Nobody will ever know how many dogs have died under our dog legislation because nobody keeps the necessary, centralised records. The numbers are certainly in the thousands, perhaps tens of thousands. We offer, here, rememberance to those who died unjustly. The stories on this page are a symbol for the thousands whose stories will never be told.
Sam was killed in error while in the care of the Metropolitan Police
Sam was seized on 5th May 2009 and taken to police kennels where a leading behaviourist assesed him as "friendly and complaint". On 29th September, in Isleworth Crown Court, Sam's hopeful owner, Melanie Hawes, was told that the Metropolitan Police had destroyed her dog by mistake five weeks earlier.
Chocking back the tears Sam’s owner Melanie said, “I can’t believe what has happened, that our dog had died due to some kind of paperwork mistake and I have to break the news now to my 11 year old daughter when she comes home from school, she loves Sam so much and has been waiting for him to come home.”
Sam was a much loved family member. He was killed on 26th August 2009.
The Unknown Dogs
In 2008 six stray dogs were destroyed as 'type' by the Hackney Borough Council in London. Information obtained by DDAWatch under the Freedom of Information Act.
Henry Bates (Harry) had his pet dog ‘Otis’ seized from the inside of his car by the Metropolitan Police on December 4th 1991, following a routine stop and check in the Blackwall Tunnel in East London. Otis was asleep in the car when one officer declared he looked like a ‘pit bull’ and seized him. Harry was later charged with having a dog unmuzzled and unleashed in a ‘public place’ contrary to Section One of the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991.
Following a Magistrates Court hearing in July 1992, Harry was found guilty and Otis, who had never harmed anyone or given cause for concern, was sentenced to death by the Court. An Appeal was lodged and the legal process, centred on what did and did not constitute a ‘public place’ continued. Later a legal ruling by Justice Waller and Lord Justice Rose on February 25th 1993 stated that the interior of a private car on a public highway is, for the purposes of the Act, a public place.
Otis was held at a secret location while awaiting the Court's judgement. Owner Harry was allowed one brief reunion with his dog over a two and a half year period. At a cost charged to the defendant, Otis was transported from his secret location to a cage at the rear of a Police Station, Harry was able to spend 30 minutes with Otis inside the cage, with the authorities watching and filming from the outside
Following the High Court ruling, valuable new evidence had come to light. Otis had now been examined by leading breed identification experts, who confirmed Otis had more characteristics of a Great Dane than any other breed of dog and therefore not subject to Section One of the DDA, new grounds to free Otis were attempted but the legal team were never to be given the opportunity to establish his breed or type in a Court of Law.
On 29th June 1994 an application was heard for Judicial Review, at the Royal Courts of Justice, Lord Justice McCowan and Mr. Justice Buxton ruled that it was not necessary that the Prosecution provide any evidence of breed. Under the DDA the burden of proof rests with the defendant and no more than an allegation is needed.
The effect of this decision made the DDA unprecedented in English law by reversing the presumption of innocence.
An application to hear the case before the European Court of Human Rights was lodged with the European Commission in January 1995. On 16th January 1996, the European Commission ruled that the Otis case was inadmissible; they decided by a majority decision that the DDA was not a human rights violation.
Despite widespread public outcry and offers of sanctuary from abroad Otis was killed on 8th February 1996 ending four years solitary confinement and legal arguments. His body was returned to his owner, Harry Bates, in a plastic bag inside a cardboard box. A post-mortem revealed that Otis had suffered:
All nails on four feet extremely worn
The signs of old lying sores on both hocks.
Weight gain 34kg dead weight.
Two upper incisors broken.
All front teeth worn so that the pulp was exposed.
Severe wearing of the lingual aspect particularly of the upper right canine.
A one third deposit of calculus on most of the teeth (more than one would expect for a 6 year old dog).
Enlarged umbilical hernia.
Otis' owner, Harry Bates, was left homeless and jobless with legal debts outstanding.
His had endured severe mental strain and emotional stress lasting four years and had also incurred substantial legal cost, being criminalised in an effort to save his dog.
