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Stafford destroyed in paperwork blunder

The Metropolitan police have destroyed a family pet Staffordshire Bull Terrier and left a west London family distraught, following a series of blunders.

The four-year-old Stafford, Sam, was seized under the DDA in May this year, six months after an incident in which he nipped a travelling salesman once in the leg when he called at the home of owner Melanie Hawes.

In July of this year, Miss Hawes, appeared before Ealing Magistrates Court and pleaded guilty to an offence under s3 (1) of the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991. Dr Mugford, a leading animal behaviourist who carried out a behavioural assessment on Sam, was quickly brought in to examine Sam, and found him to be friendly and compliant. Dr Mugford concluded he should not be destroyed, but should instead be made subject to a Contingent Destruction Order with conditions that he be either on a lead or muzzled when in a public place. He also recommended further training for the dog.

On 31st July 2009 Miss Hawes was sentenced by Ealing Magistrates Court; she was ordered to pay £500 in compensation and a Destruction Order was made against Sam. A notice of Appeal was immediately lodged at court and the appeal hearing was scheduled for the 29th September at Isleworth Crown Court.

At the appeal were Sam’s family, expert witness Dr Mugford and prosecuting and defence counsel. As the proceedings were about to begin, it was suddenly revealed that Sam had been euthanised on the 26th August 2009. Apparently the police were unaware that an appeal had been lodged and Sam was already dead. On being told this information in court His Honour Judge Lowen stated that this was in clear contravention of the Act which states that the order shall not take effect until the Appeal is heard. He went on to say that this action was in conflict with those provisions and it was for another court to deal with the consequences. Owner Melanie Hawes was left in tears.

Melanie later told DDA Watch: “I can’t believe what has happened, that our dog had died due to some kind of paperwork mistake and I have to break the news now to my 11-year-old daughter when she comes home from school, she loves Sam so much and has been waiting for him to come home.”

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