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Bruno the German shepherd spared death sentence as judge overturns destruction order issued after he bit two people in Haverhill

PUBLISHED: 09:00 25 January 2016

German shepherd - stock photo

German shepherd - stock photo

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A Suffolk dog owner has won a three year legal battle to overturn a death sentence on his pet

In 2012 magistrates ordered that Bruno, a three-year-old German shepherd, should be destroyed after hearing it had bitten a pedestrian and a cyclist in two separate incidents six weeks apart.

Later that year Bruno’s owner Kenton Hooker, 51, of Selwyn Close, Mildenhall, appealed to a judge and two magistrates at Ipswich Crown Court against the order but the appeal was dismissed.

In 2013 Hooker applied for a revision of the sentence to the Criminal Cases Review Commision which referred the case back to the crown court on the basis of new animal behaviourist reports that were relevant to the issue of dangerousness.

On Friday after hearing evidence from a dog behaviourist and Hooker, Judge Martyn Levett and two magistrates allowed the appeal and replaced the destruction order with a contingent destruction order.

Judge Levett ordered that Bruno should be kept on a non-extendable lead and muzzled when he was in a public place and said that if he was not kept under proper control he would be destroyed.

Judge Levett said a dog behaviourist felt that Bruno had now reached a level of control that there wouldn’t be a repetition of him biting anyone.

Giving evidence during the appeal Hooker described Bruno, who was a rescue dog, as “more of a companion than a pet” and said his pet had stopped him from taking an overdose.

He said he was prepared to comply with any conditions imposed by the court if Bruno’s life was spared.

Hooker was convicted by Mildenhall magistrates in May 2012 of being the owner of a dog which was dangerously out of control on The Heath, Gonville Close, Mildenhall, in November 2011 and was given a 12-month conditional discharge and ordered to pay £250 compensation to Christine Barton, who was riding a bicycle when she was bitten on her leg. The magistrates also ordered that Bruno should be destroyed.

After Hooker’s appeal against the destruction order was dismissed in November 2012 the amount of compensation to be paid to Mrs Barton was increased to £500.

An earlier hearing was told that six weeks before Mrs Barton was bitten by Bruno, Michael Clark was walking along a footpath when Bruno had lunged at him and bit him on the thigh while the dog was being walked by Hooker’s wife.

Later the same evening Hooker called round and offered to pay £40 for his jeans to be replaced and to pay for medication Mr Clark needed following the attack.

He also mentioned muzzling the dog, keeping it on a lead and training.

On November 4 a woman knocked at Mr Clark’s door to say she had been bitten by the same dog as Mr Clark two days earlier as she was cycling home.

She described the dog as lunging towards her on its back legs and ripping a 17in hole in her trousers and causing a two-inch cut on her leg.

The court heard that Bruno was a rescue dog and had only been with Hooker a short time before the incidents the court had heard about.

Hooker was described as a responsible dog owner and the court heard there had been no further incidents.

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