– a casualty of the Merseyside ‘amnesty’ as told to
anti-BSL group Deed Not Breed by Cassie’s owners
WE ALL have our own favourite breed of dog. However, my soft spot was reserved for Bull breeds. I know each breed has their own quirks, and that's what makes them special to each of us, but for me, there's no smile like a Staffie smile.
My wife and I didn't have pets, just two children, but when I heard about a litter of pups that were being homed, I managed to convince my wife to let us go and see them - not to take one home obviously as she was adamant that we weren't going to have a dog - but we could just go and see them. However, changes were afoot, and by the time we arrived to see the pups she had gone from the adamant ‘no’ to a ‘maybe we can get a girl?’ When we walked in, we only had eyes for one tiny pup, which nestled in the palm of my hand. It was love at first sight, and it was obvious that Cassie would be coming with us to share our home and be part of our family.
We brought Cassie home on 15th May 2005 and she became my dog. That evening she slept on my chest and for the rest of her life Cassie would creep towards you to sneak on your lap put her ‘arms’ around you to give you a kiss. She loved nothing more than being with us and we loved having her here. We took her to the vets and she had all her vaccinations and was microchipped. That’s what responsible owners do.
Cassie was easy to train. She adored us and if it made us happy she would have climbed mountains, so toilet training her was easy. Cassie used to love eating ice cubes and to watch her chasing after bits she had dropped had us in tears of laughter. I’m sure she did it more because she saw it made us laugh. We took her on caravan holidays with us, which she loved as everyone was around all day. It was her idea of heaven; her and her family.
If you had had a bad day at work, Cassie made you smile when you came home. When we woke up she said ‘good morning’ with a wagging tail and a kiss. She loved our children and seemed to know they were ‘little people’ and was so gentle around them. Our son would sit crossed legged on the floor and Cassie would creep up and push her head through his arm before creeping a bit further to sleep with her head on his lap. They would spend hours just sat there: One boy and his dog.
Cassie used to come to work with me every day until one day, Cassie was stolen from my van. We were distraught. We searched everywhere, called everyone but no one had found her. We filed reports with the police and contacted DogLost, an organisation that help people find their missing pets. The days turned into weeks and the weeks into months. It was awful; we didn’t know where she was, whether she was ok or even if she was still alive. When you're missing your dog you think you see them around every corner, everyone else has a dog just like yours only when you look closer, its not your dog and your heart breaks a bit more. I can’t describe how raw that feels.
At the end of September, three months after Cassie was stolen we had a call from a nearby dog warden. They said they had our dog. After thinking so many dogs could be our dog I was sure this was another mistake but then they said, ‘we have scanned her. She’s chipped to you!’ They told me I would need to pick her up from a nearby rescue that take the strays and would need to pay a fine.
I yelled down the phone ‘I don’t care how much, I'll pay it, I'm on my way!’ The traffic was horrendous but I made it in less than an hour. I paid the money and there was my girl, my Cassie! She remembered me and ran towards me to give me her famous kiss and cuddle like she had never been away. I took her out to the van and as soon as she saw it she got in and wet herself. For two weeks afterwards the van upset her…it was where she had been stolen. We have no idea what happened to her while she was missing but it clearly upset her. She had been too young to be neutered before she was stolen but three days after we got her back she was spayed. We never wanted to breed her anyway she was a pet dog and that’s what responsible owners do.
For the next year and a half we were a family again. Husband and wife, one son one daughter and Cassie. We were just like you, a normal family with a dog enjoying life. The kids only worried about what to watch on the T.V while we worried about all the things parents worry about. I worked hard to provide for my family and life was good. Cassie didn’t seem to worry about anything; she thought life was just perfect.
Then our world turned upside down. On 6th February, I heard via the local media that Merseyside police were to hold a seven day amnesty for people to hand in so called ‘dangerous dogs’. They mentioned many different breeds as common names for ‘pit bull types’ which seemed to cover every bull breed and many crosses. The report said you had to call the police for information. I couldn’t believe what I had heard. I was sure they had it wrong. My dog was most defiantly not a ‘dangerous dog’ She was Cassie, a soppy friendly dog who loved nothing more than a cuddle! I was sure this was wrong but called the police. That’s what you do isn’t it? You are responsible law abiding people and you call when the police tell you to. I just wanted information.
