Illegal Merseyside Pitbull spared in dangerous dog trial A MERSEYSIDE animal charity has escaped punishment after rehoming an illegal Pitbull type dog with an elderly couple.
Animals In Need in Melling were charged with possession of a dangerous dog after police officers seized Rocky, a Pitbull and Staffordshire Bull Terrier cross, in December 2008.
The dog had been rehomed with married couple Judy and Harry Groves, 69 and 72, who also escaped punishment on the same charge.
The couple, of Outlet Farm, Melling, and charity trustee Fran Ellis, 57, of Hall Lane, were given absolute discharges at South Sefton magistrates court.
Mr and Mrs Groves had given Rocky a home after staff at the Melling rescue centre had struggled to find new owners for the abandoned dog.
Rocky had been with the Groves for only a month when police officers seized him.
The "boisterous" three-year-old dog had been taken in by four families, but was too much for them all. to cope with and was returned
Destructive and difficult to look after, Rocky chewed up kitchens and furniture, the court was told – but had not bitten another animal or attacked a human.
Defence solicitor Lara Smith pointed to statements from Rocky’s four previous owners which described him as "a lovely dog" to prove that the dog posed no threat.
But when Animals in Need trustee Mrs Ellis called police out to check out another dog, Pink – a suspected Pitbull abandoned at the centre – the dog legislation officers noticed Rocky.
His distinctive Pitbull-like appearance immediately raised concerns that he could be a dangerous dog.
But Mrs Ellis told the court in her opinion "the category Rocky fell into was a mongrel with some Staffordshire Bull Terrier."
She added had she had any fears he was a banned dog she would have alerted the police to the fact, in the same way she had done with Pink.
But District Judge Michael Ableson told lawyers the case rested on "type" and he must be convinced that Rocky – a mongrel – was not of "Pitbull type" to find in favour of the defence.
In court the prosecution and defence both called on two expert witnesses who examined Rocky, and all four gave evidence before the court, two finding him to be of dangerous type and the other two disagreeing.
It was Peter Tallack’s evidence that persuaded Judge Ableson.
The former London Metropolitan police constable and dangerous dog specialist who has advised the Association of Chief Police Officers and DEFRA said that he believed Rocky was of Pitbull type.
Mr Tallack, who worked with Merseyside police in the wake of the Ellie Lawrenson tragedy, said Merseyside had a dangerous dog problem.
Telling the court of his arrival on Merseyside he said: "What shocked me and what became evident is that Merseyside and Liverpool is the gateway to the illegal breeds coming in from Ireland."
He admitted that defining dog "type" was subjective and a matter of opinion, but added that in his view Rocky was a good example of an illegal Pitbull cross breed.
Judge Ableson ruled that Rocky was of "Pitbull type" but used his discretion to save the dog from destruction.
The district judge gave all three defendants an absolute discharge and told them that they left the court with no stain on their character and would not be made to pay court costs.
During the trial he told prosecutor Lee Bonner: "As a matter of policy I’m a little troubled about why a 69-year-old woman and a 72-year-old man of exemplary character should have to find themselves facing this trial."
But he conceded that Merseyside Police "are damned if they do, and damned if they don't" seek prosecution in such cases.Outside court, Mrs Groves said: "We’re really looking forward to having Rocky back home. We don’t even know where he’s been held."
The dog will be subject to a suspended destruction order in case of any future attacks on animals or humans. THE ECHO