A Bull Terrier which police claimed was dangerously out of control was allegedly strangled to death by a police dog handler in what was described as an attempt to subdue the animal.
The dog, a five year-old brindle and white Bull Terrier called Khan, had been bought by Bedford-based Val Allen for her son Mark and his partner Andrea Deards four years previously.
Mrs Allen is an experienced dog breeder, having bred and shown Dobermanns for 25 years.
She has also worked with problem dogs alongside an experienced dog trainer for several years.
Mr Allen and Miss Deards, who have one child, split up recently, and Khan remained with Miss Deards and her son at their home in Cedar Road, Bedford.
On the evening of Tuesday, July 9th, Miss Deards uncle, Tony Green, was playing in Miss Deards garden with a number of children, including Miss Deards son and those of her friends who were visiting. Mr Green, described as a loud man, shouted at the children, causing Khan to become protective towards them. The dog ran towards Mr Green and bit him on the bottom. Mr Green yelled for help, and Miss Deards attempted to telephone Mrs Allen for help, although the latter was not at home. She then telephoned for an ambulance. The emergency services themselves alerted the police and four officers turned up at her home.
The officers made no attempt to subdue the dog and called for back up.
Mr Green, a slightly built man, had apparently "wrestled the dog to the ground". Three other police officers arrived, one of which, PC Birch, was a dog handler.
Miss Deards explained that she had expected that the officers would arrive with a grasper pole to restrain the animal, but PC Birch came equipped only with a choke chain and lead.
The officers ordered Miss Deards, her friends and children back into the house and then set about restraining Khan, having called for a vet to attend. However, the officers did not wait for the vet and attempted to deal with the dog themselves.
According to one of Miss Deards friends, who observed the scene from the kitchen window, the officers put the choke chain on Khan with no apparent difficulty and then two of them held the dog down, by putting weight on the back end of the dogs body, whilst PC Birch allegedly knelt on the dogs neck, pulling hard on the lead. The dogs head was observed to be at a strange angle and PC Birch was allegedly seen to yank on it.
The vet turned up 15 minutes after being summoned, and pronounced the dog dead.
According to Miss Deards and Mrs Allen there was a metal post in the garden to which the dog could have been attached whilst waiting for the vet to arrive.
It was later discovered Mr Green had suffered some bruising and one small puncture wound needing a single stitch. The police officers were not bitten.
Deards said: I asked an officer if I was going to have
to have Khan put down and he said the decision might be taken
out of my hands. Then his colleague came in from the garden
and said he had done it.
I didn't know that was what they intended because I would never have just let them go out there and kill my dog. I had had him since he was a puppy. I always felt safe with him in the house. He only nipped my uncle because he shouted at the children and Khan was very protective of my little boy.
Mrs Allen told OUR DOGS: If they could get a lead round his neck why couldn't they have used that to restrain him until the vet arrived, and why on earth did they come without a grasper?
When I spoke to PC Birch about this, he first tried to tell me that it was the dog wardens responsibility, but as he knows, they do not work after 6pm and this incident took place between 8 and 10pm. He also told me that there was no room in his van to carry a grasper, which I find ridiculous.
Theres a lot which I am not being told here. The bottom line is, Khan did not need to be killed. Tony Green is slightly built, so how did he manage to wrestle the dog down to start with? If three officers managed to restrain Khan for 15 minutes, knowing the vet was coming, with no injuries to themselves, why did PC Birch have to take it upon himself to strangle Khan?
A police spokesman said: Two divisional officers and a dog handler had to restrain the animal which was dangerously out of control. They had already called the vet in the hope that the six-stone bull terrier could be sedated. Unfortunately the dog died before the vet arrived.
As this situation was an emergency the dog section officer was unable to get to police headquarters to pick up the protective equipment referred to. This equipment cannot be carried on patrol vans because of lack of space.
A veterinary post mortem carried out on Khan at Mrs Allens insistence confirmed that the dog had died as a result of strangulation.
Mrs Allen contacted the RSPCA, pointing out that she had an eyewitness account and veterinary evidence of the dogs horrific, slow death. RSPCA Chief Inspector Horsman is now investigating the incident.
Miss Deards and her son have both been severely traumatised by the incident. The family has made an official complaint that will be investigated by the Chief Constable of the Bedfordshire Police Force, Mr Paul Hancock. The RSPCA has confirmed it has received a report of the incident and is also investigating.
A spokesman for the National Canine Defence League said: The NCDL is appaled. We will be writing to the police force in question to get more facts on what actually occurred and asking them to take steps to ensure that a similar incident never happens again. Our deepest sympathies go to the dog's owner and her family.
Juliette Glass of the Fury Defence Fund who has been assisting Miss Deards and Mrs Allen commented: This is a most ghastly execution, eerily reminiscent of the Acer case (see below) and of Joshua, a dog stabbed to death by a police officer with a garden fork. There must be an official inquiry into the horrific and unnecessary methods used to end this poor dogs life.
In 1997, a senior police dog trainer strangled Acer, a serving police GSD as part of rough discipline. Four police dog training officers appeared in court in 1998 and two were convicted of cruelty. The Essex police force later disciplined all the officers involved. After the Acer incident, the NCDL and RSPCA refused to donate dogs to any police force until guarantees were given as to the humanity of the training methods used.