Success for Keira Shaw in XL Bully Dog Destruction Case

Second-Six Pupil Barrister Keira Shaw (instructed on a pro bono basis by Paolo Passerini of Forbes Solicitors) recently achieved success on behalf of a client whose XL Bully dog had been seized by Lancashire Constabulary. The dog was at risk of being destroyed under recent legislation banning the unlawful sale and ownership of XL BulliesIn this article, Keira explores these recent developments in the law on this area and details how she achieved success on behalf of her client and his dog.

Keira Shaw

Background

Following recent negative publicity and legislation surrounding XL Bullies, since 1st January 2024 it has become a criminal offence under Section 1(2) of the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 to sell, abandon, give away or breed XL Bullies, or to have one in public without a lead and muzzle. Further, since 1st February 2024, it has been a criminal offence under Section 1(3) of the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 to be in possession of an XL Bully without a valid Certificate of Exemption. Government applications for a Certificate of Exemption have closed, and according to the UK Government new exemptions “can only be authorised by a court order”.

In March of this year, Keira’s client (‘Y’) had their XL Bully seized by the Police due to Y’s failure to place the dog on the Exemption Register by 1st February 2024. Court proceedings were initiated by Lancashire Constabulary, who applied for under s4B of the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 for a Destruction Order.

S.4B of the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 – Destruction Orders

S.4B(1) of the Dangerous Dogs Act gives the Court the power to order the destruction of a prohibited dog where that dog has not been placed on the exemption register, even where no crime has been committed or proved. However, S.4B(2) gives the Court the power to decide not to make a destruction order of any prohibited dog where it is satisfied that the dog would not constitute a danger to public safety. 

Under s4B(2A), when deciding whether a dog would constitute a danger to public safety, the Court:

  1. must consider:
  1. the temperament of the dog and its past behaviour; and
  2. whether the owner of the dog, or the person for the time being in charge of it, is a “fit and proper person” to be in charge of the dog; and
  1. may consider any other relevant circumstances.

In their application to the Court, it was contended by Lancashire Constabulary that Y was not a fit and proper person to be in charge of the XL Bully because of his previous convictions. They also sought to rely on hearsay evidence relating to Y, in particular intelligence held by Lancashire Constabulary, which had not led to any arrests, charges or convictions. There was no suggestion or concern put forward by Lancashire Constabulary regarding the temperament or past behaviour of the XL Bully itself or any other “relevant circumstances”.

It was submitted by Keira that when considering if a Defendant is a “fit and proper person” to look after an XL Bully, their previous convictions are not the only consideration the Court should take into account. It was of some significance that Y’s most recent previous convictions dated back to 2019 and were not related to animals in any way, whether having a dog dangerously out of control or failing to properly care for them. Keira therefore emphasised that Y’s previous convictions were entirely unrelated to his ability to properly care for and look after their dog – which was not in dispute.

Outcome and Conclusion

Following her detailed written submissions and discussions between both parties, Keira was successfully able to prevent the destruction of Y’s XL Bully. It was ordered that the XL Bully be placed on the exemption register with a Contingent Destruction Order put in place – an order that unless certain requirements were observed, the dog would be destroyed. These requirements included ensuring that their XL bully was only walked whilst on a lead and whilst muzzled in public, as well as being properly insured, chipped and neutered – which are all requirements of owning an XL bully under recent legislation anyway. 

In other words, as a result of the Court’s order, the XL bully will not be destroyed provided those requirements are complied with.

This case demonstrates the importance of advice and representation at an early stage, even in civil applications, and the power of fully-researched and properly-prepared written submissions. It also demonstrates that a person’s past should not necessarily prevent them from being allowed to look after Man’s Best Friend.

Keira is a Second-Six Pupil Barrister in our Crime Team with a particular interest in dogs and the legislation surrounding them. To instruct her, please contact our clerking team.

 

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