A dog died after falling 30 feet from a roof at a dog-sitter’s house while he was being looked after.
Patrick Cording and his partner Hannah Watts have urged people to help him change the law after the tragic death of Pepper.
The couple were left heartbroken – and suffered a double blow after learning that dogs are treated as property in the eyes of the law, reports DevonLive.
And so the damage or death of a dog is defined as merely criminal damage.
Patrick, from Kingsbridge, said because both he and Hannah work they had been using the services of a dog care company who would look after the dog each day, take her for walks and visits to the beach or woods.
However, the nine month old pedigree Labrador had to be put down after falling around 30ft from the business owner's roof, breaking her spine and being left in excruciating agony.
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Patrick said: "We have 7.30am starts and 6pm finishes at work and we wanted to give Pepper a good life so we paid for a doggy day care.
“It cost quite a lot and we used their services several times a week."
The 24-year-old delivered Pepper to the business at around 8am but at 3.30pm he received a worrying call.
He said: "I was told to get to the vets immediately, that Pepper had fallen from the top of a house and suffered a broken spine.
"She was just nine months old, we'd had her for about six or seven months and she'd become the most important part of our lives since we got her.”
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He added: "It's really, really sad. The company had taken Pepper from their business where they were meant to keep her to the owner's home in Kingsbridge.
"Pepper was let into a garden, climbed onto a flat roof and then onto the pitched roof.
"Then she fell down the front of the building."
Patrick said he has since contacted South Hams District Council who he said had launched in investigation into the business.
Due to this Patrick said he was not naming the firm at this stage until the preliminary inquiries were completed.
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However, Patrick said he made checks and found the firm was obliged to inform the council about a dog's death within 24 hours of it happening – but he claims no calls were made to the council.
He said: “We knew they took Pepper and other dogs to the beach and woods but we never agreed to her being taken to their home.
“The business has no licence to care for dogs at their home address."
What has also upset the couple is how their beloved dog is recognised in law – as a piece of property.
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In law, a dog is defined as a 'working animal' and falls into the same category as horses, asses, mules, sheep, goats and cows.
They are defined as property, so damage to them, whether recklessly or deliberately, is defined as criminal damage.
For example, if somebody accidentally killed a dog, even though we view them as pets, they are defined as working animals and so are seen as 'property'.
The Animal Welfare Act 2006 makes it an offence to cause any animal unnecessary suffering while the Criminal Damage Act 1971 classes animals as property capable of being "damaged and destroyed".
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Patrick said: "She's treated like property – like a car – not a sentient being.
"No amount of money could compensate us for losing Pepper. We want to make sure dogs are safe. If this happened to any other dog in their care it would break our hearts.
"When I went to the vets her eyes were tightly closed. She was squeezing them shut, biting her bottom lip, she was in so much pain.”
Patrick said: “I stroked her head and said her name and she opened them. They fixed on me until the vet had to give her the injection to end her life. It broke my heart.
"How can the law say that she's not viewed as a sentient being, as just property. On legal grounds she's deemed the same as my toaster. It seems horrendous."
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Patrick has now launched a petition at change.org to try and change the law regarding the legal status of dogs.
He said: "What we are doing here is to try and change the law so that these businesses have some accountability when they have been negligent, such as in this instance.
"A dog is a member of your family, not a piece of property as the law currently states.
“Dogs get into our soul, we give them conscious thought and in return they give us unconditional love, therefore a dog is a sentient being by definition and should also be by law."
Despite only launching it three days ago, Patrick has already seen more than 1,000 people sign it.
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