Sometimes you come across a story that makes your blood run cold, and the one below did just that to me. This is an appalling case, and is a shocking example of the scant regard some people hold dogs in, as well as an owner's love for her dog. It's bad enough to lose a dog however it happens, but it was in a possibly avoidable way, it's ten times as bad. I wish Melanie Hawes and her family lots of strength as they try to come to terms with the loss of Sam in these horrible circumstances.
Metropolitan Police Mistake Kills Family Pet:
A west London family have been left inconsolable and are demanding answers following the tragic news that the Metropolitan police have destroyed their family pet dog Sam, in error.
Sam, a four year old Staffordshire Bull Terrier was seized under the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 legislation on 5th May 2009, six months after an incident in which he nipped a travelling salesman once in the leg when he called at the home of owner Melanie Hawes. Sam had never shown any signs of aggression to anyone either prior to the incident or in the six months following the incident.
In July of this year, Miss Hawes, a woman of previous good character, appeared before Ealing Magistrates Court and pleaded guilty to an offence under s3 (1) of the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991. Advice was sought from Dr Mugford, a leading animal behaviourist who carried out a behavioural assessment on Sam. Dr Mugford found him to be friendly and compliant and concluded he should not be destroyed but should instead be made subject to a Contingent Destruction Order with conditions that he be either on a lead or muzzled when in a public place. He also recommended further training for the dog.
On 31st July 2009 Miss Hawes was sentenced by Ealing Magistrates Court; she was ordered to pay £500 in compensation and a Destruction Order was made against Sam. A notice of Appeal was immediately lodged at court and the appeal hearing was scheduled for the 29th September at Isleworth Crown Court.
Appearing before the Crown Court, a hopeful owner, expert witness Dr Mugford and prosecuting and defence counsel were gathered and ready to commence proceedings when it was suddenly revealed that Sam had been euthanised on the 26th August 2009. Apparently the police were unaware that an appeal had been lodged and Sam was already dead. On being told this information in court His Honour Judge Lowen stated that this was in clear contravention of the Act which states that the order shall not take effect until the Appeal is heard. He went on to say that this action was in conflict with those provisions and it was for another court to deal with the consequences. Owner Melanie Hawes was left in court shocked to the core that the dog that she hoped would be coming home had in fact been dead for the past five weeks.
Overcome with grief and chocking back the tears Sam’s owner Melanie told DDA Watch: “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.”
As is usual in Dangerous Dogs Act cases, the owner wasn’t informed when her dog was to be euthanized nor offered the opportunity to receive the body back for burial or cremation.
Solicitor Tina Hay of Wheldon Law, who is acting for Miss Hawes, is already in talks with the head of the Metropolitan Police Status Dogs Unit (SDU) to try and discover how such an appalling error could have occurred
Last year a much loved and previously healthy family pet seized under the Act by the Met. Police died suddenly in kennels 17 days after seizure. Following communications with the police and post mortem examination, the distressed family were waiting on the return of their cherished pet’s body when on the day of arrival they were informed that their dog had been sent to the crematorium by mistake due to being placed in the wrongly coloured disposal bag, leaving another family overwhelmed with the loss of their dog.
The Metropolitan Police have a specialist dog unit, the SDU that is meant to ensure a professional handling of canine related cases and questions are being asked yet again.