A GERMAN SHEPHERD placed under sentence of death after injuring a child had its destruction order quashed on appeal at Bradford Crown Court last week, thanks to the evidence of a leading dog judge and behaviourist, writes Nick Mays.
‘Connie’, a three and half year old GSD bitch was rescued several months ago by David Thackeray and proved to be a well-behaved and good tempered dog. Mr Thackeray had started taking Connie to training classes soon after he got her and she impressed his neighbours with her obedient manner.
One day in September last year, Connie had been playing in her back garden with a neighbour’s child. The child had returned home. Leaving Connie in the garden. The dog saw a young girl walking past whom she thought was her young friend. Connie squeezed through the bars of the garden gate and bounded after the girl.
Seeing the dog the girl ran and screamed, causing Connie to pursue her all the more. The child was knocked to the ground and suffered minor injuries, but there was no indication that the dog had attacked her in any way. Despite this, her parents informed the police and Mr Thackeray subsequently appeared in court, with Connie charged under Section 2 of the 1871 Dogs Act.
Unusually for a minor case of this nature, the bench ruled that Connie should be destroyed and imposed a destruction order upon her. Mr Thackeray lodged an appeal and secured the services of well-known dog law solicitor Trevor Cooper.
Mr Cooper subsequently sought the expert opinion of Dobermann judge and canine behaviourist Mike Mullen, who travelled at just six days’ notice from his Midlands home to Bradford to examine Connie. He took Connie back home with him and subjected her to rigorous behavioural tests.
Involving other dogs and people, including children. At no time did Connie display any aggression or bad temper.
Mr Mullen’s report was submitted in evidence when the appeal was on Wednesday May 18th at Bradford Crown Court. The trial judge indicated that he was "very impressed" with Mr Mullen’s report. He said that whilst not underestimating the psychological impact of such an incident on a child – as he himself had been bitten by a dog when he was a child in South Africa – he was mindful of the fact that after Mr Mullen’s rigorous examination that he was satisfied that Connie did not pose any kind of threat to human beings or other dogs.
The Judge duly quashed the destruction order, but made no Control Order against Connie, other than that she must always be walked on a leash in public. No ruling was made as to prosecution or defence costs.
This case was also notable in that it was the last case to be defended by Trevor Cooper who is giving up canine law cases, due to his taking up employment as Principle Solicitor at the Environment Agency from June 1st.