Last year, over 60 Merseyside (UK) Police officers, decked out in full riot gear, descended on a community and illegally seized many dogs, then had them destroyed. The police chief claims the raids were held because they knew that pit bulls and pit bull mixes were on the property, and had “lost their exempt status,” because they were not insured.
The whole thing took place in a very short amount of time. Within hours, the dogs had been removed from their homes, and put down.
The decision to do all of this was found to be illegal by a high court judge. If proper procedure had been followed, an order of destruction would be called for, similar to the way a warrant in the United States is required before any police or law enforcement can search someone’s home.
The people affected by the raids say they never received any notice that the insurance required for their dog had lapsed. Neither the insurance companies, nor local police gave any notice, and left no opportunity for anyone to address the issue.
Making matters even worse, many of the officers are said to have been abusive verbally to the people involved, and both physically and verbally abusive to the dogs as well. Often, the offices would simply grab a leash of collar, and brutally drag them from the house. Many dogs suffered terrible injuries at the hands of some real life monsters.
After what could be one of the worst public relations moves ever made, one would think the police would at least drop some of the charges against the people that had their dogs taken. However, they instead decided to further prosecution and not to apologize in any way for the rash decision.
Gareth Phelps, head of the dog unit of the Merseyside Police is now facing lawsuits and charges for his involvment in the act. Lawyer James Parry confirmed that as of now, ten people are bringing suit against him and many more are in the works.
Parry said, “Some were as old as 14 and were loved family pets who the courts had decided were no danger to anyone. No court in the land would have ordered the destruction of these dogs just because the insurance had lapsed. The police acted like judge, jury and, literally, executioner. It is clearly the police, not the dogs, who are out of control.”
The police department issued the following press release in response:
“The force is at a loss as to why this private prosecution has been brought. It will be vigorously defended and we will fully support Inspector Gareth Phelps.”