A DOG at the centre of a storm of protest after it was shot by police while tethered to a post was dangerously out of control at the time, a court has heard.

The shooting of "Angel" a Caucasian Shepherd Dog sparked outrage in Hartlepool, with witnesses claiming it did not need to be killed by police marksmen on January 21.

An online petition calling for justice for the animal has now been signed by more than 200,000 people.

The Northern Echo: SCENE: The dog was left tied to a telegraph pole in Mainsforth Terrace, Hartlepool. Picture: GOOGLE

SCENE: The dog was left tied to a telegraph pole in Mainsforth Terrace, Hartlepool. Picture: GOOGLE

Today, at Teesside Magistrates' Court, Suleman Halane denied being the owner of a dog that was dangerously out of control in a public place.

The court was told that the 22-year-old's defence will not contest that the dog was dangerous – but he will deny being its owner at his trial on May 18.

Outlining what the case is expected to centre on, Judge Kristina Harrison said: "At approximately 2.30am the dog was chained up on some waste ground and the dog remained there until the following morning.

"It was found that the dog's actions were such that it was not felt possible to restrain it and it was accepted the dog was dangerously out of control with the unfortunate consequences we are aware of.

"The only issue is who was the owner of the dog."

Mr Halane denied the charge and his solicitor John Relton said he denied owning the dog. The court heard he owned two similar animals, but not the one shot.

He was given unconditional bail to appear before the same court next month.

Dozens of dog lovers and owners attended a candle-lit vigil days after the dog – named Angel by the local community – was killed.

There were calls from many of those present for an independent investigation into the case as people said the animal was not so aggressive that there was no other option but for it to be killed.

An online petition seeking justice for the dog was signed more than 201,000 times.

But Cleveland Police defended their decision to shoot the animal, saying at the time that they had worked together with a number of veterinary professionals, the RSPCA and a re-homing charity throughout.

They said this led to the decision to destroy the dog, saying it was extremely aggressive and unapproachable.

A further protest took place on Easter Sunday, at the site where the dog was killed, organised by the Justice for Angel group, which wants to raise awareness of the incident and make sure that nothing similar happens in future.

Jenna Davies, from the group, said: “Firstly we are requesting an open, public enquiry.

“We need to understand what went wrong that day. We do not want any of the mistakes made during that incident to be repeated and we need the authorities to be transparent about what happened so we can move forward.

“Secondly, our proposal is to implement a national register of local capture teams, animal behaviourists and sanctuaries.

“These will become first responders to all cases of abandoned or lost animals reported.

“We want all authorities to be trained in procedures and protocols so if this happens again they know who to contact to achieve the best outcome for the animal.

“We believe an animal must be assessed in a controlled environment by an expert in their field. RSPCA, vets and other authorities are not qualified enough to achieve this.

“We are working with local councillors and MP Mike Hill to implement these changes through law.

“What happened to Angel should never happen to any other animal. We need all the authorities involved to help us make these changes.”