Dog owner Duke Perrigoffe Merren is getting his dogs back from the Agriculture Department pound after Justice Stephen Hellman set aside an order for the animals’ destruction, which was made after two neighbors were bitten by one of Mr. Merren’s dogs.
The appeal to the Grand Court was heard on Thursday. Attorney Brett Basdeo represented Mr. Merren, who did not appeal his convictions or sentences – only the order for the destruction of his four dogs.
He was convicted and sentenced last year for two charges of suffering a ferocious dog to be at large, criminal trespass and damage to property. His sentence included three months’ imprisonment, suspended for two years; an order to pay compensation of $250 for damaging the neighbors’ gate; $500 compensation for medical expenses; and 50 hours of community service. In handing down the sentences, Magistrate Philippa McFarlane ordered the dogs to be destroyed, but she stayed that order until an appeal could be heard. Early in the hearing, Justice Hellman disclosed that he is a dog owner, and his dog had been attacked by a larger dog.
He asked about the breed and size of the dog that had bitten Mr. Merren’s neighbors. He was told it was a mixed breed, under 40 pounds and was shown a photo of the animal.
Justice Hellman said the magistrate had made the destruction order under the wrong section of the Animal Law. The judge referred to a supplementary social inquiry report, saying it had “praised extensively” the work Mr. Merren had done in enclosing his entire property after his case in Summary Court. He said he was satisfied that there were measures short of destruction that were adequate to safeguard the public.
In quashing the destruction order, he made a new order for Mr. Merren to observe the following requirements: that his dogs are to stay in the enclosure and, when he is not present, they are to be secured in that enclosure; if they are taken for a walk outside the enclosure, they must be muzzled and on a leash, with a ratio of one adult for two dogs. This means, he explained, if three dogs are taken out of the yard, there must be two adults.
Crown counsel Toyin Salako had expressed concern as to how the order would be monitored. The judge replied, “I think it’s open to neighbors to complain.”
Mr. Merren indicated that he had surrendered four dogs to officers from the Agriculture Department when ordered to do so, but one of them had since died. He also advised that he had two other dogs.
In Summary Court, Mr. Merren pleaded guilty after his trial had started. He had initially pleaded not guilty. He had contended that injuries to the two complainants were accidental, incurred when he and the couple were trying to separate their dogs.