A DISTRAUGHT Lothians family have spoken out about the dangers of choke chains after their puppy was killed in a freak hanging accident.
Sharon Maxwell, 33, thought her four-month-old pup Takara was in good hands when she left it with professional dog-carer Doggie Daycare in New Winton, East Lothian, while she went to work.
But less than a month after she started paying for the service, she got a call from the company telling her that the Siberian Huskie/Japanese Akita cross was dead.
The playful dog, a present for Sharon's 13-year-old son Cameron, had become twisted in her choke chain and strangled herself after she was left in the back garden alone.
The incident was investigated by a council dog warden, who cleared the company of any culpability. Business-owner Joanna Munro has paid the family 930 in compensation.
The Maxwell family today spoke out about the dangers of the collars that killed their beloved family pet.
Mrs Maxwell said: "The money is totally irrelevant to me. I only want to tell other dog owners about the dangers of using choke chains. If anybody, I would have thought a professional dog handler would have known that.
"They can be lethal, and dog owners should really only use a harness. I only ever use a harness and I've never used a choke chain because of the dangers.
"The hardest thing I've ever had to do is tell my boy his puppy was dead. He was devastated and left in tears."
The beautician, from Ormiston in East Lothian, said because she worked during the day she needed help exercising "boisterous" Takara. The dog had only been at the service for four weeks when the accident happened.
She said: "I couldn't believe what I was hearing. I was so shocked. When I turned up they explained what had happened to Takara. To say I was angry is an understatement."
The family heard that Takara was taken for a long walk and then left unattended in the back garden of the small dog business.
The playful puppy had then jumped up beside a gate, caught her chain on a hook, and was choked to death.
Earlier this month, Miss Maxwell agreed to accept the compensation payment.
The company's website has been changed since the death of the puppy to cover for any future accidents. It now clearly states: "Doggie Daycare will not accept responsibility for the death, injury or illness of your dog."
A spokeswoman for Doggie Daycare said it had switched to using collars with half-chains.
She said: "We care for hundreds of dogs every year and this was a freak accident."