Jill has emailed me the latest on the Two Poodle martyrs.
“Peter has now returned from Crawley Police Station, and has been charged, and I quote 'On 1st June 2007 at Warninglid, in the county of Sussex, where the owner of a dog which worried livestock, namely sheep, on agricultural land situation at The Grange, Warninglid Lane. Contrary to section 1 (1) and (6) of the Dogs (Protection of Livestock) Act 1953'.
“Peter is due in court on 17th September, and the Bulldog has advised to get the hearing postponed
“We are still not allowed the girls home, as they are evidence. What evidence, I say again, and why not? What good is it doing? Having read the latest free handout by the Sussex police, under the heading 'Best Use of Resources', they state that their current estimates are that they could have shortfall of up to £10 million over the next couple of years. I think we can all guess that perhaps they are not utilising their resources properly, but who am I to say? Having caught the end of that really disturbing documentary about fighting dogs the other night, I think that their pennies would be better spent on trying to prosecute those offenders. Mind you, after having watched a bit of it, I would rather subject the dogs’ owners to the punishment that they inflict on their dogs. That would be justice. Sorry, but I really can’t stand the thought of those poor dogs suffering.
“We had, individually, got our hopes that the girls may be coming home, Peter even cleared out the back of the tip that he calls a car!
“The only thing is that you have to think - 'Bring it on!' In a way, at least we have some idea where we are going now. Sorry, but I am trying to sound positive, and upbeat. I just wish that the girls were here; we all miss them so much.”
If you are unfamiliar with the story so far here’s a catch-up that takes you up to just before Peter was charged…. an online petition is hopefully coming soon to hopefully stop this happening to others. Watch this space for news.
The Curious Tale of the Two Poodle Martyrs
Peter and Jill had a seemingly idyllic life. They live in a pretty, rented farmhouse in rural Sussex, which, until 1st June, they shared with Jill's children and their beloved four Standard Poodles, Jenni, Minki, William and Milli.
The Poodles are much-loved pets, not show dogs. Jenni, now seven, is Mum, and the rest are her pups. Minki is four, and William and Milli are just six months old. Jenni is loving and protective of the human and canine family. She brings a ball to visitors, and drops it in their laps, expecting to play and be stroked. Minki has a lot of love to give, but Jill admits she isn't all that bright! They are both 'people' dogs, following Jill everywhere. Minki likes water, and has earned the name Stinky Minki on occasions.
Peter is a riding instructor and saddler; Jill is an air stewardess. They help organise dressage at Hickstead in their spare time, and their children are doing very well. These are not the kind of people used to being the wrong side of the law, and the nearby village is totally unused to such events.
At 3pm on Thursday 31st May, Jill came back from Hickstead. Son Justin was in his room revising. Jill opened the back door to let the dogs out for a toilet break. The two pups weren't keen to go out, as the weather was deteriorating, so Jill had to encourage them. When she looked up, she realised that the fence was down and that Jenni and Minki had escaped. The cows in the next field had broken the fence. It has happened before, but the dogs had always been recovered quickly. The dogs love the local herdsman, who has found them previously.
Jill thought that the dogs couldn't have gone far, so she told Justin to keep studying, and she went off in search of Jenni and Minki. She found the herdsman, and he kept his eyes open for the girls. When Peter came home, he also joined the search. They looked everywhere. One thing they didn't know was that a nearby field had recently been rented out to a farmer who had put some of his sheep in it. They didn't know the farmer. The fields surrounding their home are bordered by trees, hedges, ditches and bushes. On one side there is a very busy road, and Jill was frightened that the dogs may have been run over and that they were lying somewhere injured.
The light was fading, and by now there was a howling gale, and torrential rain.
At 1am, everyone stopped searching and tried to get some rest. Jill couldn't. She kept waking and calling to the dogs from the garden. She was due to fly to LA the next day, and had to be at Heathrow at 7am. Peter and Jill got up at 4am and resumed the search. She was worried sick when she had to head off to work, and Peter continued looking.
When her flight landed, she got a very welcome text from Justin. Peter had found Minki at 8am, and Jenni not long after. It was odd, as they normally stick together on walks. The dogs were tired, damp, cold and muddy - but otherwise fine. Everyone was so relieved. Peter rushed off to work and left the dogs at home, with the central heating on high, so the girls could dry out.
