Court will rule on illegal dog’s fate

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A LEGAL battle is to take place over whether a dangerous dog should be destroyed.

Experts have ruled that Sunderland man Aaron Sproat’s pet is a Pit Bull Terrier – a dog which is banned in the UK.

Sproat, from Southwick, was due to stand trial at Sunderland Magistrates’ Court, but pleaded guilty on the day of the hearing to committing an offence under the Dangerous Dogs Act.

Possession of a dangerous dog – which includes the Japanese Tosa, Dogo Argentino and Fila Braziliero breeds – is an offence even if the dog has not been acting dangerously and no complaint had been made.

The court heard 27-year-old Sproat was found with the dog at Ross Street, Sunderland, in February.

A hearing will now take place at the city court to decide whether it should be destroyed. Prosecutor Paul Anderson said: “The offence is simply having the dog and that is what he did.

“There was initially some argument whether it fell within the legislative definition. It seems it does, although there were other types of breeds.

“There is no defence to it. It is like having no insurance. You have either got it or you have not.”

Sproat’s solicitor, Tony Southwick, said an animal behavioural expert would be called in to give evidence, but denied it needed to be destroyed. “We have a photograph of the dog taking a pony for a walk and cuddling a chihuahua.”

Sproat, who has a criminal record, claims that the pet has helped to turn his life around.

“He would say the dog saved him from going down a continuing path,” Mr Southwick said.

“It gave him responsibilities and took him from his offending. There is no suggestion the dog has been involved in an attack or threatened anyone.”

Chairman of the bench Jan Leach adjourned the case for a month to allow a behavioural expert to look at the dog.

A hearing will take place at the city magistrates’ court on the afternoon of October 1.

The dog is being cared for at a local kennels.

The maximum penalty for having a banned dog is a £5,000 fine and/or six months in prison.