of these is Eglantyne, a 13-year-old bitch which has shown an aggressive tendency on two occasions in the past.

Eglantyne was given to Anne by her ladies-in-waiting as a Christmas present in 1989 after the Princess expressed a strong desire to have a bull terrier. The pet was originally named 'BP' after 'back pocket' because of a distinctive brown patch on her rump.

However, since BP reminded Anne too much of Buckingham Palace, she renamed it after Eglantyne Jebb, founder of Save the Children, one of her favourite charities.

Eglantyne went on to feature in the official first wedding anniversary photos of Princess Anne and her second husband in 1993. But by then the dog had already established a reputation for her ferocity, having caused panic at horse trials in May, 1991, when she attacked another dog.

Eglantyne bit the smaller terrier in the neck, then snapped at its owner before being pulled off by a highly embarrassed Princess Anne.

The incident happened as the dog was allowed to wander off her lead around the horse box enclosure at Windsor Great Park, which was packed with competitors, spectators and day-trippers. One furious spectator said afterwards: "It was irresponsible to leave the dog untied. People were having picnics with children nearby. It's generally a rule at horse events that all dogs are kept on leads."

The owners of the kennels which bred Eglantyne vigorously defended the breed, which is known for never letting go once they bite.

Brian Kenway, of the Hazelfield Kennels near Basingstoke, Hampshire, said at the time: "They are family dogs and are ideal with children, but not necessarily so good with other dogs.

Eglantyne's father Chase is our bedroom dog. He's a sweet boy - if he wasn't we wouldn't breed from him."

But in 1993 Eglantyne was back in the doghouse when she bit a spectator at the Gatcombe horse trials, held at the Princess's Gloucestershire estate, and refused to let go until the Princess barked a stern command. The spectator was unhurt.

In 1999 fears had grown for Eglantyne's health after royal vets picked up unusual results during an X-ray. As a result, the Princess took advantage of an official visit to the Animal Health Trust in Suffolk, of which she is president, to get a second opinion, and was delighted when her beloved pet was given the all-clear.

Gillian Andrews, the chief clerk to East Berkshire magistrates, refused to comment on the latest incident, as did Thames Valley Police. A spokesman said that it was not the force's policy to identify individuals who had been summonsed until after their appearance in court.

The mainstream media widely reported the incident over last weekend, once again seizing upon the dog’s breed as another excuse to trot out more sensationalist copy about ‘dangerous dogs’. Some papers liked the story to the dog attacks on children earlier this year which were blamed on ‘Bull Terriers’. The latest incident is likely to re-ignite the calls from some anti-dog quarters to extend the breed or ‘type’ range of the Dangerous Dogs Act.