Acknowledgement for Otis' story to Endangered Dogs Defence & Rescue
Lola, a three year old dog was brought into the safety of a rescue sanctuary by an RSPCA Inspector. She had been stabbed several times and her owner was to be prosecuted for the offences against her.
Lola was treated at the vets, receiving stitches and medication, her owner signed her over to the sanctuary and she was under medication prior to re-homing when the possibility of her looking like a banned pit bull type was mentioned.
Lola loved people and company, she would sit in her kennel and cry a lot said a member of staff who knew here and washed her wounds out.
On Thursday 21st February 2008, Lola was led from her kennel to a room and lost her life, as a 'pit bull type'.
The Unknown Dogs
In 2008 twenty stray dogs were destroyed as 'type' by the London Borough of Brent. Information obtained by DDAWatch under the Freedom of Information Act.
Jeanette Hardwick and her son, Stephen, rescued Oscar at a young age. Described by his owners as, “the least dangerous dog you could ever have met”. Jeanette explained, “Apart from his fantastic temperament he also had a bone deformity, which left him with a limp and undergoing regular treatment. My son has cystic fibrosis and when he first saw Oscar as a young pup he knew he had to save him.”
Oscar had no incidents of aggression and was of friendly, stable temperament. Despite having written statements from her vet stating that he was not a pit bull Oscar was seized and taken by Merseyside police in October 2007. Ms Hardwick received from Merseyside police a succession of assurances regarding Oscar’s imminent release and care whilst in police care (Oscar required ongoing veterinary treatment which Ms Hardwick was promised would be undertaken by police vets) none of these assurances were fulfilled. Campaigners from Deed Not Breed and The Bullbreed Advisory Service, who subsequently became involved in Oscar's case, were advised on several occasions by Merseyside police that Oscar had received his treatment, was well cared for and would soon have his case heard in court.
Almost two months after being seized Jeanette Hardwick was informed that Oscar had been destroyed by mistake after Merseyside Police logged him erroneously as a stray, ownerless dog. Although Merseyside Police have acknowledged the error and offered apologies it has never been established when Oscar died or whether he had received the treatment that he needed. His body or ashes have never been returned to his owners. Ms. Hardwick described her son as “destroyed”.
The Unknown Dogs
In March 2007 four Staffordshire Bull Terrier puppies of under eight weeks of age died from parvo virus shortly after being returned to their owner by Merseyside police. The pups had been seized, along with their parents, as suspected pit bull types but returned when canine ID experts confirmed that they were not of 'type' . The pups had been too young prior to seizure to vaccinate against the deadly virus. During the same period a further four dogs died of the virus while in the care of Merseyside police and before their cases came to court.
In December 2006 Annie went to live with a young family in the south of England. She was a delight to her family, happy to be fussed by everyone and adored all she met. Her family felt honored to own such a dog with such an amazing temperament. For the next 18 months Annie lived happily with her family, without a care in the world but all that ended in April 2008. It was during a scheduled veterinary visit, to ensure the welfare of her dogs, that annie's and her owners world turned upsidedown.
On 15th April 2008 the vet stated to Annie's owner that Annie was a pit bull and that she had to contact the police. Scared and confused, she made contact with the local police who came and took photographs of Annie and signed an agreement stating she would not rehome any of the dogs . Later that same evening Annie's owner had a phone call from a police "breed id expert" Annies owner states he told her that he didn't hold out much hope for Annie.
On 20th April 2008 the breed ID expert visited Annie at her home. Annies owner said she was told that annie was a "time bomb waiting to go off" and that if she did not comply with him he would seize Annie, prosecute her owner and Annie would be killed. Faced with the option of Annie dying with strangers Annies owner asked if she could take her to the vets herself and permission was given.
Annie died at 1pm on 20th April 2008 having never shown any sign of aggression.
Tia and Puppies
Tia and her two puppies aged approximately 2 weeks, came into a sanctuary having been rescued. Tia was medically treated and later assessed, as a lovely friendly dog she was put up for adoption, her two puppies went into a foster home and received lots of TLC.
