BRAD THE Labrador, who was on death row after an incident in the New Forest last year, has been granted a reprieve.
And his relieved owner is celebrating the fact that his beloved dog, his only companion, now has a future.
On Tuesday, Southampton Crown Court, Judge Christopher Leigh and two magistrates overturned a death sentence imposed by magistrates in Lyndhurst last year.
The court heard how three year-old Constance Stevens and her sister Rachael, five, were riding their bikes as their parents walked near the Acres Down care park in the Forest.
Brads owner, retired teacher Ian Rogerson, was walking the dog nearby and as they passed, eighteen-month old Brad barked at the older girl.
Mr Stevens, possibly believing foot and mouth restrictions were still in place and the dog should have been on a lead, followed Mr Rogerson and demanded his name and address, then pulled his wallet out of his back pocket.
While his owners back was turned, Brad barked at the terrified Constance and allegedly bit her on the right thigh before dragging her to the ground.
When Mr Rogerson drove off, Mr Stevens took his registration number and called the police.
When the case came before Lyndhurst Magistrates last year, the dog was ordered to be destroyed and Mr Rogerson banned from keeping dogs for six months (an almost unprecedented ruling for a case which does not involve cruelty to animals).
Mr Rogerson appealed against his young dogs death sentence and at Tuesdays hearing judge Leigh and the magistrates heard that Brad had acted totally out of character.
Russell Pyne, mitigating, said Mr Rogerson and his former wife had bred Labradors for more than 30 years and Brad had a very good pedigree.
The confrontation between the two men caused the dog to get excited, said Mr Payne.
There was no suggestion that he had been out of control before.
In a letter read to the court, Mr & Mrs Graham Morris, owners of Applemore Kennels & Cattery where Brad had boarded for five weeks, said he was a well trained and obedient dog.
He showed no signs of aggression to staff or other dogs. He was affectionate and delightful, said the letter.
The judge, himself a dog owner, and the two magistrates, who are not, were unaminous in allowing the appeal, say: We are satisfied on the balance of probabilities that Brad does not constitute a danger to public safety.
However, they ordered that Mr Rogerson, 59, of Crofton Cottages, Minstead, should keep Brad under control and that the dog must be muzzled in public.
After the hearing Mr Rogerson spoke of the wonderful reaction of the public who have been so generous in their wishes and support.
It has kept us both going, he added.
Brad knew there was something going on when I left this morning
He realises when the boss is uptight.
Speaking later to the New Forest Post, Mr Rogerson said: Brads safe and Im over the moon.
The testimonial from Applemore Kennels was superb and nobody could argue against it.
The agonys over now - its been such a long time and now this is such a relief.
After the initial court case and ruling, Mr Rogerson received countless letters of support from members of the public, and the story made headlines in the national canine press.