THE "responsible" owner of a dog called Bruno has been praised for turning his illegal family pet in to the police.
Samuel Aaron Docherty, from Eastbourne Road in St Austell, appeared at Truro Magistrates' Court on Friday alongside Anthony Iles, from Trembath Crescent in Newquay.
Both were facing the prospect of their pit bull terriers being put down, solely due to their breed.
Each defendant had separately bought puppies believing they were Staffordshire bull terriers – which are smaller and are a legal breed.
The court heard that Mr Docherty had bought Bruno in St Austell. His vet told him of his suspicions about Bruno's breed and he also called the police for advice.
"I would be lost without him," Mr Docherty told the court.
Mr Iles said he had read a newspaper article about how the couple he purchased Bruno from – Steven and Tracey Tewkesbury in Barnstaple – had been selling illegal breeds.
So he immediately contacted police to tell them he suspected his dog, Mutley, was in fact a pit bull.
"Mutley was advertised as an Irish Blue Staffordshire bull terrier and we had no reason not to believe this chap," Mr Iles told the magistrates.
"So when I saw this article in the paper I was horrified to say the least. But as soon as I knew, I contacted the police."
Fiona Roberts, chairman of the bench, said: "As much as these dogs are pit bull terriers, I can see they are very much family pets and I can see they are well loved."
Although the dogs are both illegal, the court heard how PC Phil Nankivell, a dangerous dog legislation officer, had assessed them both.
He had described them as "friendly," "sociable" and "well behaved" and said both owners were "very responsible".
Magistrates passed a contingent destruction order, meaning the family pets would be returned to them – if their owners complied with certain conditions. Both defendants were ordered to have their dogs insured, neutered, microchipped, tattooed, kept secure, and kept on a lead and muzzled when in public.
When these conditions are met, Bruno, who is 3, and Mutley, nearly 5, will be returned to their families.
"It just shows how responsible you have both been," added Ms Roberts.
The incident with Mr and Mrs Tewkesbury prompted police to launch Operation Doorstop, a nationwide search for pit bull-type dogs which came from the breeders.
Mr Nankivell said after the court case: "It's a really emotive subject. It's not about the behaviour or temperament of the dog, it's about what the dog is capable of.
"No dog is born aggressive, but it's the dog of choice for people who want to use them for reasons they shouldn't. They are a man-made breed and were originally bred for fighting in America.
"In the Nineties, there were some horrific incidents where they injured people and the Government bought in the Dangerous Dogs Act on the back of it."
If you have concerns, call PC Phil Nankivell on 101.