A HAIRLESS dog named Baldrick is set to make legal history after being ordered by a court to undergo a DNA test as part of a custody row.
The Chinese Crested, worth £450, was found freezing on a doorstep in Telford, Shropshire, a fortnight ago and taken to the Hillbrae Dogs Home.
The centre's owner, Marty Burrell, put an advertisement in a local newspaper and was contacted by Jessie Delaney, who claimed she bred the dog and gave him to a friend to look after last summer because she was due to go into hospital for a heart operation.
Since then it appears that Baldrick was passed to at least two or three owners before being dumped, underweight and with skin problems.
But the centre is disputing Mrs Delaney's claim, and her ability to care for him. A county court judge has ordered a DNA test on the pedigree dog to show whether her claim is genuine.
While DNA testing on dogs is not uncommon in questions of pedigree, it is thought to be the first time a judge has ordered a test to prove ownership.
Mrs Burrell said: "When the police brought him in they thought he was a Yorkshire terrier that had been badly mistreated. We put out an appeal and a friend of Mrs Delaney's rang up.
We were told Mrs Delaney fostered the dog out while she went into hospital, but if that's the case it wasn't a very good home."
She said she was concerned that if the dog was given to Mrs Delaney she might let him go to a bad home again, adding: "I do not feel that Mrs Delaney is the best person to look after Baldrick."
Mrs Delaney, 46, from Arleston, Telford, said she gave the dog, who she calls Dewie, to a friend before undergoing a heart operation, but was "distraught" when told he had died when she came out of hospital just after Christmas.
She then saw his picture in the paper during the centre's appeal for his owner to come forward.
She applied to Telford county court to stop the centre giving the dog away or destroying it. Judge Lawrence Schroeder adjourned the case to allow for Baldrick's DNA test.
His sample will be matched to other dogs from the same litter that Mrs Delaney says she still looks after, including his parents. Mrs Delaney said: "I just want him back."