I rang the number given and was told that there were exemptions if my dog was micro chipped, spayed and tattooed but that they would take my name and number and someone would get in touch with me to assess Cassie. I assumed they meant they would come and see she was friendly and well trained and everything would be ok. She was chipped and spayed so I didn’t worry. 24 hours passed by and I had a phone call from someone at police headquarters saying that an officer would have to come and assess Cassie. I asked what they do during the assessment; I was curious and wasn’t worried anymore. They would see she wasn’t dangerous so I had nothing to worry about. They told me they would look at her to see if they thought she looked like a pit bull type according to a set of vague guidelines. If they thought she did then they would take her away!
I reeled. This wasn’t what I had thought happened. How could they take her away? She was my dog; surely they couldn’t just take my dog? They told me if I refused to sign her over to be killed they would seize her and put her in kennels while they took me to court. It didn’t matter whether Cassie was a fantastic family dog who had never hurt anyone. If she looked ‘wrong’ and I didn’t sign her over for them to kill her, then they would take her from me. Still unable to comprehend how this was possible I said, ‘You are welcome to look but you will not be taking my dog’ I told this person that I was going to a family party that evening so they would have to come on Friday. He said he couldn't say when would be there but someone would ring me.
Whilst I was at the family meal a police dog section van turned up at my address with another unmarked white van. An officer from the dog section then phoned me on my mobile saying he was outside my house to assess Cassie. I told him that I was at a family party and that he would have to come back at another time. He then proceeded to tell me that he intended to seize my dog.
They hadn’t even seen my dog! How could they deem her to be anything without seeing her? She wasn’t dangerous! I couldn’t understand what was happening, it was like a bad dream this couldn’t really be happening. I told him again, that he would not take my dog at anytime and he said he would be back the next day and Cassie ‘would be gone’.
Overnight my wife and I discussed the situation. We both felt that we could not bear her being taken by the police. We had lost her once and we couldn’t do it again. The thought of her alone in kennels, us not knowing what was happening to her, her thinking we had abandoned her, just broke our hearts. The threat of a possible jail sentence taking me from my family, stopping me being able to provide for them, be there for them. Fines, criminal records. We are normal people with a pet dog but the way we understood it we didn’t have any choice.
We decided to put Cassie to sleep on our terms with the people who loved her. On Friday 9th February 2007 I took my much-loved Cassie to the vets and we let her go to sleep without knowing any more fear. Cassie died in my arms…. the same arms that cuddled her on my chest when she was a baby, the same arms that held her when we were reunited, the same arms that hugged her when she crept up to give out her kisses. . The tears rolled down every ones faces from the vet, nurse, my wife and myself.
Cassie was gone.
I picked her up, holding her for the last time we stayed with her lifeless body for about twenty minutes afterwards before returning home. We took Cassie’s Death Certificate to our local police station to tell them not to attend my home that evening and went home to grieve. They had the nerve to ring me Sunday morning to see if they could come and have a look at Cassie. I couldn’t believe they had paid so little attention to Cassie’s death. I yelled down the phone : ‘Don't you talk to each other?’ They asked us to come down again and show us the paperwork. By now there was nothing left in me to fight. Cassie had gone; I just wanted them to leave us alone. My wife took the paperwork down and we haven’t heard from them again.
Our children don’t understand. They are five and seven. It’s hard enough at that age explaining why anything dies but to try and tell a child the law discriminates against a look? They don’t understand and to be honest, I don’t think I do either. I know what the law says now, I’ve spoken to those at Deed Not Breed but it doesn’t make sense. Not to any logical minded person.
Deed Not Breed tells me that the register of exempt dogs can only be added to by a court. There isn’t any option for your dog to stay with you while waiting for court and you can’t register your dog yourself. I don’t understand why. I don’t understand why this law exists at all. Cassie had never hurt anyone and had never shown any aggression.
The Kennel Club had suggested that instead of following a law which is thought to be one of the worst pieces of canine legislation, Merseyside police allowed owners to register their dogs while keeping them at home. This may have saved our Cassie. I’ve cried more tears then I ever thought possible. I cry for Cassie, for us, for everyone hiding their dogs in fear, for the dogs already seized and waiting and for those already killed under this ‘amnesty’.
I can’t change what has happened. But I can fight to make sure that Cassie is remembered and try and show why the law MUST be changed. Dogs are not born dangerous; they are a product of what you teach them and how you treat them. We taught Cassie what it is to be loved and she taught us that dogs could love you back. It is the owners who should be targeted not a dog based solely on its appearance and we need legislation that reflects that.
Please: Say NO to Breed Specific Legislation… In Cassie’s name.
* Cassie’s owner’s name has been withheld by request