Page last updated at 09:04 GMT, Wednesday, 19 August 2009 10:04 UK

Death row dog for Court of Appeal

Shannon Brown and Bruce
Shannon Brown said Bruce does not pose a threat to people

The case of a Northern Ireland dog on death row for being a banned breed is to go to the Court of Appeal.

Bruce, a Staffordshire-bull terrier cross, was seized by North Down Borough Council dog control officers in 2007.

It was ruled to be a banned pit-bull type and a magistrate has ordered its destruction, but owner Shannon Brown is appealing the ruling.

"He has never harmed anyone or ever would, if he did I would have put my hand up to it," she said.

An online petition calling for the dog, found as a puppy in Bangor, County Down, by Ms Brown, had received nearly 16,000 signatures.

She is getting legal aid to fight the case, which has cost the local council about £17,000.

The council said it was acting to meet its "statutory responsibilities" under the Dangerous Dogs (NI) Order 1991.

"This makes it illegal for anyone to have a pit-bull type dog in their possession or custody," the council said.

"Bruce has been confirmed by the courts as being a pit-bull type breed and Ms Brown has not appealed the court's ruling in this respect."

Ms Brown said that she had been offered the dog back, but only if he was neutered, walked on a leash and insured.

However, she said that she had not been able to get insurance to cover the animal because it was now classed as a banned breed.

The law in Northern Ireland is different from the law in the rest of the UK, with destruction the only statutory option for a banned breed.

Jaws

In the rest of the UK owners can retain the animals if they are deemed not to pose a threat and they agree to have them neutered and comply with a number of restrictions, including getting third party insurance.

Jeanette Thompson from Parents Against Needless Dog Attacks, whose son was injured when a pet Labrador bit him, said that dogs could turn and bull-terriers had powerful jaws.

"The problem with these dogs is when they bite they tear and rip and go in deep - you would want to avoid that at all cost," she said.

Stephen Philpott from the USPCA said that the law needed to be changed because of problems with identifying banned breeds when crossed with other breeds and a lack of discretion in the law in Northern Ireland.

"Bruce is the ultimate loser in this whole protracted legal process," he said.

"I and my veterinary surgeon have very strong opinions on the incarceration of dogs.

"Locking dogs up in kennels for two years is certainly not doing that dog a favour - hopefully it will turn out all right in the end, but that animal is not institutionalised."

The Department of Agriculture and Rural Development said councils were responsible for enforcing the legislation, but that the minister intends to consult on new policy proposals for dog control legislation in the Autumn.

"It's a law designed to kill dogs and we think it should be sorted out," Mr Philpott said.



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