The Act, passed in July 1991, leaves it to courts to define 'the type of dog known as a pit bull'. Unless owners had their dogs registered, neutered and tattooed before the end of 1991, courts have no option but to order their destruction.
The Recorder, Anthony Hooper QC, released the dog after a five-day appeal at Luton Crown Court.
He said it had some pit bull characteristics but not enough to be illegal. 'These cases must be brought on far quicker, but over and over again dates were set for this appeal which were said to be unsuitable,' he said.
The dog, Buster, was seized from his home in Luton in January 1992. His owner, Mukhtal Khan, 22, was convicted by Luton magistrates in April 1992 of keeping a dangerous dog and fined. The court ordered that Buster be destroyed, and Mr Khan appealed. Buster has been kept in secure kennels at a cost of several thousand pounds.
The RSPCA said yesterday it would no longer allow its inspectors to assist courts to decide whether animals should be condemned to death as pit bull terrier types. It repeated its concern about 'fundamental flaws' in the Dangerous Dogs Act.