A SHERIFF has allowed a former celebrity hairdresser to continue living with his 46 German shepherd dogs, because she says they constitute his family under human rights legislation.
Moray Council was bidding to impose an antisocial behaviour order on Andrew Debidin, the “leader of the pack” to the dogs he sleeps with every night.
Mr Debidin, 58, a former Vidal Sassoon hairdresser, turned his back on his career 30 years ago to devote his life to the huge pack of dogs in his care.
He now resides with them in an “unusual family life” in a caravan within a five-and-a-half acre compound at Woodhead of Mayen, near the village of Rothiemay.
Last year, the council mounted a legal bid to obtain an Asbo which would have forced Mr Debidin to get rid of all but four of his pack of alsatians after neighbours claimed the dogs’ barking was causing them “alarm and distress”.
But Mr Debidin claimed he had been victimised and picked on simply because of his “unusual personal lifestyle”.
Sheriff Susan Raeburn, in her judgment issued yesterday, rejected the council’s call for action against Mr Debidin and his dogs. She stated: “The respondent [Mr Debidin] is effectively the leader of the pack. At night Mr Debidin sleeps in one of the caravans within Woodhead compound with his entire pack of dogs other than two which ‘guard’ the compound.
“Mr Debidin has eschewed a ‘normal’ lifestyle for a lifestyle devoted to his dogs.”
Citing Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which states that everyone has “the right to respect for his private and family life”, Sheriff Raeburn continued: “I have absolutely no doubt that the respondent’s day-to-day routine at Woodhead compound is, as a matter of fact, his family life. It is an unusual family life. By some it might, perhaps, be perceived to be unsavoury.
“In my view, however, the respondent’s lifestyle is deserving of respect, whether or not it falls within the legal definition of ‘family life’ and in my considered opinion, there is no justification for interference with the respondent’s lifestyle.”
Councillor Alan Wright, the leader of Moray Council, said: “For the sheriff to talk about a lifestyle that centres on a man being the leader of a pack of 46 large dogs and that his human rights entitle him to that lifestyle – whatever the effect on neighbours – is, for me, a clear demonstration of what is wrong with human rights legislation.”
Alex Johnstone, Scottish Conservative North East MSP, said: “Human rights legislation should not be applied to dogs – that would be canine rights. The European Convention on Human Rights says individuals are entitled to peaceful enjoyment of their property. Well, these dogs may be this man’s property, but it doesn’t sound like they’re very peaceful for those around.
“Human rights are for human beings, and in this case the victims are human beings – they are the ones who should be taking priority.”