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Rooney reunited after successful DDA defence

A CROSSBREED dog seized as a Pit Bull ‘type’ under the 1991 Dangerous Dogs Act by police and an RSPCA Inspector was returned to his owners after a successful defence by a leading anti-DDA group.

Rooney is owned by Daniel Burns of Manchester. Throughout his life, the dog had been a much-loved, friendly family pet. However, earlier this year, two police officers called at Mr Burns’ home, accompanied by a female RSPCA Inspector, saying that they had received an anonymous tip-off that there was am illegal, unregistered Pit Bull terrier on the premises.

The RSPCA Inspector allegedly suggested to Mr Burns that he sign a disclaimer to hand Rooney over for destruction and this spare himself any court appearance, but Mr Burns refused to do so. The police officers seized Rooney and Mr Burns was subsequently charged under Section One of the 1991 Dangerous Dogs Act.

Mr Burns and his mother Doreen were distraught at the loss of their family pet and contacted Juliette and John Glass of the Fury Defence Fund, the anti-DDA group which helps people caught up in legal challenges under the DDA. Mr and Mrs Glass, and fellow FDF volunteer Janet Payne gave Mr Burns and his mother lots of help and advice, and arranged for experts to examine4 Rooney in custody to determine his type and temperament.

Whilst Rooney was being held at secret kennels, he fell ill with bad diarrhoea. A PC Collings called at Mr Burns house and explained to Mr Burns and his mother that the dog was ill but was being treated by the kennel vets. This was a great source of distress to his owners, who wondered whether their pet could survive in such conditions.

Through FDF, Mr Burns engaged a local dog behaviourist and trainer, Suzanne Holding, who examined Rooney at the kennels and prepared a report on his condition and temperament. Ms Holding’s report was glowing in terms of Rooney’s behaviour, but slammed the shocking, dirty conditions in which the dog was being kept and which she cited as a cause for the marked decline in the dog’s health. Ms Holding built up trust with the police officer responsible for Rooney and was given permission to visit the dog regularly over the next few months, in which time she played with him and also bathed him.

The prosecution team employed a veterinary surgeon Madeline Forsyth from ‘Vetlaw’, based in Ampleforth, North Yorkshire who described Rooney as a Pit Bull type, by using the American Dog Breeders’ Association standards as a guideline. She noted the dog’s deterioration in health, but said that this ‘was no fault of the kennel staff who had done everything possible to accommodate this difficult animal.’

Several hearings took place at Manchester Magistrates’ Court, before a full hearing as booked for Friday, September 7th. However, the Crown Prosecution Service petitioned the court on August 8th to have the September hearing adjourned again. However, the magistrates were firm with the CPS Barrister and refused any further adjournment.

The CPS then successfully brought the case forward to August 20th, but withdrew any objections to the dog being placed on the Register of Exempted Breeds as a pit bull ‘type’ and said that they did not seek a destruction order. Accordingly, they withdrew Ms Forsyth’s evidence.

The case went ahead on August 20th. Mr Burns attended court with his mother, and was defended by barrister Abigail Hudson who put to the bench the background of the case, the dreadful conditions in which Rooney was being kept at the kennels and how this had led this deterioration and submitted Suzanne Holding’s glowing report on Rooney’s temperament.

The magistrates considered their verdict for a few minutes. The Chairman of the bench told Mr Burns: ‘The family have been through enough, you can dry your tears now.’ The magistrates ruled that Rooney be placed on the register as a pit bull ‘type’, and ordered that he be microchipped, tattooed, neutered etc. within two months and released back to his owners. They handed Mr Burns a nominal £60 fine with no order for costs.

A delighted Mr Burns and his mother thanked the Fury Defence Fund and their legal team for all their help over the past difficult months and said how they were looking forward to bringing Rooney home.

Juliette Glass of the FDF commented: ‘The Fury Defence Fund is overjoyed that this nightmare is over for Doreen and Daniel and we have been happy to have assisted and supported them. We pray that Rooney will be released as soon as possible back to his loving family. We will be assisting financially with hi compliance to be placed on the register.’