Cash-strapped cops has been blasted for spending £20,000 trying to have a dog put down – despite a vet insisting it is NOT a banned breed.
Animal sanctuary boss Nicola Brooks-Belcher, 30, took in Staffy Rex in January, before finding him a new home on the Isle of Man.
But when he was assessed by a vet prior to being re-housed on the Isle of Man, the police were called to report Rex as being a pit-bull type, which is illegal.
The dog, which Nicola believes to be a Staffordshire bull terrier, was seized and she was charged with owning an animal under the Dangerous Dog Act.
The case was dropped by the Crown Prosecution Service before it went to trial at Colchester Magistrates Court due to insufficient evidence.
Magistrates heard that another vet argued Rex – who has never displayed aggressive behaviour – is not a banned breed.
But Essex Police now plan to take civil proceedings against Nicola to determine whether Rex, who is now 17-months-old, is a pit bull type.
James Parry, a solicitor who specialise in dogs cases, said: “At a time when police budgets are under severe strain it is surprising that the police can afford to pursue a case against a dog which has never caused harm to anyone and which has been certified by a vet not to be a pit bull type.
“Council payers in Essex have already had to pay the costs of transporting this dog from Lancashire to Essex as well as kennelling it since January 2017 at what we suspect is a cost of at least £10 per day, approximately £2,730 to date.
“If we have to take this matter to the High Court the Chief Constable will be at risk of further nine months of kennelling costs and a bill in the order of £20,000 for legal costs, or in other words money that could have been better used in employing one police constable.
“We hear the police complaining that their budgets are under pressure which is something I have the greatest sympathy for but you have to wonder whether the council payers of Essex are getting value for money from the police trying to murder a puppy.”
Nicola, who manages animal rescue charity Last Hope Rescue in Clacton-on-Sea, Essex, had no concerns over Rex’s breed when she took him in earlier this year.
He has also never shown any signs of aggression, but has now been in kennels funded by police since February.
Nicola said: “I am stunned…the fact the CPS have discontinued and now we’ve still got to fight again for a puppy that’s done no wrong.
“The CPS said they they discontinued the case so we thought that was the end of then I got a phone call when the court case was actually due to say that police still believe he was a banned breed and they were going to take us civil.
“We’ve obviously been informed that it’s an unlawful act that the police are doing, Rex is still being held by Essex Police, we don’t know where, we’ve not seen him since February.
“He’s absolutely lovely, he was eight months old when he was seized, he had never done anything wrong.”
Nicola’s lawyers say it is illegal for police to bring about legal action against a dog owner whilst it remains in their custody after any criminal proceedings have been discontinued, under both the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 and the High Court.
Ryan O’Meara, who publishes canine magazine, K9, said: “It brings to the public’s attention the absolutely ludicrousness of the specific legislation.
“The public is not being protected when people are being paid to go to court to argue what a dog looks like.”
A spokesman for Essex Police said: “CPS discontinued the case against the dog, meaning a decision wasn’t made as to whether the dog was a banned breed.
“Despite the action by CPS, Essex police officers still suspect the dog to be a banned breed and it will remain in our custody under the Dangerous Dog Act, until a civil court hearing determines whether or not this is the case.”
Last year, residents in an Essex village hired a private security firm to deter criminals after being abandoned by police who scrapped local beat officers.
The force also encouraged homeowners to plant prickly hedges outside their properties to prevent burglaries in bizarre bid to cut the cost of officers being called out.
Nicola’s husband described Essex Police’s actions as “absolutely disgusting” as he revealed they have spent £5,000 fighting the case.
Trained dog handler and father-of-seven Simon Belcher, 46, said: “It’s an outrage, absolutely disgusting.
“If the dog had bitten somebody really bad then yes, hands up, but it’s already been dropped by the court, it’s an absolute disgrace.
“We are not doing this to make the police look stupid. We are doing to make the law look stupid.
“The Dangerous Dog Act is pathetic, it doesn’t work.
“There should be a stipulation if you get a puppy you should take it to puppy classes so it doesn’t just educate the dog but the people too.”
Simon also revealed that they have been taken to court by Essex on three previous occasions for the same offence at a further cost of £14,000 – but won each time.
He said: “I think it’s turned into a witch-hunt to be honest.
“They’ve taken three of our dogs to courts before…we’ve won everytime and not one of them was aggressive.
“I take it quite personally, I think it’s personal against Nicola because she’s gone to every court case and won.
“We feel like we are being persecuted.”