Trevor Cooper with one of his most famous canine clients, 'Dempsey' the Pit Bull Terrier,
and her owner, Diane Fanneran, pictured in January 1997
just over a year after Dempsey's release from custody
ONE OF the best-known opponents of Breed Specific Legislation in the form of the Dangerous Dogs Act has decided to step down from the front-line battle after 11 years as being the best known ‘dog defender’ in court cases.
Trevor Cooper, the solicitor who became involved in a DDA case purely by chance and eventually made canine cases his primary line of work will take up a new position as Primary Solicitor for the Environment Agency in North East England. Trevor will prosecute anyone accused of polluting rivers, dumping industrial waste or chemicals etc. all over the country but will be based in Leeds.
"I applied for the position of Assistant Solicitor which I got," Trevor told OUR DOGS. "But no-one was more astonished than me when the Agency contacted ma a few days after that and offered me the post of Principle Solicitor. Apparently, my work with animal cases played a large part in convincing them that I can see the bigger picture involved in the kind of cases the Agency faces. I have to say, I’m looking forward to the new challenge, as I am very concerned about the environment and it will be an interesting change to approach things as the prosecution rather than the defence. I am truly going to miss my work with dogs, but I’m looking forward to facing this new challenge."
Trevor’s first DDA case came about in 1994, when he was employed by the Canterbury-based fork of Sharratt’s solicitors when he defended GSD Saaba, who was accused of biting and had bieen placed under sentence of death under Section 3 of the DDA. Trevor handled Saaba’s appeal and successfully had her destruction order quashed – a rare event in those early days of the DDA.
After this he became extremely sought after to defend other DDA cases. His workload became so large that he left Sharratts in 1997 and went ‘freelance’, setting up his own company and handling all animal-related cases, of which dog defence cases under the DDA formed the largest part.
Two of Trevor’s greatest successes were the saving of Pit Bull Terrier ‘Dempsey’ from destruction in 1995 after three years on death row, and in 2004 successfully appealing the case of ‘Dino’, another GSD sentenced to death for nipping another dog owner and also being under long-term sentence of death.
Speaking of his reasons for deciding on legal pastures new, Trevor told OUR DOGS:
"I have to ay that the Dino case had an impact, it was difficult to see what my next challenge was to be. Dino’s was a monumental case, we went through every appeal process possible to secure justice for him and ultimately we won.
"I have to be honest and say that my age also had something to do with my decision to strike out elsewhere, I’ve reached a certain age and feel that if I don’t try a new challenge now it will be too late. It’s a major move and being the prosecution as opposed to defence is a whole new area of law in itself."
Trevor is too modest to admit that it was his efforts that saved hundreds of dogs’ lives, and would never make a big thing of the fact that much of his work was pro-bono (free of charge) and that he would offer a great deal of free advice to other solicitors as well as their clients on dog law precedents. "I have to say, sometimes I’d spend days on end answering calls, and not charging for my time," he adds. "I never turned anyone away, but it did wear me down. As I became better known, more and more people would ring expecting help. I simply couldn't continue the amount of free work I was doing."
However, there is hope, because Trevor readily admits that it is not in his nature to leave his work for the good of dogs behind. "I’m not necessarily going to disappear," he adds. "I’m looking into various possibilities to be able to continue to offer help and advice in the future, but just not be involved up front all the time. I’ll still be around, supporting various animal charities, such as Justice For Dogs, the Fury Defence Fund, the RSPCA, Dogs Trust, and, of course all the campaigners who’ve worked so hard for the good of dogs over the years. I can’t just walk away from it altogether; it’s become a part of me."
It is an enduring legacy that Trevor Cooper took on cases that no other lawyer would touch. Since the Dangerous Dogs Amendment Act of 1997 (which he advised on the drafting of), he has hardly lost any dogs in cases he has defended, which is a quite brilliant record.
And Trevor can be justly proud that his defence of the Dempsey case set a new precedent in law, namely that the known owner of property has the right to be present when the fate of that property is decided in court, this being the legal argument that eventually secured Dempsey’ successful appeal.
Trevor’s last dog case took place last week when he won an appeal at Bradford Crown Court –for a GSD –named Connie who was under sentence of death for a minor incident. "I have to say, it was nice to go out on a victory," he smiles.
Connie’s case may not have been as high profile as Dino and Dempsey, but she was a dog who would otherwise have not been living today were it not or the dogged defender himself, Trevor Cooper – the legal friend to all dogs.
OUR DOGS wishes Trevor well in his new venture and thanks him for all his sterling work in fighting the insidious Dangerous Dogs Act and saving the lives of thousands of innocent family pets.
JULIETTE GLASS, Founder of the Fury Defence Fund:
" I have accompanied Trevor to courts throughout the country - magistrates, crown and High Court - and have witnessed at first hand his incredible legal knowledge and expertise which has resulted in saving innumerable dogs' lives. Janet Payne was the first campaigner to met up with Trevor and consequently created the bond which has existed between us all throughout the years. This meeting took place at the Saaba appeal hearing at Canterbury Crown Court in 1994 when Trevor first entered the anti-DDA arena.
"We have deep gratitude in our hearts and the highest esteem for this kind and gentle man who has been such a good friend to my husband John and myself for so many years. One of the happiest memories for us was the wonderful surprise 40th birthday party we held for Trevor at our home a couple of years ago attended by many friends and victims of the DDA. This is not goodbye; only au revoir."
