ANOTHER DOG seized under the Merseyside Police’s ‘dangerous dogs hand-in’ was spectacularly freed in a stunning victory for the defence last week after a court ruled that the dog was not behaviourally unsound or a ‘danger to the public’ as accused by the prosecution.
The case was heard at Liverpool Magistrates’ Court on Wednesday, June 13. Scott McEvoy, 23, was continuing his fight for the return of his dog Rio who had been seized under section 4b of the 1991 Dangerous Dogs Act, the case had already been adjourned twice previously due to lack of court time for the case to be properly heard and on this day, his was the only dog related case to be heard.
The police solicitor Jim Clarke outlined the case stating that Rio had been seized as a pit bull ‘type’ dog from an insecure property in the Liverpool area and suggested that there were three points that the prosecution felt should be satisfied before the judge considered that Rio be allowed entry onto the index of exempted dogs which were:
1. that the dog herself was of no danger to public safety
2. that Mr McEvoy was a responsible owner
3. that the environment in which the dog would live was a suitable one.
Mr McEvoy had been assisted in the preparation of his case by Fran Ellis, the founder and Trustee of local charity Animals in Need who had engaged the services of a respected dog trainer and behaviourist to provide an independent assessment of Rio. On the previous adjourned hearings Mr McEvoy had been represented by canine law specialist Trevor Cooper, who was unfortunately unable to attend the final hearing because of prior commitments. On the day, Mr McEvoy was assisted by Melanie Rushmore of The Bull Breed Advisory Service who acted for the defence as ‘Mackenzie’s Friend’ and was given rights of audience on Mr McEvoy’s behalf.
Mr McEvoy did not wish to argue the issue of the dog’s ‘type’ and accepted the experts’ view that his dog Rio was of an illegal type, although he pointed out that he was unaware of this prior to her seizure. He had purchased the dog believing her to be a Staffordshire bull terrier at just six weeks of age and had no idea that he may be in breach of the Dangerous dogs Act 1991. Mr McEvoy was willing on acceptance of the fact that his dog was an illegal type to abide the restrictions in place in order that his dog could be added to the register of exempted dogs i.e. the neutering, microchipping and tattooing of his dog, to take out the required third party insurance and to ensure that the dog is muzzled when in public.
Mr McEvoy maintained that his dog was well trained and socialised and was not a danger to the public, pointing out that she had been brought up in a family environment, had never displayed any behaviour or been involved in any incident that suggested that she was not under the full control of her owner or that she constituted a danger to public safety in any way.
Mr McEvoy submitted to the court letters in support of his claim as to the temperament of his dog and of his responsibility as a dog owner from family, friends and neighbours, as well as a report prepared for the defence by the behaviourist Guy Richardson, a respected dog trainer of long standing and an ex-police dog handler who had independently assessed Rio just the previous day, Tuesday 12th June in order to appeal to the court that his dog be allowed to be entered onto the index of exempted dogs.
Mr Richardson’s report was not read out in court but had been examined by the judge in chambers prior to the hearing, In it Mr Richardson said: ‘Rio appears to be sound in temperament and is intelligent and responded in a positive way to all my tests. She demonstrated that she reacts well to training and is keen to interact. She has obviously been cared for correctly by her owner and has been socialised well with people.’ He concluded ‘I would strongly recommend that she be returned to her family as soon as possible’.
The police solicitor accepted that the report provided by Mr Richardson replicated the reports provided by police appointed behaviourists and therefore there was no cross examination of those witnesses required.
It was brought to the court’s attention that Mr McEvoy had a criminal record but was accepted that this was not recent and Mr McEvoy explained that he now has stability in his life and a family of his own, and an integral part of that family was his dog Rio. He also stated that he was aware of his responsibilities to both his family and the public regarding dog ownership and had always brought Rio up to behave gently around his child and believed that no dog of any breed should be left unsupervised with any child despite the bond that they may have.
His assertions remain unchanged, despite a traumatic experience the night before she was seized where Rio was witness to a burglary whilst the family were in bed, which resulted in an attack on Mr McEvoy, carried out by several people. Rio had not reacted even when she was kicked by Mr McEvoy’s assailants.
Questions were then asked of the layout and security of the home in which Rio would be living which consisted of three rooms upstairs and three down with a large high walled yard with full height gate bolted top and bottom.
The defence closed by saying that Rio was a family dog who was well trained and socialised and who was very much loved by her owner - who had been very emotional throughout the hearing - and that Mr McEvoy was a responsible owner who was more than willing to meet the restrictions required should Rio be allowed onto the register of exempted dogs.
The judge retired to make his decision and returned within ten minutes In his judgement he said he was satisfied that Rio did not present a danger to public safety and that Mr McEvoy was a responsible owner who was willing to comply with the restrictions required in order to enter Rio onto the index of exempted dogs. He then ordered that the index be reopened and for Rio to be entered upon it, reminding Mr McEvoy that he must comply with all of the restrictions within eight weeks of the order or it would be revoked.
Mr McEvoy and his partner who were both very emotional as judgement was made were delighted that they will soon be reunited with a much-loved member of their family. They both paid tribute to Ms Rushmore, Mr Richardson and Fran Ellis, thanking them for their tremendous assistance in bringing about the return of their beloved Rio.