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Police kill family pet ‘in error’


A FAMILY have been left heartbroken after Merseyside Police informed them they had ‘mistakenly’ destroyed their family pet dog, Oscar.

Steven Hardwick and OscarJeanette Hardwick and son Stephen’s dog Oscar was seized by police in October 2007 as a possible pit bull ‘type’ dog. He was held in kennels at an unknown location and his owners where waiting for their day in Court to hopefully secure his freedom and safe return home.

Jeanette Hardwick said at the time of the dog’s seizure: ‘Oscar is the least dangerous dog you could ever have met. Apart from his fantastic temperament he also had a bone deformity, which left him with a limp and undergoing regular treatment. My son has cystic fibrosis and when he first saw Oscar as a young pup he knew he had to save him. He has been with us ever since and is my son’s best friend. This has totally destroyed Stephen. ‘

Jeanette, who was present at the time Oscar was seized, informed officers that she had paperwork from her vet stating that Oscar was not a pit bull. Officers told Ms Hardwick to attend Kirkby Police Station with the paperwork and she should have him returned. This she did immediately, only to be told that they could not return Oscar until their breed identification expert had seen him the following Monday. Ms Hardwick told the officer that Oscar had medical needs and was assured he would have the treatment he needed.

Despite leaving several telephone messages Ms Hardwick states no one ever returned her calls and she turned to Deed Not Breed and the Bull Breed Advisory Service for help. In the weeks that followed Deed Not Breed where told on several occasions that Oscar had received his treatment, was fine and that a court date would be set soon. However almost two months later it appeared that Oscar could not be found on the police system.

Ms Hardwick continues: ’The first contact I had from the police was on the 6th December when they told me they had no sign of Oscar on the system. They said they knew he was there somewhere, just not in the computer. They promised me they would update me later that day.’
However the following day came the devastating news that Oscar had been destroyed.

Ms Hardwick recalls: ‘I received a telephone call from an Inspector saying they wished to meet with me. I just knew something awful had happened and said ‘he better not be dead’ and the officer told me he was. I was hysterical and couldn’t breathe. The officer wanted to speak to my son too but the stress of Oscar’s seizure and detainment had already made him ill and I did not want him there so I called my husband instead.’

Ms Hardwick says that when the Officer arrived he told them that Oscar had been logged as a stray dog with no owner and, as a result they had destroyed him at a later date. She claims the officer told her he was very sorry and that he acknowledged it was an error by Merseyside Police.
Since then the Hardwicks have been left in shock wondering exactly what went wrong. They have been unable to have Oscar’s body or ashes returned and have no idea if he received his treatment prior to his death, nor are they are not sure when he died or what condition he was in. They have made an official complaint to try to obtain the answers they need and in the hope that procedures will be changed so that a similar tragedy does not happen again to someone else.

This is not the first time errors have been made in logging so-called ‘Dangerous Dogs’ via Kirkby police station. Previously Jackie Rushton’s dog Lennox was ‘lost’ in the care of Merseyside Police after being incorrectly logged on the system. It was a week before she was told they had located him resulting in an hour-long visit with Lenny to confirm identity and put her mind at rest. Lennox has since been allowed home but unfortunately Oscar will never get that chance again.

When told of Oscar’s story Jackie Rushton said: ‘It’s time this stopped. They take in dogs they claim are dangerous yet they make errors in the handling of these dogs that have now cost one his life. They do not have the resources to do this correctly and this can only continue. I beg the Government to open up the Index of Exempted Dogs to allow owners to register their own dogs from the safety of their own homes.’

Merseyside Police made no comment as the matter was subject to an official complaint.