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Dangerous Dogs - Suspended Destruction Orders

February 28th, 2012 by Louise Humphreys

Posted In: Environmental Health

Tags: appeal, dogs, dangerous dogs, destruction order, suspended destruction order

The case of R (Housego) v Canterbury Crown Court [2012] EWHC 255 (Admin) provides a timely reminder of the powers of the Court to make a suspended destruction order when dealing with dangerous dog cases under the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991.

In this case, Mr Housego had pleaded guilty to three charges of being the owner of a dangerous dog out of control in a public place and the Court had ordered the destruction of his dog called "Kelly". An appeal against the destruction order was dismissed and a subsequent application by the Mr Housego to the Crown Court to state a case was refused, on the grounds that the application was frivolous.

An application for judicial review seeking to compel the Recorder to state a case was also initially refused, but later granted on the basis that it was arguable that there had been a legal error by the Recorder who had said:

"Whilst it is right to say that the Appellant suggested that Kelly could stay indefinitely at the animal sanctuary, the Court had no power under the Act to direct that the dog remain at a particular venue for the remainder of its life, or until such time as it no longer presented a danger to the public ..."

This was in the court's judgement, an error of law.

The Dangerous Dogs Act 1991, as amended, gives a court power to suspend a destruction order based on specific conditions. Under S4A(5) an order for destruction may be contingent on measures for its control specified by the Court "whether by muzzling, keeping it on a lead, excluding it from specified places, or otherwise". There is an open-ended potential for making such conditions because the Act in effect says that any conditions can be imposed.

The Court therefore ruled that the Recorder had misdirected himself stating:

"Even if Mr Housego had remained an owner, the Court had power to make such a contingent destruction order. In fact the sensible outcome of this case was so to do. What we are asked today is to make such an order, as this court has power to do. The appropriate order sought is that the dog will remain for life in the Lord Whisky Sanctuary; that if the dog is ever taken from the grounds of the sanctuary that should only be when she is accompanied by Mrs Todd or a member of staff of the sanctuary; that Kelly should be kept on a lead at all times and should be muzzled at all times when she is removed outside the premises."

The Court quashed the refusal of the Crown Court to allow the appeal and substituted an order in the terms stated above adding that "After this dog has been kept on death row, so to speak, for more than two and a half years, it is time she was reprieved".