POLICE have come under fire as they spend £20,000 on attempting to get a dog put down, even though the breed is not confirmed to be deemed dangerous.

Nicola Brooks-Belcher, who owns the Last Hope Rescue centre in Clacton, took in Staffy, Rex in January before attempting to find him a new home on the Isle of Man.

But prior to Rex being rehomed, the police were called to a report that Rex was an illegal pitbull type after a visit to the vet.

Rex, which Nicola believes to be a Staffordshire bull terrier, was seized and she was charged with owning an animal under the Dangerous Dog Act.

However the case has now been dropped by the Crown Prosecution Service due to insufficient evidence.

Before the case went to trial at Colchester Magistrates’ Court, a vet argued that Rex is not a banned breed and has never displayed any signs of aggressive behaviour.

The process is believed to have cost the taxpayer £20,000 and Essex Police now intend to take civil action against Nicola to decide on whether Rex is a pitbull type dog.

Nicola, 30, said: “I am stunned. The fact the CPS have discontinued and now we’ve still got to fight again for a puppy that’s done no wrong.

“The CPS said they discontinued the case so we thought that was the end. Then I got a phone call to say that police still believe he was a banned breed and they were going to take us civil.”

“Rex is absolutely lovely, he was eight months old when he was seized, he had never done anything wrong.”

Nicola and her husband, Simon Belcher, 46, were informed that it is illegal for police to bring about legal action against a dog owner whilst it remains in their custody after any criminal proceedings have been dropped.

However, Rex is still being held by police and they have not seen him since February.

Simon, a trained dog handler, has described the police’s actions as ‘absolutely disgusting’ and they intend to spend £5,000 on defending the case.

He said: “If the dog had bitten somebody really bad then yes, hands up, but it’s already been dropped by the court, it’s an absolute disgrace. The Dangerous Dog Act is pathetic, it doesn’t work.”

James Parry, a solicitor who specialise in dogs cases, said he is surprised that the police can afford to pursue a case against a dog which has never caused any harm to anyone.

He said: “If we have to take this matter to the High Court the Chief Constable will be at risk of further nine months of kennelling costs and a bill in the order of £20,000 for legal costs, or in other words money that could have been better used in employing one police constable.”

A spokesman for the force confirmed that a seized dog, which they believed was a banned breed, was returned to Essex following concerns by officers in the Isle of Man.

He said: “CPS discontinued the case against the dog, meaning a decision wasn’t made as to whether the dog was a banned breed.

“Despite the action by CPS, Essex police officers still suspect the dog to be a banned breed and it will remain in our custody under the Dangerous Dog Act, until a civil court hearing determines whether or not this is the case.”