A short while later, a vet, who had apparently been on a course to identify pit bull types, expressed an opinion that Tia may have pit bull terrier in her.
In March 2008 Tia was led into a room and lost her life. Tia's two puppies were taken out of their foster home and also put to death.
The staff cried on as all lost their lives under the law. One member of staff had to take time off to try and come to terms with the loss of both puppies and their mum. .
The Unknown Dogs
Nineteen seized puppies under the age of eight weeks died whilst in the care of the Metropolitan police in 2007. Their breed was never determined. The causes of their deaths have never been explained.
Red was found stray and ownerless in January 2008 by South Gloucestershire Council. The council-employed dog warden, Celine Jacobs, said of him “This dog was only about one year old, he was highly social with other dogs, even when a Jack Russell tried to attack him, he showed no aggression. I could touch him all over and kiss his face and cuddle him with no hint of aggression, he was well mannered and well behaved, probably the nicest dog in the kennels at the time.”
Being ownerless when a breed identification expert considered Red to match the criteria of a pit bull type dog his destruction became a legal necessity despite his evident good nature.
“When we went in to the vets his tail was still wagging and he sat there licking my face and licking the tears of my face, he didn’t know I was going to have him killed. I held him all the time and he slipped away in my arms quietly, I held him even when he was dead and sobbed my heart out.” Said Ms. Jacobs, who afterwards described feeling “empty”, “broken” and “beaten” by the duty imposed on her.
Later she said, “Red was a lovely young dog and as far as I could see there was no aggression in him towards people or other dogs. I became a dog warden to save dogs lives not to kill dogs for no other reason than the shape of their bodies.”
The Unknown Dogs
Requests for information made by DDAWatch under the Freedom of Information Act revealed that between April 2007 and May 2008 sixty dogs in the Metropolitan police care died from unexplained causes.
Missey had no incidents of aggression and no complaints were ever lodged against her. She was seized in 2007 after her owners, Donna and Mark Tipple, approached Merseyside Police for advice.
Missey spent three months in kennels at a secret location during which no contact with her owners was permitted. Subsequent to assessments which found the dog to be of a friendly, stable temperament, the courts ruled that Missey posed no danger to the public and she was entered into the Index of Exempted Dogs and returned to Donna and Mark.
As soon as the family were reunited it became apparent that Missey was suffering deep trauma and psychological damage from her time in police care. She had developed extreme anxieties which worsened despite intervention from veterinary and behavioural experts. Her anxiety “ruled her life”, according to the Tipples, and worsened until they felt compelled to end her suffering. Missey was euthanized on Sunday 17th February 2008.
“Letting her go was the hardest thing we have ever done but we couldn’t watch her suffer any more,” said Donna while Mark added “We have all been punished because of how she looks and Missey paid the biggest price of all.”
The Unknown Dogs
In 2008 twenty-one stray dogs were destroyed as 'type' by the London Borough of Croydon. Information obtained by DDAWatch under the Freedom of Information Act.
Three year old crossbred dog ‘Tyler’ was forcibly removed from his home at 7.30am on December 20th 1991 amidst scenes of great distress.
When owner Debbie answered her door, dressed in her nightgown, there were at least 5 arresting officers, two wearing protective clothing and carrying catchpoles. Tyler was dragged from the bed where he had been sleeping upstairs with a 6 year old child, his neck bleeding as the catch poles tightened in the struggle. When his owner began to obstruct the arrest of her dog she was restrained, forcibly led away down the street in her nightgown and arrested, her dog was driven away in the back of a van.
A canine helpline volunteer described the later "upsetting" home visit, “I remember staring at the large bloody clumps of her hair on the mantelpiece, pulled out in the struggle on the morning her dog was seized.”
Like all dogs seized under section one of the Act, Tyler was held in kennels at a secret location. Owner contact was denied. His treatment during his confinement was later decribed in court as "terrible". Tyler had never harmed anyone or anything, he had done no wrong.
