Campaign launched after pet seized under Dangerous Dogs Act

A HUGE campaign has been launched to save a pet dog from a death sentence after he grew into an illegal pit bull.

More than 1,500 signatures have been collected on petitions across Leith as four-year-old Leo is held on Death Row after being seized under the Dangerous Dogs Act.

Leo's owner, Craig Cunningham, 33, who lives in Fort House, said he had no idea his kind-natured pet was an American Pit Bull Terrier when he bought him as a 12-week-old supposed Staffordshire Bull Terrier crossbreed – and is urging the police to spare his life.

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A decision is expected to be made next month as to whether he will be destroyed, as the breed is illegal in the UK.

He said: "I cannot count the number of times I have been stopped by people, including the police, to be told he is a beautiful dog.

"This is like losing a son for me."

Once dog handlers removed eight-stone Leo from Mr Cunningham's flat, vets were instructed to test DNA to determine his breed.

Results released last week showed Leo is a full American Pit Bull Terrier – one of four breeds to be banned under UK law.

Friends and neighbours of Mr Cunningham, however, insist that the dog is a gentle, loving pet who is popular with children in the neighbourhood, many of whom ride on his back "like a horse".

One resident said the dog is able to differentiate between different types of chocolate bars if asked to bring one by his owner, while others insisted he could also open and close doors.

Mr Cunningham said: "I have no idea where Leo has been taken – I just don't know.

"My house is totally empty without him. I live alone, so he is really my only companion. I feel really numb about the whole thing.

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"I feel this is a race against time now, but the dog has done nothing wrong at all. I have every sympathy for families who have been affected by breeds like this, but it's all about how a dog is brought up.

"I have trained my dog and he knows I am in charge. I always have him on a lead and always use a muzzle, all as precautions."

Petitions have been displayed in shops, bars and cafes across Leith since the dog was removed by the police, with supporters urging the authorities not to destroy the animal. T-shirts have also been made to raise awareness of the dog's plight.

American Pit Bull Terriers were banned in the UK under the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 following attacks on humans.

Anyone found with the breed can be fined 5,000 or charged with six months' imprisonment, or both.

A spokesman for the procurator fiscal service confirmed that Mr Cunningham had been charged under the Act. A court spokeswoman said that the dog would be kept alive until a decision was made next month.


THE Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 was introduced following a number of attacks on humans.

Under the law, there are four types of dogs banned: the Pit Bull Terrier; Japanese tosa; Dogo Argentino; and Fila Brasileiro are all deemed too dangerous to exist in the country for breeding, sale or exchange.

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It is an offence to own or keep any of the banned dogs, unless the animal is placed on the Index of Exempted Dogs with a list of requirements set by the courts which must be followed by the owner.

One of the most high-profile dog attacks in the UK was in January 2007 when five-year-old Ellie Lawrenson was mauled to death by an illegal Pit Bull Terrier in her Merseyside family home.

The dog was immediately destroyed by police officers who discovered the child bleeding to death.