MIKE MULLEN, Dog judge and behaviourist:
"I think it's tragic loss to the world of dogs not to have Trevor’s services available any longer. Certainly nobody in the UK has done more to protect our dogs. He made it a mission that justice is seen to be done. He has pointed the way for so many other solicitors and lawyers to defend cases. I honestly believe this guy needs lot of recognition and thanks from all over dogdom. The KC and all major charities and dog clubs, regardless of their discipline, should recognise all what he's done for dogs, There is not a breed of dog he hasn't touched in his efforts. He sat on the old DDA Reform Committee that eventually saw the law amended. I sat on there with him and realised that he had a wonderful insight into the issues, it was a great pleasure to serve with him and assist him in so many cases over the years."
JOHN BRANCH, Dog judge and Expert Witness:
"I first met Trevor in the early 90s when he defended a DDA case in which I appeared as an expert witness. After that we appeared in many cases together. Although I was a bit robust in court, perhaps a bit too much for Trevor’s liking sometimes, he always did his homework about the dog he was defending, which is more than I can say for other solicitors I’ve worked with. In the end, we all recommended him for any dog case, and he even managed to keep me under control! He must appreciate the number of dogs that are alive today thanks to him. I wish him all the best in his new venture."
CLARISSA BALDWIN, Chief Executive of the Dogs Trust:
"Trevor will be a sad loss to the world of dogs. His untiring efforts on behalf on behalf of accused dogs ensured some rational good sense and liberty for many. We at Dogs Trust will be eternally grateful to him and we wish him well in the future."
AMANDA DUNKLEY, Endangered Dogs Defence and Rescue:
"Working closely with Trevor Cooper over the past decade certainly has been an unforgettable experience & we will always cherish the memories, good and bad, of all we have endured together.
"We are all deeply saddened to lose Trevor’s daily expertise, determination and vast experience, he will be greatly missed by us all, we all wish him well in his new career with the EPA, a most worthy cause, the ‘environment’ is very lucky to gain such a spirited defender.
"Many canine organisation, including ourselves, have come to rely on Trevor; his departure will leave dogs and their owners involved in legal disputes at a disadvantage, as it always has been and continues to be, difficult to engage the assistance of a suitable solicitor. With this in mind the EDDR is contacting legal practices nationwide in an effort to forge new contacts with solicitors interested in canine legislation and welfare, as well as willing to take on new clients. In the meantime our helplines will continue to operate as normal.
"Never have dog owners owed so much to one man – Trevor Cooper truly has been the dog’s guardian angel and a light at the end of the tunnel for so many."
PAM ROSE, Barrister:
"Trevor Cooper will leave a huge vacuum with his departure. The contribution he made to assisting legal defence of dogs under this Dangerous Dogs Act legislation in truly immense. He always gave 100% of his time, often free of charge and will be greatly missed. I have worked on many cases with him and was incredibly impressed by his sheer insight into the complexities of the law. His dedication and contribution to the 1997 Amendment Act in itself saved hundreds of dogs. I wish him much happiness in his future work."
ANN HARPWOOD, Justice For Dogs:
"I heard about Trevor’s departure some weeks ago and was saddened by it. He will be sorely missed as he has done so much for the good of dogs over the past 11 years."
ROGER MUGFORD, Animal Behaviourist:
"No-one has tried harder to secure a more balanced treatment of dogs in court than Trevor. He has been able to persuade courts at all levels of his arguments, from the smallest provincial magistrates’ court to making appeals all the way up to the Divisional Court in London. He is an extraordinary lawyer to be able to function at all levels.
"Trevor always ends up as a personal friend of his clients, because they always feel that he is truly on their side and it is never just a job.
In end, perhaps, he has given too much of his time and been far too generous as a result. In all other dog-related law issues, as well as the DDA, he would give his time and expertise freely.
"In a better world his expertise would have been recognised by more animals charities which are well funded and well staffed. They would have seen that he was a man who was pitching in on the side of dogs and dog owners, not just out to make a living.
"The curious thing about Trevor is that he is fond of dogs, but is not a dog owner. So it was not simply an emotional connection with him, but the fact that he sees dog law as a matter of justice. He is a hell of a nice guy and I wish him well in his new career, he’ll be terribly missed."
ROBERT KILLICK, Columnist, OUR DOGS:
"I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that it’s a black day for dogs and justice that solicitor Trevor Cooper is giving up his work in defence of dogs who have fallen foul of the law particularly the invidious Dangerous Dogs Act. I’ve known Trevor since his first case when he realised the possibility of abuse under the Act and was determined to fight the injustices. He’ll be a hard act to follow."
TREVOR TURNER, Crufts Vet:
"The dog world is losing a very good friend and supporter at the end of May, Solicitor Trevor Cooper, well-known for his defence of so many dogs from the often illogical vagaries of the law, changes direction to take up a new legal position in Leeds on June 1st.
"Trevor has given tremendous support to dogs over the years, culminating in the very successfully appeal resulting in the Lamont family being able to enjoy the companionship of their beloved Dino without further hassle.
"I first met Trevor in the mid 1990s when we were knee deep in cases in resulting from the ill-conceived DDA. We have remained good friends and colleagues ever since. Time moves on and Trevor with it, Jean and I wish him every success in his new direction. We are comforted that his expertise will still be available in times of need."
CAROLINE KISKO, Kennel Club:
"We will greatly miss Trevor Cooper and his invaluable help, dedication and commitment he has showed to the world of dogs and to the Kennel Club.
"We have worked closely with Trevor over many years especially with regard to the dangerous dog issue and the Kennel Club wishes him all the best for his future and of course hopes to stay in touch."