A man has been ordered to have his dog destroyed after he gave it to a friend in an attempt to save its life.
Neil Swepson (48), of Beaumont Walk, Leicester, appeared at Leicester Magistrates’ Court charged with “making a gift of a fighting dog” and was given an 18-week jail term, suspended for two years.
He was also ordered to pay an £80 victim surcharge and banned from keeping dogs for 10 years. He must also pay £125 to have the pitbull terrier, named Spot, destroyed.
Liz Dodds, prosecuting, admitted it was an exceptional case, but said the law was clear about the ownership of animals prohibited under the Dangerous Dogs Act.
She said: “It’s a rather unusual offence, but it is an offence to give away a dangerous dog.”
Swepson had tattooed the animal and had had it castrated, micro-chipped and insured, as required by the Act.
However, when the opportunity arose for his three-year-old son to come back to live with him, Swepson was told by social services the animal must go and he gave it to a friend.
The only alternative was to have it destroyed.
But when the new owners decided they did not want the dog any more, they contacted the police and the officers traced Spot back to Swepson.
In mitigation, Swepson said: “I accept I gave the dog away, but it’s because social services said if I wanted to get my little boy back I’d have to get rid of the dog.
“I’d have Spot back tomorrow, but my son comes first.
“I’m very sorry I gave him away and that it has come to this.”
Passing sentence, magistrate Judith Wray said Swepson knew what he was doing when he handed over the pet to its new owner last October.
She said: “We are not accepting your mitigation and have come to the conclusion that this falls into the most serious category because you gave the dog away knowing it to be prohibited.”
Spot has been in police kennels since it was discovered on April 1 he was living with another family. He will be put down after July 23, to give Swepson time to appeal. The police have already run up a bill of about £1,000 by keeping the dog at the undisclosed site.
Pc Hazel Fossey, who dealt with the case, was also at the hearing.
She said: “It’s a unique case. We had to look at the Act to see exactly what it said about gifting a dangerous dog. But when you take responsibility for owning a dangerous dog, there are certain strict guidelines to follow and you have to understand you can’t bend these rules.
“These dogs kill and those laws are there for a reason.”
Under the 1991 Act, it is illegal to own any specially- controlled dogs without an exemption certificate.
It relates to four breeds – pitbulls, Japanese tosas, dogo argentinos and fila brasileiros.
The dogs must be muzzled and kept on a lead in public. They must also be registered, insured, neutered, tattooed and microchipped.
The Act also bans the breeding, sale and exchange of these dogs.