Dog 'turned on owner' on the day it was shot dead by police, court is told today
An unlicensed dog breeder has been banned from keeping animals after he abandoned a Caucasian Shepherd bitch which was then controversially shot by police marksmen.
There was an outcry when Cleveland Police officers shot the large and powerful dog after it was tied to a pole in Hartlepool in January.
Officers and the RSPCA said the dog, named Angel by supporters, was too aggressive to approach and could not be safely untied.
Inquiries found the dog belonged to Suleman Halane, 22, from Hartlepool, and on the day of trial at Teesside Magistrates' Court he admitted being the owner of a dog dangerously out of control.
He was banned from keeping animals for five years, given a 12-week curfew, a 12-month community order and ordered to pay Â£620 costs from his benefits.
Anne Mitchell, prosecuting, said the dog was tied up in the early hours of the morning and was "clearly dangerously out of control".
She said: "It was extremely strong and aggressive, and it was unsafe for anyone to approach it."
Dog wardens, police and the RSPCA were called to the scene and after an assessment lasting several hours, it was decided that the only safe option was to put the dog down, the court heard.
Halane, who came to Hartlepool after being homeless in London, intended to breed from this dog and another Caucasian Shepherd called General, the court was told.
That dog has been taken in by the RSPCA, the court heard.
He had brought up General from being a puppy and bought the other dog - later to be called Angel - for Â£600 but told his probation officer it bit his ex-girlfriend.
The probation officer told the court: "He said this dog was the craziest dog he had ever known. He tried to rehome her but nobody wanted her.
"He used to take the dogs out late at night when there was nobody else around."
On the night he dumped her, the dog went for him and by this time he felt she was "ruining his life".
Halane told his probation officer the dog had jumped through a window and smashed the glass and had wrecked things in his house.
The probation officer said: "He didn't know what to do with her. She was aggressive and she turned on him, which had never happened before."
He said General protected him from the other dog on the night he dumped her.
His probation officer said: "He really was at his wits' end, he thought the dog wardens would turn up and he would be rid of her."
She added: "He is extremely ashamed of himself, he knows he should not have done it, he knows how irresponsible he was, he does regret doing this."
John Relton, defending, said: "He made a grave error of judgement doing it."
District Judge Helen Cousins said Caucasian Shepherds were not aggressive by nature but were protective, "alert, dominant, quick, powerful and strong".
The judge said the authorities "cannot be blamed in the least" for how the case was handled.
The group Justice for Angel, which has organised a petition signed by more than 200,000 people and a vigil for the shot dog, disagreed.
The group said people had hand-fed the dog while she was tied up.
"She was frightened, it was a stressful situation," a group spokeswoman said. "There were so many other options open."
They argued the dog could have been made calm with tranquillisers administered in food, and then re-homed in a sanctuary.
Outside court, Assistant Chief Constable Jason Harwin said: "Every day officers make difficult decisions.
"Based on the aggressive behaviour of the dog, the expert views of animal welfare professionals and the fact that officers at the scene believed that the dog's collar was likely to break, potentially putting the public's safety at risk, the difficult decision was made to destroy the dog.
"Public safety is our priority as always. I am pleased that the person responsible has now been dealt with by the courts."
A spokeswoman for the RSPCA said: "This was a difficult and distressing police-led incident with an outcome which no one wanted.
"We attended to help the police and dog warden and sought independent vet advice to try and find a non-lethal solution.
"The dog had been seen by someone from another charity and there was concern that if the dog escaped she could have hurt someone.
"The police informed us that using a tranquiliser dart on the dog was not an option.
"We believe that abandoning any dog is totally unacceptable and in this case had tragic consequences."