If you suspect that your dog may be type no amount of posting pictures and inviting opinion on the internet will make things any clearer in fact in all likelihood you will end up more confused than ever (especially when faced with kindly intended but incorrect suggestions that your dog is a Weimaraner cross when you know for a fact your dog has never even seen a weimaraner from across the road let alone been born of one).
A dog cannot be typed definitively from a photograph by anyone, experts included, its not true that the law is simply about the way a dog looks though obviously if the dog does not give the first impression that it resembles a dog of type it isn’t one. The ADBA standard focuses on the ability of a dog to do the job of a fighting dog and any faults it has related to its ability, agility, or stamina will have greater impact on a dogs type that those which are cosmetic only. Photographs can also be deceiving with a dog looking different on practically every one.
It will most likely be suggested if you post online that your dog has been seized, that you set up a support group and start a petition. Petitions are only of use if they are government ones related to the law itself, petitioning for the return of a specific dog to either the police, councils, or to the court are of no use in getting your dog back. The police or council will not release a dog they believe is a banned breed because a petition asks them to.
Owning or possessing a banned breed is a CRIME and if a complaint is made and the authority has a presumption of type they must investigate it just like any other. The court when determining if a dog poses a danger to public safety if found to be type needs to be satisfied that your dog does not pose a danger to public safety that it can be kept securely, and that you are a fit and proper person to own it and that requires testimony or references from people who know you to be responsible as an owner, and your dog to be one of good temperament. The thousands of people who sign a petition in the main do not know this and the ones who do become devalued when amongst thousands of other names.
Support groups which are generally well meaning in intent can be filled with people who have stories of other cases and how they turned out, as well as sweeping statements about the Dangerous Dogs Act as a whole. Each case is different even if the charge is the same as it is dependent on the individual circumstances. Despite being an offence of strict liability there is no one size fits all strategy for dealing with section one cases (or its civil equivalent) and someone reading from the act needs not only the ability to read legal papers and cross reference in order to apply it, but also due to it being accepted as one of the most poorly thought out pieces of legislation ever written it is also necessary to be aware of and consider any case law which has been ruled upon over the last 25 years, as well as look to any other legislation which may also apply in each particular case.
Members of support groups feel an affinity with you which is good but they will ask for updates and more information about you and your dog and the progression of the case and you will feel obliged to provide this, however your solicitor (if you have one) or the organization supporting you would most likely advise you not to reveal certain information publically to avoid falling foul of the Sub judice rule.
The sub judice rule regulates the publication of matters which are under consideration by the court. Writing on the internet is publishing and sharing posts others have written is also publishing as is press involvement. Matters are considered to be sub judice (Latin for ‘under judgment’) once legal proceedings become active.
Criminal proceedings are deemed active once a person is arrested, a warrant for arrest has been issued, a summons has been issued or a person has been charged and remain active until conviction. Civil proceedings become active, in England, when the hearing date for the trial is arranged and, in Scotland, when the parties’ pleadings have been finalised and the record is closed.
Publication of material which is sub judice comprises contempt of court, a crime which is punishable by a fine of unlimited amount and/or imprisonment for up to two years.
Another problem with Support groups is that whilst well wishers are passionate about what they believe is an injustice, this can lead to a form of contagion where your case and your dog are swept away by the tide and you lose control of both and become overwhelmed at a time when you are already distressed. People may target the authorities involved for applying what they believe to be an unjust law when those applying it may well have the utmost sympathy for your circumstances and be acting fairly in your case. There are always going to be some people in authority who are not sympathetic but targeting them is hardly going to help the situation improve, and in our experience they are in the minority in any event. Attempts to bully the authorities will NOT work and will only make them cautious about sharing information with you.
The bottom line is that if you have a good solicitor, legal advisor, or experienced dog legislation related organization on board you really should be getting all the support that you need already.
We have seen lots of posts recently suggesting every case must be type argued in court. If you do not believe your dog to be of type having considered the law relating only to substantial characteristics, the burden of proof being on you to prove otherwise, and your own gut instinct regarding your dog, then of course seek an expert opinion if you are able to, but in doing so also be mindful that you may seek an expensive report only to find that the independent expert agrees with the presumption of the authorities, and also that there will likely to be delays in your case whilst this takes place resulting in rising costs for kennelling or extra hearings, which could be ordered against you should the type argument be lost as well as in the case of dogs who are seized, a delay in the return of your dog. Do not be pressured by anyone into making a decision either way it MUST be your decision as you are the one facing the cost implications and potentially conviction. Listen to the advice of a knowledgeable organization or legal advisor who will be able to advise based on the content of the actual court papers and the factors which are relevant to your case, and will treat any information you give to them in confidence.
Always remember that largely you do not know the people who are in groups and on pages so best practice is not to post anything at all unless it is something you are happy with both the courts and the authorities knowing.