Bristol family spend 20K to save dog's life - all because of her looks

Eleanor Singer and her dog Sky
Eleanor Singer was volunteering at a kennels when she first met Sky in 2014. Credit: RSPCA

A family from Bristol has spent two years and £20,000 trying to save their dog's life.

Sky, who is a nine-year-old pit bull terrier, was ordered to be destroyed simply because of the ways she looks.

Eleanor Singer and her mother Barbara, were volunteering at a local kennels when they first met Sky in 2014. Eleanor said: "We started walking her, taking her out and spending time with her. We did that for almost two years and unsurprisingly, formed a really strong bond."

The Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 prohibits the keeping of four types of dog in the UK, including a pit bull terrier. Kennel staff found that Sky had been positively assessed as a prohibited dog.

But Sky's former owner had applied to the courts to have her exempted so that they could legally keep her.

Eleanor explained: "We didn't know anything about the ins and outs of the law until we met Sky - they identified how she looks and not her actual breeding or behaviour.

On 16 April 2016, Sky was seized and taken into kennels. Credit: RSPCA

But on 20 April 2016, Sky was seized and taken into kennels. Eleanor and Barbara were heavily involved in Sky's care for two years, so they took her on. They tracked down her former owner and he agreed to help them try and save Sky.

DDA Watch - a group offering free advice to people caught up in breed specific legislation (BSL) - and a solicitor firm Wheldon Law helped Eleanor and Barbara raise £20,000 to pay for the legal fight.

In 2017, the family spent eight hours in court try to save Sky's life. The judge said keepership could be changed and told them to sort out the paperwork. But the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) refused to issue the certificate.

Solicitors then managed to get Sky a 'stay of execution' and appealed in court again - this took the fight all the way to the High Court.

On 22 January 2018, the court ruled that Sky could live. Credit: RSPCA

They successfully argued that Barbara could rightly be viewed as the person with most responsibility for the dog.

The argument was not accepted by the police, or Defra but the High Court agreed with the interpretation. The case then returned to the crown court, where an unopposed contingent destruction order was made. Barbara became Sky's registered keeper.

Eleanor recalled: "On 22 January 2018 they said she could live. We were over the moon. On 30 January she came home and settled in straight away."

"Finally Sky was officially saved"

She believes Sky has set a precedent in the High Court, that keepership can be transferred in some circumstances and paved the way for other dogs to be saved.

"Dogs should be judged not by how they look but by how they behave and irresponsible owners should be held accountable. Sky lost many years of her life due BSL but thankfully she's still with us. "Many other dogs don't get the chance and that's why we're supporting the #EndBSL campaign calling the Government to review and repeal this law."