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Friday, November 20, 1998 Published at 14:39 GMT


Woofie reprieved

Mrs Swankie kisses Woofie as she comes under the spotlight of the world's press

A pet dog called Woofie who was sentenced to death for chasing and barking at a postman has been reprieved.

Rob Flett reports from the High Court in Edinburgh on Woofie's reprieve
Two High Court judges, sitting at Edinburgh's Court of Session, decided to overturn the order to destroy the three-year-old bitch.

Lord Kirkwood said: "In the light of information made available to this court which was not available before we have decided to allow the appeal and quash the order."

[ image: Critics say the dogs real name is Woolfie]
Critics say the dogs real name is Woolfie
Gordon Jackson QC, for the animal's owners, Anne and Terry Swankie, from Peterhead, Grampian, said Woofie had not harmed anyone and was "a good-natured family pet".

He said: "She growled, barked and even bared her teeth but it is not without significance that she did not actually bite."

'This is justice'

Andrew Cassell: "Brigitte Bardot declared herself delighted with Scottish justice"
Outside the court, the actress turned animal rights campaigner Brigitte Bardot, who arrived from France on Thursday to back the Swankies' campaign, said she was delighted with the decision.

"I am very happy. I think that this is the right justice. I was here to give support and would come back again if it was for another Woofie," said the former film star.

Mrs Swankie and her solicitor Trevor Cooper give their reactions to the reprieve
Ms Bardot dashed off after the court case to catch up on her sleep but Mrs Swankie thanked her for travelling over for the hearing and said her support had been wonderful.

Mrs Swankie criticised the punishment meted out in the Dangerous Dogs Act but said she did not bore a grudge towards the postman, Andrew Ainsley, whose evidence helped to condemn Woofie.

Woofie's destruction was ordered by Peterhead Sheriff Court in September under the UK's Dangerous Dogs Act. But her owners appealed against the decision.

[ image: Brigitte Bardot with her fingers crossed before the court case]
Brigitte Bardot with her fingers crossed before the court case
Mr Jackson told the court on Friday that Mr Swankie, who was representing himself, had not fully understood the original court proceedings.

He said Mr Swankie had failed to provide information about the dog's character that he had been asked for.

Mr Jackson said: "It is my submission that the sheriff has misdirected himself in law because no explanation of the circumstances was given to him by Mr Swankie."

[ image: Anne Swankie was prepared to give Woofie up to save her life]
Anne Swankie was prepared to give Woofie up to save her life
The case attracted massive publicity in Scotland and abroad as the campaign to save the dog gathered momentum.

Woofie, a black collie-boxer mongrel, landed herself in the doghouse after escaping through a window at her home and running down the street barking at passers-by, including a postman.

Dog on death row

When she was sentenced to death at the local sheriff court tabloid newspapers rushed to her defence. Letters of protest arrived at the courthouse in Peterhead and demonstrators made their feelings known outside the Edinburgh court.

Ms Bardot had offered to adopt the animal and take her back to France and Woofie's owners had said they would have been happy to hand their pet over if it was the only way to save her.

They claim the dog's bark was worse than its bite and said it had never harmed anyone.

Neither the postman at the centre of the row nor his employers have commented on the case.

Inside a dog's mind

Mark Devenport reports on the new centre
Queen's University in Belfast has set up a canine behaviour research centre, thought to be the first of its kind in the UK.

Staff have been studying dogs for 10 years and now want to consolidate their work, which includes looking at wild dogs such wolves, dingos and jackals, as well as domestic pets.

The centre also offers advice to owners of aggressive pets.

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