DINO IS SAVED! Three small, but wonderful words that were texted to me at around 1.15pm on Friday, October 15th 2004.
Dino’s reprieve marked yet another significant victory of commonsense and determination over one of the most ill-conceived and downright unjust pieces of legislation to ever be enacted in the UK – the 1991 Dangerous Dogs Act.
Certainly the reprieve of Dino will rank alongside the release of Dempsey, the Pit Bull Terrier who was condemned to death for having her muzzle removed in public to allow her to vomit without choking. It will be recalled that two policemen had followed the young man walking Dempsey on behalf of her owner, Dianne Fanneran and swooped when her muzzle was removed. This, however, was 12 years ago in 1992, in the early, vicious days of the 1991 Dangerous Dogs Act, when any misdemeanour under the Act made a dog ‘fair game’ – Dempsey represented a good ‘scalp’ – a Pit Bull, albeit registered, identified, but still illegal, because she was un-muzzled in public!
Both cases have interesting parallels. Both dogs were well behaved; one could even say model citizens. Both were ‘guilty’ of minor offences – in Dino’s case he may or may not have accidentally bitten the hand of the owner of a dog who started a fight with him. Both were charged under the DDA – Dempsey under Section 1 and Dino under Section 3. Both were under sentence of death for three and a half long years, both dogs’ owners fought long and hard through the courts to secure an appeal, both owners were cruelly rebuffed by legal pettifogging and the judicial network hell-bent on upholding the original, spurious verdict, both were fortunate to be represented by the excellent solicitor Trevor Cooper, a specialist in dog law. Both were ultimately reprieved in a blaze of publicity, earning them the front page of many national newspapers.
The subtle difference between the two, however, is that whereas poor Dempsey was held in solitary confinement at secret kennels during those long years, Dino was allowed to live at home with his family. Whether this was an act of benevolence on the part of Northamptonshire Police or simply an administrative oversight is unclear – certainly the avuncular Judge Patrick Eccles QC who reprieved Dino could offer no explanation for why a warrant on the dog’s destruction was not issued or sought. In Dempsey’s case, ‘The Establishment’ was out to kill her from Day One and it took all of Trevor Cooper’s legal expertise and the gutsy determination of her owner, Dianne to keep her alive.
It was the same legal expertise and the same gutsy determination – not to mention a lot of money – were brought to bear in Dino’s case by his owners Bryan and Carol Lamont, proving that the ‘little people’ can still triumph against the weight of the law and ‘The Establishment’… and finally have their case heard by a judge with the commonsense to realise that before him were good owners and, crucially, a good dog.
Let’s not forget to give thanks to the Criminal Cases Review Commission for considering Dino’s case and referring it back to the Crown Court – it literally was Dino’s last chance. But equally, let’s not forget that charges should never have been brought under the DDA to start with. If charges needed to be brought at all, minor canine offences should be brought under the perfectly adequate 1871 Dogs Act – but there the Crown Prosecution Service is at fault. In Dempsey’s case, a quiet word of warning with her owner or the family friend walking Dempsey by the obviously under-worked police would have sufficed. In both cases, no destruction order would have been issued and there would have been no need for all the stress and heartache.
Finally, it’s good to see the wider, national media reporting positively that a dog has been reprieved under the vile DDA. They did so previously with Dempsey in 1995 and again with Dino in 2004. But again, let’s not forget who clamoured for the introduction off the DDA in the first place. If Dino’s case had been heard ten years ago, the papers might just as well have called for the "vicious brute’s instant destruction!" But then again, news is a funny old game and the national media sometimes has a selective memory.
But whatever the rights and wrongs, whatever the past has wrought, let’s be happy here in the present and wish Dino a long and happy future. Thanks to his owners and all those good folk on his side, he now has a future to enjoy.
And that, for sure, is Good News