Rottweilers sentenced to death in unfair trial
A ROTTWEILER exhibitor has was banned from keeping dogs for five years by a court last week, after one of her dogs bit a neighbour’s child and two of her other dogs were ordered to be destroyed - despite the fact that the offending dog had already been put to sleep.
Yvonne Webb, who exhibits under the Winpenny, prefix appeared at Stoke-On-Trent Crown Court last Friday, charged under Section 3 of the Dangerous Dogs Act for allowing her dogs to be dangerously out of control in a public place and for an aggravated attack.
The nightmare scenario unfolded on January 15th 2007 when Mrs Webb’s 11-year-old son Alex was playing with his 10-year-old friend Jordan Gillan outside the family home in Newcastle-Under-Lyme, Staffordshire. Mrs Webb was not home at the time and her three Rottweilers were confined in the kitchen. Alex had to go indoors for a moment and told Jordan to wait outside.
However, Jordan walked into the Webb’s garden and opened the back door to the kitchen uninvited. Mrs Webb’s two and a half year-old male Rottweiler Ollie sprang forward barking at the unknown intruder. He chased Jordan out of the house and garden, followed by bitches four-year-old Jinx and her daughter 19 month-old Emma. Jordan managed to call the bitches back, but Ollie pursued Jordan up the road to his house and bit him several times.
Jordan was taken to hospital where he stayed for five days recovering from several bites. The police were called, but Mrs Webb, having been informed of the incident, immediately took Ollie to the vets and had him put to sleep, within half an hour of the incident. ‘He was acting from instinct, it’s true, but it’s not acceptable that he did that to a child,’ Mrs Webb told OUR DOGS. ‘Jordan was told to stay outside and he came into the house uninvited. I think Alex tried to push him outside and there was lots of shouting, which Ollie must have interpreted as someone attacking Alex. But whatever the provocation, I would not expect one of my dogs to do that, so I immediately had him put to sleep and co-operated fully with the police.’
Despite Mrs Webb’s co-operation, the police seized the other two dogs and she was duly charged under Section 3 of the Dangerous Dogs Act.
Due to the serious nature of the incident, the case was referred by magistrates directly to Crown Court, where the case was eventually heard last Friday heard before His Honour Judge Styler. However, it became clear that the case was not conducted fairly, as Judge Styler dismissed a detailed behavioural report on the two dogs compiled by dog judge and behaviourist Mike Mullen.
Mr Mullen had subjected both dogs to rigorous tests, including taking them to a busy town centre and allowing strangers to pet them, whilst also arranging tests at the kennels where people walked past them shouting and waving objects. At no time did either dog show aggression or agitation. However, Judge Styler refused to listen to the report telling Mr Mullen: ‘You can’t know, you weren’t there’. He also stated that he ‘couldn’t understand why anyone would want to own three large dogs of this type.’
Testimonials from dog exhibitors and people who knew Mrs Webb’s dogs and could vouch for their good character were also dismissed out of hand.
Mrs Webb had pleaded guilty to the charge, although the innocence of the other two dogs was not considered. Judge Styler ordered that the dogs be destroyed and ordered that Mrs Webb pay £2,500 compensation to Jordan Gillan, sentenced her to perform 120 hours community service and banned her from keeping dogs for five years. Mrs Webb’s three remaining Rottweilers had to be removed from her house to a friend’s home by midnight on Friday or they would be seized by police.
Mrs Webb’s solicitor and barrister are currently considering an appeal against the sentence. In the meantime, Jinx and Emma are still alive but remain held in kennels.
The Webbs have been subjected to a great deal of abuse from Jordan’s family and police are investigating two incidents related to this. There has also been hostile and inaccurate media coverage of the incident whilst Jordan’s mother sold her story to the News Of The World newspaper.
Mike Mullen told OUR DOGS: ‘The whole thing was a farce. It’s a tragic incident of course, but I’ve never seen a court case dealt with so quickly and I’ve never had my evidence ignored out of hand in this way before.’
At the time of going to press, Mrs Webb’s legal team were still discussing grounds for a possible appeal.