I'll fight to save death row dog, vows Leicester man
A family whose dog was ordered to be destroyed after it bit a child are to take their fight against the decision to the Court of Appeal.
The move is likely to cost the Kainth family at least £10,000 – on top of £4,000 they have already spent fighting a court ruling that the animal must be put to sleep.
Gurdeep Kainth, 24, of Evington, Leicester, said although four-year-old German shepherd Suki "did a bad thing", his family should be given a chance to re-train the animal and learn to be better owners.
He said: "We are determined to do all we can to save the life of our dog.
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"We don't want to shy away from what Suki did. But we don't think he is dangerous.
"We have had him assessed by a respected dog behaviourist and his opinion is that he is not a dangerous dog."
Suki bit a 12-year-old boy, once on the arm and once on the buttock, after escaping through an open window at the family home in Norwood Drive, on Monday, May 30.
The boy was treated in hospital for a broken arm and wounds.
In September, Leicester magistrates ordered the dog be destroyed.
At Leicester Crown Court in November, Recorder John Pini QC dismissed an appeal, meaning the destruction order remained.
The final legal battle will be at the Court of Appeal in London. Mr Kainth said: "It is something we want to do. We don't know exactly how much it will cost but we are determined to do all we can to save the life of our dog."
The Mercury tried to contact the family of the boy but was unable to speak to them.
Lee Marlow explains why two courts have ruled that Suki should be destroyed, but her owners vow to fight on.
Four-year-old German shepherd Suki should be dead by now, destroyed by lethal injection at the police kennels, in Leicester, which have been his home for most of this year.
This is Dog Death Row, where Suki whiles away what is left of his borrowed time.
How he got there, how his owners have spent the best part of £4,000 so far trying to save him – a fight that continues; a fight that is now likely to cost them an extra £10,000 in legal fees – is a story seldom told.
This is the case of Suki, a good dog which did a bad thing – and how that bad thing took him from his home in Norwood Road, Evington, Leicester, through the city's legal system and led him, ultimately, to death row.
Let's go back to the beginning. Bank holiday Monday, May 30, 2011. The day it all happened.
At their house in Norwood Road, the Kainths are spring cleaning. It's a nice day. The sun is out.
A window is opened downstairs. Suki, a black German shepherd, a touch of white on his tail, pushes an inquisitive nose into the open air, jumps through the gap and he's out, away down the road.
No-one knows he's missing. It's all about to go horribly wrong.
They're a close family, the Kainths. Mum, dad, two brothers, two sisters, three of the four children still living at home.
"We bought Suki because we thought it would be good for my father, who had recently suffered a heart attack," says Gurdeep, 24.
The idea was that dad would take Suki out for regular walks, that it would get him out of the house and would be good exercise, even if it didn't feel like exercise.
That's what happened, says Gurdeep. Yet Suki quickly became more than that. They all fell in love with him. He was part of the family.
"He was a good family pet, a loyal dog," says Gurdeep. "We all learned to love him."
In the weeks running up to May 30, as the sun came out and the nights grew longer, some troublesome youths learned that if they crept up to the Kainth house and knocked on the window then Suki would jump up at the window and bark.
This happened more and more. It seemed an odd way for the kids to get their kicks. Suki grew more restless, more jumpy.
In court five, upstairs at Leicester Crown Court, prosecuting barrister Siân Cutter starts to sketch out what happened next. You can almost guess it.
A 12-year-old walks nonchalantly along Norwood Road. A dog approaches him from behind – a big black dog, he told the police later, a big black dog with a touch of white on his tail. It was barking. It didn't look happy.
The boy had done nothing wrong. He was scared. The dog lunged at him and bit him twice on the arm, the second bite knocking him to the floor.
As he lay on the floor, the boy was bitten on his buttock.
The boy managed to scramble to his feet and make it home, still followed by this big black dog which was barking. The dog was Suki.
He was chased off by the boy's father. Gurdeep Kainth appeared too late. The damage had been done.
He found an injured boy and an angry father. The police were called. A small boy was taken inside, crying.
There's no escaping what happened on bank holiday Monday. It was a bad thing.
Gurdeep Kainth, Suki's owner, has not tried to shy away from it.
He told the boy's father that Suki was his dog. The police were called. Gurdeep told them as much as he could.
The dog was collected by officers a month later and placed in police kennels.
He has been there ever since, waiting for a reprieve that has still not arrived.
Legal proceedings were started. At the end of September, at Leicester Magistrates' Court, the bench decided the dog was dangerously out of control and ordered it to be destroyed.
Gurdeep was given a two-year conditional discharge and ordered to pay £1,500 in compensation plus £85 in costs. He had 21 days to lodge an appeal.
He did not lodge an appeal against the compensation or the conditional discharge. He took that on the chin. But he did not want his dog to die.
He knew Suki wasn't a bad dog. The appeal was lodged and Suki was given a stay of execution.
More money was spent on expensive solicitors. Which brings us back to Court 5, Leicester Crown Court, Friday afternoon, November 25 – an appeal hearing in front of Recorder Mr John Pini QC and two magistrates.
Gurdeep contacted Steven Havers, a dog behavioural expert from Markfield.
Maybe if the Kainths could get a dog expert to confirm what they knew – that Suki wasn't a bad dog – then, perhaps, that view would carry more weight in court.
Mr Havers spent time with the dog in the police kennels, compiling an in-depth report, which detailed how the dog reacted to new situations, stress, interaction with strangers, other dogs, and so on.
Suki was not badly behaved, said Mr Havers. By and large, he was friendly and calm.
"I've worked with dogs that are dangerous. This is not a dangerous dog," said Mr Havers.
Suki had some bad habits, said Mr Havers. But most dogs do. As a nation of dog lovers, we do a bad job of training them.
The case was slowly changing. It became less about Suki, more about the Kainths. They were effectively putting themselves in the dock to save the life of their dog.
They would pay for weekly training, over a period of months, in order to save Suki, they said. They would be better owners.
The dog did not need much work, said Mr Havers. Perhaps, though, the owners did.
In court number five, the Recorder looks bemused. He asks the court clerk to clarify the law, the Dangerous Dogs Act of 1991.
Can they save the dog, perhaps, but re-home it with another family? After consultation, it seems they cannot.
So either the dog has to remain with the Kainths or it dies.
There's more. A previous conviction for Suki – not a criminal court conviction but a civil court. Details are sketchy.
Gurdeep says it was nothing more than over-exuberance. Still, it's not well received.
The recorder and two magistrates retire to consider their verdict. They return after 15 minutes.
They have given the matter a great deal of thought, says Mr Pini. The appeal has been well argued. But it hasn't worked.
"We are deeply sad to say we are not prepared to take a chance in this case," says Recorder Mr Pini. The appeal is dismissed. The order remains. Suki is to be destroyed.
The Kainths return home, again without their dog. Mr Havers is furious.
Gurdeep Kainth says the family will think about taking the case to the Court of Appeal in London.
A few days later, they decide that's what they want to do.
"It just doesn't seem right," says Gurdeep.