Behavioural assesment videos were shown to the court in which Tyler remained calm and docile in the face of other dogs, aggressive dogs, sheep, imitation cats and confrontational strangers. At no time did Tyler react or show signs of being "dangerous". Detailed and exhaustive evidence of Tyler's stable good nature was given by behavioural expert Dr. Roger Mugford and Staffordshire Bull Terrier experts Mike Homan and Vic Pounds. During the lengthy hearing it was revealed that Tyler had sustained several injuries whilst in police care.
untreated lacerations from the catchpole used to remove him from his family home
two holes inside his mouth
a deep puncture wound to his shoulder
flesh missing from a hind leg with other small flesh wounds
Tyler was described as visibly malnourished and bloated, tender around his abdomen.
Mr. Pounds, in his evidence to court, stated that Tyler had wounds on his right shoulder which had been treated and on his left pasterns there was a round and fairly deep wound about one inch in diameter which he thought had been inflicted fairly recently, the wounds looked sore and was still open. He said:
“I have never seen a dog in worse condition”.
In his opinion Tyler had been "brutalised" and was in no fit condition to be thoroughly examined.
Despite all the evidence, the Judges found his owner guilty of owning an unregistered ‘pit bull type’ and ordered Tyler to be put to death in seven days.
Owner Debbie, overcome by the outcome, began to cry and beg the court to spare her dog, as the Judge left the room.
Supporters present at the hearing described the atmosphere; “many people in the room were devastated when the judge said Tyler had to die – men and women alike had tears in their eyes, even some of the observers not connected with the case.
To hear a woman begging and pleading for her dogs life, completely broken with grief, calling out to anyone who could hear, is the most distressing thing I have witnessed in this situation” said one observer.
Debbie went home that day to her young son who was waiting with Tyler’s Christmas present, still wrapped up, certain of his friends return.
Tyler was destroyed on 9th March 1993 after 14 months of solitary confinement. Shortly after Tyler body was returned in a "cold and dripping" black plastic rubbish bag.
Acknowledgement for Tyler's story to Endangered Dogs Defence & Rescue
Zeus, an adult dog of unknown breed was seized by Manchester police in 2007. He died in police care before his breed was determined. The cause of his death has never been explained.
In May 2005 Stella was surrendered to a national animal re-homing charity by her owner. Stella was assessed by the charity, who found her to be of friendly and stable temperament, and was spayed, vaccinated and microchipped. Whilst the charity sought the right home for Stella she remained in their care and showed no aggresion and gave no cause for concern.
It was during this time that a police dog handler expressed his opinion that Stella was a pit bull 'type' and must be destroyed. Staff at the shelter tried to raise funds to send Stella to a sanctuary overseas but were informed (erroneously) they were not permited to export or rehome the dog.
Mary, a staff member who used to care for Stella, writes:
“Stella was a happy, very friendly, 3 year old brindle. She could be a little nervous at times, but loved a fuss and a cuddle and lying on your lap and having her tummy rubbed, and she liked playing ball.
She loved going for her walks, and was a great favourite with myself and with several of the staff, including two of our regular dog volunteer walkers.
We all shed a tear for her, and she is still in my thoughts."
Stella was led from her kennel on Tuesday 13th December 2005 and destroyed.
Acknowledgement for Stella's story to Endangered Dogs Defence & Rescue
The Unknown Dogs
In 2008 nine stray dogs were destroyed as 'type' by the London Borough of Hillingdon. Information obtained by DDAWatch under the Freedom of Information Act.
Cassie was bought as a puppy in May 2005. No complaints were ever made about her and she had no incidents of aggression. Her owners, providing responsible stewardship, had Cassie microchipped which allowed her to be traced and returned to them when she was stolen from a vehicle and, three months later, found stray.
On 6th February 2007 Cassie's owners approached police for advice following requests in the media from Merseyside police. Cassie owner said "They mentioned many different breeds as common names for “pit bull types” which seemed to cover every bull breed and many crosses. The report said you had to call the police for information. I couldn’t believe what I had heard. I was sure they had it wrong. My dog was most defiantly not a “dangerous dog” She was Cassie, a soppy friendly dog who loved nothing more than a cuddle! I was sure this was wrong but called the police. That’s what you do isn’t it? You are responsible law abiding people and you call when the police tell you to. I just wanted information."
