Published: 06:00, 29 January 2020
| Updated: 09:38, 29 January 2020
A Gillingham dog owner wept as a judge removed an immediate "destruction" order on a pitbull-type breed.
Roxie had been on "death row" for three years after magistrates ruled she had to be put down.
Now the dog has been given a stay of execution after Judge David Griffith-Jones QC and two magistrates ruled pet owner Dean Foord is a "fit person" to own the animal - and it poses no threat to the public if controlled properly.
Since the hearing, Foord, 28, has received exemption certificate from the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.
He told the judge how he had been in a car accident in April 2015 and was left in a coma and Roxie had helped with his recovery.
The animal has spent the past couple of years in kennels - at a cost of £17,000 to taxpayers - while the courts decided its future.
Maidstone Crown Court heard police had gone to Foord's home on another matter when the pitbull-type animal was spotted by officers.
Foord, of Valley Road, was charged under the Dangerous Dogs Act and magistrates ordered the animal be destroyed as they considered it posed a threat to public safety.
In a bid to save Roxie, Mr Foord also set up an online petition to get his dog home. It has been signed by 561,407 people.
But Foord appealed and now the judge overturned the decision after ruling Foord, despite his previous convictions for assault, was a "fit and proper" person to own the animal and that Roxie did not pose a danger to public safety if properly controlled.
The judge revealed he was using powers as part of a scheme introduced in 2015 in which a dog could be released to its owner if a certificate of exemption was granted under stringent conditions, including muzzling.
He added: "We take the view that Mr Foord is a fit and proper person to be in charge of Roxie and in his charge, on the balance of probability, would not constitute a danger to public safety."
As Foord broke down and cried, the judge and magistrates granted his appeal, telling him: "It would have given us no pleasure if we had been forced to come to a different conclusion. We wish you and Roxie well."
A spokesman for Kent Police said it has a legal obligation, under the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991, to notify the courts when officers become aware of a banned type of dog in the community.
The spokesman added: "In this case, officers seized a dog because it was believed to be a banned pitbull type and therefore a potential danger to the public.
"The dog was examined by an accredited dog legislation officer and, following expert evidence presented at both magistrates’ and crown courts, it was determined to be a pitbull type."
Insp Ian Warner added: "The legislation requires that a court orders the destruction of a pitbull type, unless they are satisfied the dog would not constitute a danger to public safety. It is not the responsibility of Kent Police to decide whether or not a dog should be destroyed, instead it is for officers to present the facts to the courts to enable them to make as informed a decision as possible.
"The courts have options available to them, besides destruction, if the animal is not deemed a danger to the public and if the owner is considered a fit and proper person to own the dog. Kent Police put forward evidence that they were satisfied that the dog, in the right hands, was of sound temperament. However, evidence was also provided to the court to consider whether the owner was deemed to be a fit and proper person to own the dog.
"On this occasion, following an appeal, the court decided the fit and proper person test had been met and ordered a contingent destruction order. This means that as long as the owner complies with the conditions of the order the dog will be entered onto an exempted dogs’ register."
More by this authorPaul Hooper