Devon

Inquiry into treatment of dogs seized by police pledged by MP

Stella the dog Image copyright Laura Khanlarian
Image caption Stella was seized in 2014 and has been kept in a 3ft by 9ft cage in Devon ever since

A parliamentary inquiry is to be held into how police forces deal with seized dogs, an MP has said.

Conservative MP Neil Parish called for a "uniform" country-wide policy and pledged an inquiry into animal welfare.

It comes after Devon and Cornwall Police seized pit bull Stella and kept her caged for two years without exercise.

Petitions to save Stella - the subject of a destruction order - attracted more than 10,000 signatures in 24 hours.

Police forces have different policies in how to deal with seized dogs.

The National Police Chiefs' Council said there is "no definitive national standard and there will be variations from force to force" in how to deal with seized dogs.

Image caption Neil Parish, Conservative MP for Tiverton and Honiton, said a more uniform policy was required across the country

A destruction order for Stella was passed by Torquay Magistrates' Court on 8 February. Her owner was given 21 days to appeal.

Laura Khanlarian worked as an assistant at the private kennel used by Devon and Cornwall Police and said Stella left her kennel twice during her stay, only for behaviour assessments.

Ms Khanlarian said: "We were always told not to exercise or go into a kennel with any dogs, regardless of character, that had been brought in under the Dangerous Dogs Act.

"We were under no circumstances allowed to touch any of those dogs - which was hard."

'Too dangerous'

Devon and Cornwall Police said: "In the past two years, in the region of a hundred dogs have been seized by Devon and Cornwall Police.

"During this time Stella, an illegal breed that had to be seized, has been the only dog deemed too dangerous to walk due to her aggressive behaviour.

"Once the dog was seized, an initial review was made in which the decision was reached that Stella was too dangerous to be exercised by kennel staff.

"This assessment remained under constant review and a number of further examinations were made by independent external experts including the RSPCA, who were all in agreeance that the animal was too dangerous for staff to exercise."

'Inquiry into welfare'

MP Neil Parish said: "I think we've got to work out if a dog is so dangerous it can't be taken out for a walk, in some ways it's kinder that that dog is put down. If the dog can be rehabilitated, exercised and taken out, then that can be the way forward.

"We need to have a uniform policy across the country. We are going to have an inquiry into animal welfare by the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee, which I chair. We will take evidence and make sure that it's in the report and we will expect the Government and police forces to act on it."

Image copyright Thinkstock

The Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) said it "would not consider it acceptable for a seized dog to receive no exercise".

"In line with the RSPCA Good Practice Guide the MPS requires all kennels to provide a minimum of 30 minutes daily exercise for all seized dogs along with an appropriate level of socialisation.

"We are aware of a small number of dogs that are considered to be particularly difficult and some of these will only be exercised by the most experienced staff and in some cases by two members of staff."

Derbyshire Police said: "In respect of the exercise of dogs which kennel staff consider too dangerous to exercise, this is down to the kennel staff in liaison with their management at the kennels we currently use."

Leicestershire Police said there have been no seized dogs in the last 12 months that could not be socialised with.

Image copyright Laura Khanlarian
Image caption Stella was kept in a 3m (9ft) by 1m (3ft) cage for nearly two years

The RSPCA says euthanasia should only be considered if the dog is considered too dangerous to exercise.

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