Peter came home at 7pm, and there was a knock on the door. Three policemen were on the doorstep. They said that Jenni and Minki were being seized under the Dangerous Dogs Act (DDA) for attacking sheep. It seemed fate accompli. Peter was in shock, but he offered to drive the dogs to the police station, rather than have them distressed further by being taken off in a police vehicle with strangers.
When he got to the station, he was arrested - he was fingerprinted, and DNA-tested. He was eventually bailed and allowed to leave the police station at 2am. At some point in the evening, they changed the charges from the DDA to the Livestock Act.
Peter didn't tell Jill; he waited for her to come home. He didn't want to worry her when there was nothing she could do. She was completely devastated, as he had expected.
In 24 hours, life had gone from near perfect to a living nightmare.
It was at this point that I heard about their dilemma. They needed legal advice quickly, and after putting Jill in touch with all the experts I knew, I was sure a happy ending would soon result. Dog law expert Trevor Cooper said that the dogs should not be held, and Peter shouldn't have been arrested. Sadly, Trevor had pretty much retired from dog law and he couldn't take the case on.
Jill started searching for someone who understood dog law, and basically they went from pillar to post. Justice for Dogs' advice was to get the best criminal lawyer they could. Eventually, they found Nigel Weller, a specialist in animal law. He totally understood what they were going through.
Despite constant pleas and visits, Jill and Peter couldn't elicit a response from anyone at the police station. Jill escalated things and contacted her MP. He was very sympathetic, but with any step forward there was a step back. The police said that they were doing forensic tests on the dogs, and 10 days after the incident, were waiting to see if they excreted a sheep's ear tag. Over the following weeks and months, it transpired that the dogs were now being held under the Police Evidence Act. They had the same rights as an inanimate object. Just as the police might seize a knife and keep it indefinitely, so the two Poodles seemed to have no rights. The dogs were not groomed for six weeks, they had not received any veterinary attention, and Jill and Peter were not allowed to visit.
Peter was still on bail. The local press printed distressing stories - it is a small village, and while they didn’t name Peter and Jill, everyone knew who was being implicated. So much for innocent until proven guilty!
Then the letters and phone calls started coming from the farmer's solicitor. If Jill and Peter would just pay £5k, everything would go away, and they'd get their dogs back. But they are ex-directory - how did they get Peter's home and mobile numbers?
Peter was called in for further questioning. The police suggested that he had tampered with the evidence, saying that he had washed the dogs. But he hadn't; he'd just left them to dry. There was no trace of blood on either dog. All forensic tests should still have been able to find traces of blood, even if the dogs had been washed. There was no wool in their teeth, and no sheep meat in their stools.
Things started to get surreal when the police held a doggie ID parade. One villager thought that she might have seen something through a bush, in the middle of a very dark night, with torrential rain, and howling winds. She said that she couldn't identify the animal, and didn't believe it to be Jenni or Minki, so refused to attend the ID parade. Another witness, who it transpires is the sheep farmer, allegedly saw (from a distance of 400 yards) a black dog with a long tail in the same field as the sheep, but not attacking them. Jill and Peter weren't told about the ID parade until afterwards, so they weren't able to attend or check out what the other dogs in the parade looked like. It wasn't videoed either, so it couldn't be used in court in any case.
Peter is still on bail. The police still consider it to be a criminal matter. The dogs are still incarcerated, and the police are planning another ludicrous ID parade. One good thing is that they have now been allowed to see their girls on two occasions.
There appears to be no evidence to link the dogs to the sheep-worrying incident. It's true that they were missing on the night of the incident, but surely they weren't the only dogs at large in Sussex that night? I'm sure that the police don't usually arrest the first people they find who don't have an alibi when they investigate crimes.
Poor Jenni had her seventh birthday in jail. They've both now spent over a doggie year of their lives behind bars.
The police aren't allowed to keep terrorist suspects for this long. Why do this to two Poodles who can't be linked with any crime?
Something very odd is going on in Sussex.
Could this happen to you?
Please sign the petition as soon as it is available, and let's try to make sure that it doesn't.