Got a frightening email last night. In two weeks time the Two Poodle Martyrs are in court. At the moment the owners have no solicitor acting for them as legal aid papers are still going through.
The consequences of them losing this case are devastating. These dog owners need someone to help them now! I have emailed ace doggie solicitor Trevor Cooper to beg him to come out of retirement. Perhaps one of the big dog charities could help them, they haven't so far. Just seems madness that they are approaching court without any proper legal representation.
Here's the story to date - I realise a lot of you are new to the blog, but this is the story that got us started here on the blog. This is a terrifying story - and it could easily happen to any one of us.
Jill and Peter have four Standard Poodles, they live in a rented cottage, on a hill surrounded by cows. One evening Jill let the dogs out into the garden without realising the cows had damaged the fence. Two of the dogs got out.
Like any loving owners they were worried, even though they live in the Sussex countryside, there are still some very busy roads. They walked and searched into the early morning frantically looking for their beloved dogs. The weather was vile. Jill is an air hostess and she had an early transatlantic flight the next morning. She was worried sick but she still had to go to work and left Peter still searching. Early the next morning the dogs came home, tired, wet and cold but unharmed.
Everyone was delighted.
However, later that day the police arrived - arrested Peter and seized the dogs. At first they cited the Dangerous Dogs Act (incorrectly) and at the station they changed the charge to the Livestock Act - but oddly Peter was still arrested - normally this act is civil, but they charged them under the criminal part of the act.
Peter was in shock. This was completely unexpected.
It transpired that overnight some sheep had been worried. While no one had seen the Poodles in with the sheep they were the chief suspects because everyone knew the dogs were missing that night as Peter and Liz and asked everyone to look for them.
To cut a very long story short - the two pet Poodles were taken away to a secure police kennels and kept there for nearly four months under the Criminal Evidence Act. For the first three months they had no grooming or veterinary attention. They were treated exactly like a knife or a screwdriver found at a crime scene - they had no rights.
You can only hold a terrorist suspect for 28 days, but two escaped Poodles can seemingly be kept forever.
During this time the police conducted 'forensic tests' on the dogs - but no trace of sheep was found. Two ID parades also took place as a witness had seen 'something' in with the sheep (not attacking them) - but it had been dark, and from a distance and in poor weather. These ID parades were not videoed and involved German Shepherds, Pointers etc. and not other Poodles - nor even other solid coloured dogs of similar size. And the two Poodles were put together in one pen while all the other dogs were singular. As local papers had already reported the rumour that two Poodles had worried a flock of sheep, these 'ID parades' would seem somewhat compromised.
When the dogs returned home after being missing, Peter hadn't had time to wash them, he'd wacked up the central heating and left them to dry. There had been no sign of blood, no wool between their teeth. And when the police checked their poo - nothing - no evidence of sheep worrying.
So there appeared to be just circumstantial evidence. The police knew these two dogs were missing overnight when the sheep worrying had happened. But could every other dog in Sussex's movements be accounted for that evening? Could they arrest the first human they found without an alibi in a normal case
I think everyone who read this blog over the last few months thought sanity would prevail, that this case would never go the distance.
But two weeks from now Peter stands in the dock and potentially will receive a criminal conviction and be asked to pay £50-£60,000 in compensation and costs. At the moment he has no brief preparing his defence as legal aid papers have only just been filed.
These are lovely gentle people totally unused to being criminalised. They don't know their way around the system, they are - ironically - like lambs to the slaughter.
The police have said that they are no longer going to press for a destruction order and the dogs are now out on bail. They don't seem to think the dogs are really dangerous - so why continue?
It's a nightmare - and it could happen to any one of us.
A dog escapes - something bad happens that night. There's no evidence to link your dog, but you have to fight for your innocence and your livelihood.
These people live very simply. They have a rented cottage - they don't have £60k. Peter is dyslexic and is finding all this completely baffling.
What can we do to support them?
My first instincts back in June was to go to Dogs Trust and say please help! They were there for the people in Liverpool who had their dogs seized in the Pit Bull fiasco. How about supporting another dog owner in what seems an equally obvious case of injustice.
The immediate threat of destruction may have now, at last, gone - but making Jill and Peter homeless and destitute would seem to put the future of all four of the Poodles into question.
Can you try asking Dogs Trust to ask their good friend Trevor Cooper to help them? I've given it my best shot and got absolutely nowhere so far. If we all ask, maybe they might reconsider? This could happen to anyone of us. Please spread the word like you did with the Skoda case.