Reprieve for dogs ordered to be destroyed after park attack
TWO dogs living under the threat of destruction following an incident in a Bristol park where they attacked another dog have been given a reprieve by a High Court judge.
Amber and Shadow – both of mixed Rottweiler blood – were made the subjects of destruction orders at Bristol Crown Court in September 2010 after they were judged a "danger to public safety".
The decision followed an incident in Wootton Road, St Anne's, Bristol, in September 2009, in which Amber attacked another dog, Wooky, and was seen "swinging it by the neck".
During the incident Shadow had broken free from his owner's lead, while Wooky's owner, Vincent Morro, had to "prize Amber's jaws apart" to free his pet.
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The dogs' owner, Victoria Kelleher, then living in St Anne's, challenged the destruction orders at London's High Court with claims that they took insufficient account of the progress made by her pets since the incident.
She put forward evidence from Dr Roger Mugford – one of the UK's foremost experts on canine behaviour – to back her claims.
Dr Mugford had visited Ms Kelleher at her new home in Knowle, Bristol, the court heard, which is spacious and has a garden, giving the robust animals more room to let off steam.
Dr Mugford stated that with the right precautions – such as microchips for both dogs – Amber and Shadow could be successfully "rehabilitated".
Lawyers for Ms Kelleher, a young mum in her 20s, pointed out that she had been living in limbo for the past few years, uncertain whether her pets' lives would be spared.
Mr Justice Collins ruled in her favour, saying that the crown court judge had wrongly decided that "the burden was on Ms Kelleher to establish that the dogs were not a danger to public safety". The judge should have first considered whether the "new measures and arrangements" were sufficient to stop the dogs being a hazard, he said.
The case will now go back for re-hearing before a different crown court judge, who will assess whether the dogs present a current threat to the public.