Judge says law on dogs must change

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The Independent Online
A JUDGE yesterday called for a change in the law on dangerous dogs to make cases where the breed is in question less costly and time-consuming.

Judge Leonard Gerber made his comments at Wood Green Crown Court in north London when upholding a destruction order on a dog called Buster, who has spent more than two-and-a-half years in kennels.

The dog's owner, Karen Brock, 22, lost her appeal to reverse a destruction order on her pet, despite a last-minute plea by the author Jilly Cooper. Two years ago Barnet magistrates in north London convicted Miss Brock, from Edgware, of owning an unregistered pit bull contrary to the 1991 Dangerous Dogs Act. But she insists Buster has more in common with the legal Staffordshire bull terrier.

Before giving the decision Judge Gerber said Miss Cooper had sent him a fax saying such things as 'the RSPCA inspector needs his eyes tested'. He added: 'It's a clear contempt of court, it should never have been sent.'

Miss Brock, who is serving a 42-day prison sentence imposed last week for driving while disqualified, spent the hearing sitting in the dock with two court officers.

The judge, sitting with two magistrates, will give his full judgment on Friday. But he told the court: 'It has not been an easy task. It's an emotive subject and there have been various experts holding entirely diametric views.'

Calling for changes, he said Parliament 'should consider a panel of experts be appointed, given the time this matter has taken. It's such a drawn out process that does nobody any good'.

About 1,000 suspected pit bulls are believed to have been placed in police-appointed kennels since the Act was introduced. The cost of administering the legislation, including court prosecutions and keeping seized animals, is estimated at up to pounds 10m a year.