Seized pups in kennel horror
Dog owners in Lancashire were appalled by kennel conditions their puppies were left in for over four months after a spate of seizures under the 1991 Dangerous Dogs Act.
Bolton Council and local police had seized dogs they believed to be pit bull types and taken them to undisclosed kennels, which a leading dog expert described as ‘wholly inadequate’.
Four dog owners appeared before Bolton Magistrates on Thursday and Friday of last week charged with possessing an illegal pit bull type dog under the 1991 Dangerous Dogs Act.
There had been no complaints about the behaviour of any of the dogs seized and owners were horrified to learn how their pets were suffering in custody.
Video footage and photographs displayed in court showed three of four dogs seized had self mutilation sores and all four dogs had become grossly underweight within the four to five months since they were taken from their owners. The dogs were forced to lie on concrete in cramped, damp conditions and never exercised. They toileted in their kennels which measured just two square metres.
Many of the owners and their families were visibly upset by the footage of their pets in kennels and the images were the first they had seen of their pets since they were taken from their homes.
Jamie Sharples, 21, of Wardham Close, Westhoughton, pleaded guilty to owning a pit bull type dog. Ten month old Ty was seized on April 3rd from Mr Sharples’ home. The court heard that Sharples who had owned the dog for 12 months was unaware it was a pit bull type dog.
Dr Roger Mugford, an animal psychologist and expert on dog breeds, gave evidence in the cases. In July he had attended the kennels and filmed footage of tests he carried out on the seized dogs to assess behaviour and breed type.
‘I did some tests on Ty and found him to be an extremely friendly and delightful dog,’ said Dr Mugford.
He conceded the dog was of type but said: ‘The owner can be forgiven for not knowing the type. It is very difficult in a young dog’.
Mr Sharples told the court he bought the dog under the impression it was a cross breed of a Staffordshire Bull Terrier and Boxer.
Dr Mugford stated that Ty’s health had deteriorated in kennels which were ‘wholly unsuitable and inadequate for the dogs to be kept in’.
The undisclosed kennels in a rural location close to Bolton were commercial kennels but Dr Mugford said: ‘These dogs are not cared for like the paying guests are’.
Lara Smith, defending, questioned the welfare of Ty whilst in kennels under police custody. She told the court Ty’s had lost 10kg in just five months.
Magistrates concluded that Ty posed no threat to public safety and therefore would be spared destruction and allowed to be placed on the exemption register.
The conditions of the exemption register are that the dog must be microchipped, tattooed, neutered, insured and kept on a lead and muzzled in public places. The dog must also reside with its registered owner and breach of any of these conditions would result in the dog being destroyed.
Mr Sharples was given a 12 month conditional discharge.
After the hearing, Mr Sharples, who will be reunited with his dog within weeks said: ‘I’m really happy that Ty will be allowed to come home after all this time of not knowing.
‘He’s a top dog, not vicious at all, he just likes to chill with me.
‘He has not been treated well in kennels but hopefully he’ll be back to his usual self soon’.
Adrian Newsome, 34, who now lives in Leicester but lived at Batternberg Road, Bolton at the time of the seizure also pleaded guilty to owning a pit bull type dog at a separate hearing. Mr Newsome’s dog, Kilo was just eight months old when he was seized on May 4th.
On his examination of Kilo Dr Mugford said: ‘It was clear he was not in great shape, he was 20% underweight, his bones were visible and he bears ‘lick’ sores, a form of self-mutilation, as well as sores from lying on a concrete floor’.
Mr Newsome was also given a 12 month conditional discharge and magistrates allowed Kilo was to be placed on the exemption register.
Mr Newsome and his partner Charlain Hall were also unhappy about the way their dog had been treated.
After the hearing Miss Hall said: ‘Kilo is so skinny now, it’s a disgrace, we are extremely upset with the way he has been treated and we will be taking this matter further.’
Barbara Taylor’s dog Tia was also placed on the exemption list by Magistrates despite Dr Mugford’s evidence that the dog was a ‘Universe away from being a pit bull’.
Miss Taylor, 34, also of Batternberg Road, Bolton, had her nine month old bitch Tia seized at the same time as Mr Newsome.
Miss Taylor pleaded not guilty. She told the court Tia had been bought as a young pup under the assumption she was an Irish Staffordshire Bull Terrier.
Cuthbert Jackson, Environmental Officer for Bolton Council, who seized the dogs with the help of police officers, gave evidence in court.
Mr Jackson, who admitted his experience with pit bulls was limited, said: ‘I admit Tia is not a good example of a pit bull, she is small and delicate and has thin skin, uncharacteristic to a pit bull.
‘If she was placed in a fighting ring she would almost certainly lose, but that does not mean she is not of type’.
Dr Mugford who has first hand experience of dealing with pit bulls in both the UK and abroad said within seconds of meeting Tia, it was obvious to him she was not a pit bull.
‘To encompass Tia as a pit bull type, type would have to be so broad you would encompass half the mongrels in Lancashire’.
Miss Taylor described Tia a ‘much loved and missed family pet’.
Magistrates found Miss Taylor guilty because they concluded she had no proof of the actual breeding. Tia was also sparred destruction and ordered to be placed on the register.
Like the other dogs, Tia had also lost a considerable amount of weight in kennels.
Dr Mugford also told the court that none of the dogs had been seen by a vet since their seizure, despite a request being sent to the council after Dr Mugford’s visit. Under the 1991 Dangerous Dogs Act veterinary inspection where necessary is a requirement.
The case of Phillip Markland and his dog Denzil was adjourned until November 1st. Mr Markland and his family were deeply upset their dog would have to suffer in the conditions for a further eight weeks before there was any chance of him being returned.
Mr Markland told the court, ‘It’s not right, I’ve seen pictures, my dog is suffering in there’.
Dr Mugford described the kennels as ‘incarceration’.
‘If I’d been presented with a dog in such conditions by a member of the public I would be reporting them for animal cruelty’.
Dr Mugford said he had contacted the RSPCA regarding the dogs but no action had been taken.
Outside court Mr Jackson said: ‘This has been a learning curve for the council’.
He also admitted the kennels were unacceptable and vowed to answer the owners’ concerns.
‘The kennels aren’t ideal; they are designed for short term stays for strays, not to house dogs for such long periods of time.
‘I will do my very best and speak to police about the possibility of finding more suitable accommodation’.
OUR DOGS contacted the RSPCA in relation to Dr Mugford’s complaints but at the time of going to press had received no response.