POLICE have been accused of animal cruelty after keeping a death row dog in a tiny cage without exercise for two years.
Stella was locked inside a 3ft by 9ft cage inside private kennels in Devon after her owner was arrested on an unrelated matter in 2014.
The pitbull-type dog was allowed to leave her kennel just twice during her stay while her behaviour was assessed.
A court this month ordered she be put down after a string of appeals from her owner were rejected.
Today Devon and Cornwall Police said she was considered “potentially dangerous” because of her breed, her behaviour when police seized her and her behaviour in assessments.
Stella’s owner Antony Hastie denied any incidents of aggressive behaviour before she was seized by police.
Whistle blower Laura Khanlarian, who worked as an assistant at the private kennel used by police, said: “We were always told not to exercise or go into a kennel with any dogs, regardless of character, that had been brought in under the Dangerous Dogs Act.
“We were under no circumstances allowed to touch any of those dogs – which was hard.
“Animal welfare comes before anything, and that was my job. I don’t believe I would be doing it properly if I would sit back and think that’s ok. It wasn’t ok – it’s not ok.”
RSPCA guidelines state dogs must be allowed to exercise at least once a day outside of their kennel – and “this should be for a total of at least 30 minutes”.
Kendal Shepherd, a vet of 30 years and animal behaviour expert, said: “It’s terrible. It’s unjustified. It’s wasting huge amounts of money and it’s not doing a single thing to prevent dog bites.
“It’s cruel. But it’s what our system forces us to do.”
Distraught owner Mr Hastie attended court 11 times over Stella since she was seized.
But on February 8, Torquay Magistrates’ Court ruled that Stella should be destroyed.
Mr Hastie has been given 28 days to appeal.
Sgt Allan Knight, from the Devon and Cornwall Police dog handling unit, said that dogs have been released back to their owners during proceedings in the past.
He added: “There will always be some dogs, for whatever reason, that cannot go back, and cannot get walked by staff because of the danger they possess.
“We are bound by the court process.”
The full story will be shown on BBC Inside Out South West at 7.30pm tonight.