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Expert’s evidence saves Bullmastiff’s life

A DOG psychologist who helped save Princess Anne's dog from being destroyed has given some equally valuable help to a dog which faced a possible death sentence under the Dangerous Dogs Act.

Expert Dr Roger Mugford was called in a bid to save Humphrey the Bull Mastiff, which attacked two people, from being put down.

The court ruled that if Humphrey can be properly trained, he will be re-homed, but his former owner, disabled Paul Walker, said he was planning to appeal to get his dog back.

Appearing at Norwich Crown Court last week, wheelchair-bound Mr Walker, 39, admitted his dog had been out of control on September 2 last year when it injured Sharon Hunt. Another count of the dog injuring a neighbour was left on the file. Mr Walker was subsequently charged under Section 3 of the DDA for allowing his pet to be "dangerously out of control in a public place"

Speaking on Humphrey's behalf, Dr Mugford told the court the hound was a "delightful clown" and offered to train him, thus saving him from the death penalty.

Judge Paul Downes said the dog would not be destroyed unless he harmed someone else and provided Dr Mugford trained him and socialised him so he could be re-homed.

Mr Walker was conditionally discharged for 12 months and ordered to pay £200 compensation to the woman, Sharon Hunt, and £500 costs.

But the father-of-two claimed that, following two serious accidents, he did not have the mental capacity to keep up with the court proceedings and that before he knew it Humphrey had been taken away from him for good.

"When I was in court everything was decided over my head," he said. "Now I'm going to instruct my solicitor to help me get Humphrey back."

Fifteen years ago former demolition worker Mr Walker was placed in a five-week induced coma after suffering serious head injuries, ten broken ribs and a collapsed lung when a two-tonne joist fell on him.

Four years ago he had his right leg amputated and spleen removed following a horrific motorcycle accident.

Since then he has not been able to work and, until recently, spent most of his time at his bungalow in Taverham, Norfolk with Humphrey.

Earlier this year he spent nearly £4,000 on strong new fencing around his garden in the hope of getting the dog returned to him.

"That dog means so much to me and I miss him terribly," he said. "I live on my own and he was my company and my friend. I used to talk to him and sing to him too."

A friend, who did not want to be named, said she knew Humphrey well and that he was a friendly dog.

"I come here and take him for walks often and sometimes he stays at mine too," she said. "I'm only small but I am fine with him. He is very friendly and I love him. I miss him very much."

The case has echoes of the 2002 case against Princess Anne, who was fined £500 and ordered to pay £500 compensation, after her English pit bull Dotty attacked two children. Dr Mugford appeared at court on that occasion too and said he did not think Dotty should be destroyed.

In Humphrey's case Dr Mugford was pivotal in saving the dog from death, telling the court he was not dangerous but "untrained".

Prosecutor Stephen Ridley said Mrs Hunt had become distrustful of dogs after Humphrey had jumped up at her, putting his paws on her shoulders and giving her minor bites to her hands.
Alan Wheetman, representing Mr Walker, said the dog was only five months old at the time of the first attack and a puppy who was fascinated by everything to do with wheels.

Judge Downes said he could see why Mr Walker might want a guard dog but told him a smaller dog would be more suitable.

In the case that was left on file, neighbour Lee Bennett, 34, had been bitten on the hand when bringing the dog home, requiring medical attention.

After the case, Mr Bennett said he disagreed with Dr Mugford’s opinion of Humphrey. "I don't think that is very accurate, to say the least," he said. "All I know is what I've seen. I don't think the dog is to be trusted in the community."

Thankfully for Humphrey however, at the end of the day it was Dr Mugford’s opinion that counted.