A NELSON man told police he thought the American pitbull he had been keeping as a family pet was a ‘long-legged Irish Staffordshire bull terrier’.

Police officers had been at the home of Anthony Paul on an unrelated matter when they came across seven-year-old Red, who had been a family pet since he was a puppy, Burnley magistrates were told.

Paul, 30, insisted he never knew that Red was regarded as a dangerous dog and had never displayed any sort of aggression towards his family.

His neighbour Jane Hunter, said to be an animal behaviour expert, had also sent a letter to the court, outlining why the dog should not be destroyed.

Paul has now been told by magistrates that he can keep the dog - provided the pitbull is neutered and microchipped and the family takes out public liability insurance. The family had already paid a £400 administration fee.

The court heard that police had originally been called to his then-home in Marsden Hall Road after a relative had been detained as a suspected illegal immigrant and gave Paul’s details.

Prosecutor Parveen Akhtar said that after a search police found a small amount of cannabis bush and then noticed the dog, which was believed to be banned breed.

Pc Stephen Wallwork confirmed he believed the dog was an American pitbull, after conducting an examination, and the animal was taken away.

Mark Williams, defending, said: “It has been a family pet for seven years and is a friendly dog which has never shown any signs of aggression.”

His client had used cannabis to relieve intense pain from a colon condition, for which he still required an operation, the court heard.

Paul, now of Priory Chase, Nelson, admitted possession a dangerous dog and possession of cannabis and was also conditionally discharged for 12 months with £85 costs.