Stella has spent the last two years locked in a 3-by-9 foot cage in a kennel in Devon, England. She has never been let out to exercise or play.
In 2014, Stella was taken away by police from her owner, Antony Hastie, because she was “potentially dangerous.” Did she bite or attack someone? No. Under the UK’s Dangerous Dogs Act 1991, Stella is illegal and considered a threat to public safety – but only because of her breed. Stella is a pit bull mix.
Stella was taken to a private kennel owned by Devon and Cornwall Police. She was put in a cage that she has only been allowed to leave twice in the past two years, and only for behavior assessments.
“We were always told not to exercise or go into a kennel with any dogs, regardless of character, that had been brought in under the Dangerous Dogs Act,” Laura Khanlarian, who worked at the kennel, told BBC News.
“We were under no circumstances allowed to touch any of those dogs — which was hard,” Khanlarian said. “Animal welfare comes before anything, and that was my job. I don’t believe I would be doing it properly if I would sit back and think that’s okay. It wasn’t okay — it’s not okay.”
The dogs that were “so kind and needed us the most for reassurance – we were never able to give that to them,” she told SWNS TV.
Khanlarian lost her job when she breached her employment contract by interacting with the seized dogs.
Contrary to Khanlarian’s eyewitness account, Devon and Cornwall Police issued a statement claiming that of the hundred or so dogs they’ve seized over the past two years, Stella was the only one deemed too dangerous to be exercised by kennel staff.
Apparently Devon and Cornwall Police haven’t read “The Welfare of Dogs Seized in Kennels: A Guide to Good Practice,” created for police departments by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) in collaboration with animal welfare officers, local authority dog wardens and police dog legislation officers.
All dogs “must have daily access to outdoor safe and secure areas, away from the kennel area and this should be at least 30 minutes per day,” the guide states (yes, “must” is emphasized in bold).
The Dangerous Dogs Act is breed-specific legislation (BSL), laws that apply only to certain breeds (usually pit bulls). BSL is opposed in the United States by virtually every major animal welfare organization because it punishes well-behaved dogs and responsible owners. Besides, it’s expensive to enforce and has not proven to increase public safety anywhere that it’s been enacted.
“It’s terrible. It’s unjustified. It’s wasting huge amounts of money and it’s not doing a single thing to prevent dog bites,” Kendal Shepherd, a veterinarian and animal behavior expert with 30 years of experience working with dogs, told BBC News. “It’s cruel. But it’s what our system forces us to do.”
Stella’s owner has gone to court 11 times over the past two years, trying in vain to get his beloved dog back. She had never showed any signs of aggression before she was seized, he said.
But Cornwall and Devon Police said — in the same statement in which they claimed Stella was the only dog in their kennel not let out of her cage – that Stella had “threatened and shown aggressive behavior toward two Police Community Support Officers,” had shown “aggressive behavior prior to being seized” and “attempted to bite a court appointed independent expert during the dog’s assessment.”
Last month, Torquay Magistrates’ Court ordered Stella to be destroyed.
Stella’s heartbreaking situation is similar to that of Lennox, a therapy dog from Northern Ireland that was seized because he was perceived to be a pit bull mix. Despite an international outcry and pleas for his life from dog experts like Victoria Stilwell, Lennox was euthanized in 2012.
Several rescue organizations in the United States had offered to take in Lennox, to no avail.
Perhaps Animals R Family will have better luck with Stella. The nonprofit rescue has offered to fly her to its headquarters in Connecticut, where BSL is banned.
“Breed specific legislation is wrong and ineffective. In the US, pit bulls are one of the most popular dogs for family pets,” the rescue wrote on its Facebook page.
Please sign and share the petition asking for Stella to be released.