By Ben O’Rourke
Dog lover Julie Wright has spent the last five years without her healthy, well-kept and loving dogs, Jack and Homer. In 2014, after reviewing her activity on Facebook, RSPCA workers and police raided Mrs Wright’s Berkshire house. The RSPCA told police they suspected Mrs Wright trained the dogs for dogfighting and that they may be a breeds banned by the 1991 Dangerous Dogs Act.
Police confiscated Mrs Wright’s dogs and put them into the RSPCA’s care. The RSPCA put them into one of its ‘approved’ kennels, two-and-a-half hours’ drive away in Essex.
There was no direct evidence to back up the RSPCA’s claims about the dogs but Mrs Wright was unable to make her case in court. She was found guilty after trial at the East Berkshire Magistrates of two charges relating to having equipment for training an animal to fight, and training a dog for use in connection with fighting. She was banned from owning dogs for 10 years, given an 18-week suspended prison sentence and ordered to pay £1,000 costs. The details are covered here.
“These two dogs were removed at the same time on the basis of the fact they were pitbull terriers being trained to fight,” says Mrs Wright’s vet Martina Stuart. “It has since been demonstrated and acknowledged by an international expert… they are actually cross-bred staffies, not pitbulls at all.”
The revelation about their breed may have saved the dogs from a destruction order, but Jack died anyway from tumours. Ms Stuart tried to get Jack to have life-saving surgery but the RSPCA or the kennels where the dog was kept appear to have thwarted attempts to save him by claiming the dog was unfit to travel.
“Jack did not get to Bristol University for surgery… It was too late… Had he got there earlier the outcome would have been different,” Ms Stuart notes. “It was no longer humane to keep him alive, so I was asked to put him to sleep for Mrs Wright, and I did.”
The dogs have long been under threat of destruction. Mrs Wright says the RSPCA recently reiterated that threat with a verbal ultimatum: have her remaining dog put to sleep or give it up completely to the kennels where it is being kept.
The RSPCA denies asking Julie to sign papers for Homer to be put to sleep. In a statement, it says: “We have not asked Julie Wright to sign papers for Homer to be put to sleep. Homer came into the RSPCA’s care through no fault of his own and has been well looked after since arriving with us. The RSPCA is now exploring all options within the law regarding Homer’s future.
Mrs Wright says she is cornered. She doesn’t want Homer killed, nor does she want to give up her legal ownership of the dog, because she has no faith in the kennel to care for it.
Mrs Wright and Ms Stuart believe that staff at the kennels were responsible for the death of Jack through neglect. “When your animal is in RSPCA care, you don’t expect them to come out with puncture wounds on them, emaciated, hair loss,” says Mrs Wright. “My dog was broken, his spirit was broken, everything about him. He was unrecognisable.”
“I was raided, they didn’t find what they were looking for, I didn’t own the stuff they were hoping to find, so they picked on my two pets, Jack and Homer.”