Beeston man battles for the lives of his pitbulls

A Beeston man is this week launching a last-ditch campaign to save his pet dogs from destruction. Ellis Hirsch, 41, had his two American pitbulls confiscated by West Yorkshire Police in June, and is this Thursday (18th August) making a final appeal at Leeds Crown Court to have them returned to him. If he fails, the dogs will be destroyed, and Mr Hirsch possibly even faces a jail term himself.

Mr Hirsch with 'Ross' as a puppy
Mr Hirsch with ‘Ross’ as a puppy – but will the dogs be spared this week?

Pitbulls are officially a banned breed, and Mr Hirsch did originally have the two dogs – a five year old bitch called ‘Mooit’, and her three year old pup ‘Ross’ (3) – removed by armed police in 2014. However, following a seven month court case that year, they were returned to him under licence, with stipulations including an agreement to keep them muzzled in public.

They have since been visited by the police, Council dog wardens, and RSPCA – who have on each occasion all apparently been satisfied. But then a police officer in June this year decided that the dogs – unmuzzled and unaccompanied in the binyard on Mr Hirsch’s street – were in breach of licence, had them removed, and launched a court case to have them put down.

However, Mr Hirsch insists that they were chained up, and blocked into the yard – and therefore not accessible to the public. Furthermore, he is asserting that binyards are not legally ‘public’ land, but in fact land co-owned by the nearby houses. Finally, he also argues that – as it was hot day – it would have inhumane to muzzle them, as the muzzles prevent them from drinking.

Mr Hirsch told South Leeds Life:

” I’d understand all this if the dogs had done something wrong, but they’ve done nothing. They’re not vicious, they’ve never hurt anyone or anything, we’ve never had a single problem with them. They’re my babies, and I’m worried that the past 2-3 months in the dog pound will have changed them – but I can’t give up.”

The two dogs nowadays - undoubtedly big, but dangerous... or not?
The two dogs now: a public danger, or not?

His campaign has seen him gather the names of more than 80 local people from the Woodviews in Beeston Hill onto a petition; dozens of the signatories have included testimonies in support of the dogs and their good nature. Mr Hirsch is also fitting out a binyard on the street – with 8 foot walls – as a fully contained enclosure for the dogs.

For more info on the law around potentially dangerous dogs, click here. For more info on the Leeds Dog Wardens and related services, click here. For more on the work of the Dogs Trust in Leeds, including opportunities to adopt a dog or volunteer, click here.

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6 Replies to “Beeston man battles for the lives of his pitbulls”

    1. Hi Peter, thanks for your comment, I responded in full below – so everyone can view it. But it’s possible you won’t get notified that I’ve done so, and you’ll think I’m being rude! Cheers, Ed

  1. Hi Peter. Yes, I’d have thought it was as simple as that too – but it appears not. Despite being on the banned list, the dogs were released by the authorities – subject to certain actions (eg they were neutered, and therefore not breed-able) and under licence – back to Mr Ellis in 2014. The dispute this time was simply whether that licence had been contravened or not. And it appears the authorities are not convinced it was: the dogs are due to be released back to Mr Ellis shortly, subject to a police inspection of the binyard – to ensure it’s safe.

  2. I can’t believe that you have even dedicated column inches to this story Ed. Imagine if these dogs attack someone? Peter is right in saying that they are a banned breed. Perhaps it is this type of liberalism that cost you your vote on the council.

    1. Hi Sarah, thanks for your comment, I’ve responded in full below – so everyone can view it. But it’s possible you won’t get notified that I’ve done so, and you’ll think I’m being rude! Cheers, Ed

  3. Hi Sarah. We (South Leeds Life) try to cover a wide range of local issues, that are of interest to people in the area, and try to do so with as little judgement as possible. Personally speaking, I don’t mind saying: I’m no great dog lover. When I first met Mr Hirsch, and discovered they were indeed a banned breed, I assumed it was a cut-and-dried case, and was all ready to make my apologies and say there was nothing I could do. But, as I said in my response to Peter above, it appears it’s not that simple: the authorities had previously released the dogs back to Mr Hirsch back in 2014 – and it looks like they’re going to do so again (subject to his securing the binyard). This is clearly a case that’s of significant interest to a wide range of local people: 1500+ people have read the article, dozens of people who live near Mr Hirsch have been supporting his campaign, and I also assumed that there would be others (like yourself and Peter) who would be deadset against the dogs being re-released. I totally respect both sides of the argument, and we want South Leeds Life to be a shared space for different views to be aired on important issues like this. (BTW South Leeds Life have previously been accused of being a dog-hating publication, because we dared to open up a debate about irresponsible dog owners, and people felt we were being biased the opposite way!) In hindsight, maybe I should have worked harder at making this article more balanced, eg getting a quote off the police on the legal details, and why they thought this was important to pursue. But there’s a limit to what you can achieve as a volunteer, doing it in your spare time: sorry! Finally, many thanks for your comments: it’s good for the debate. Please come back at me if you want.

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