They told me they would look at her to see if they thought she looked like a pit bull type according to a set of vague guidelines. If they thought she did then they would take her away. They told me if I refused to sign her over to be killed they would seize her and put her in kennels while they took me to court. It didn’t matter whether Cassie was a fantastic family dog who had never hurt anyone. If she looked * wrong * and I didn’t sign her over for them to kill her, then they would take her from me.
That evening, while the family were away from home, they were contacted on by police dog section officer who told them he was outside of their house and would return with the intention to seize their dog. "They hadn’t even seen my dog! How could they deem her to be anything without seeing her?" her owners asked, "She wasn’t dangerous! I couldn’t understand what was happening, it was like a bad dream this couldn’t really be happening. I told him again, that he would not take my dog at anytime and he said he would be back the next day and Cassie 'would be gone'.
Overnight my wife and I discussed the situation. We both felt that we could not bear her being taken by the police. We had lost her once and we couldn’t do it again. The thought of her alone in kennels, us not knowing what was happening to her, her thinking we had abandoned her, just broke our hearts. The threat of a possible jail sentence taking me from my family, stopping me being able to provide for them, be there for them. Fines, criminal records. We are normal people with a pet dog but the way we understood it we didn’t have any choice.
We decided to put Cassie to sleep on our terms with the people who loved her. On Friday 9th February 2007 i took my much-loved Cassie to the vets and we let her go to sleep without knowing any more fear. Cassie died in my arms…. the same arms that cuddled her on my chest when she was a baby, the same arms that held her when we were reunited, the same arms that hugged her when she crept up to give out her kisses. . The tears rolled down every ones faces from the vet, nurse, my wife and myself.
Cassie was gone."
Acknowledgement for Cassie's story to Deed Not Breed
The Unknown Dogs
In 2008 two stray dogs were destroyed as 'type' by the London Borough of Merton. Information obtained by DDAWatch under the Freedom of Information Act.
Ice was found stray in Bridgend, Mid Glamorgan on 1st March 2009. A kennel worker said of him "I've never met such a good and loving dog."
Despite his unfamiliar and stressful enviroment Ice showed no aggression to either humans or other dogs. Ice offered nothing but kisses and a wagging tail. In return, by legal necessity, he was injected with a lethal overdose of anesthetic.
Ice was destroyed on 8th March 2009
The Unknown Dogs
In 2007 a puppy was so psychologically traumatised by the experience of being seized and held by Merseyside police that the owners were obliged to destroy him after his return. An adult dog, with no previous history of aggression, was so traumatised that he could not be safely returned.
Maisie was young dog of stable and friendly temperament. No compliants were made against her nor had she ever shown aggression.
In March 2008 Maisie had a litter of puppies and, during a veterinary check-up when the pups were six weeks, Maisie's owner was told of the vet's opinion that Maisie was of 'type'. When the police were contacted by the concerned owner they photographed the dogs and a 'dog identification' officer told her that the puppies would certainly be killed and probably Maisie as well. Later the same expert described Maisie, who had never shown any aggression, as a "time-bomb" and left Maisie's owner in the position of facing prosecution while her dogs were seized and killed by strangers or the option of taking the dogs to the vet for euthanisia herself.
Maisie died in April 2008, three days after her pups.
The Unknown Dogs
In the five months between 28-02-09 and 31-07-09 a total of ten puppies and one adult dog died while incarcerated by the Metropolitain Police. One puppy died as a result of being crushed to death by its mother at night. A further 8 puppies from two separate litters, died as a result of Parvo virus, while one adult dog and yet another puppy die due to “unknown cause”.
DDAWatch is a Not for profit company, registration number 7393352. While care has been taken to ensure information is correct it must be noted that this site should be considered a guide only. If you find yourself affected by legislation you must seek legal representation. Information given is for England and Wales only. Legislation in Scotland and N. Ireland may differ.