Darla

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When police officers came for her dog, 7-year-old Maddison Armer refused to give her up.

The girl, who has autism, locked herself in the bathroom of her family home in Lancashire, England — along with her best friend, a dog named Darla.

Officers would eventually pry Darla from the little girl and take her to an undisclosed location to await the outcome of an investigation, according to her family’s Facebook page.

Darla’s crime? Suspected pit bull-ism.

Under England’s Dangerous Dogs Act, breeds that look like a pit bull (or Japanese tosa or Argentine mastiff) can be seized and euthanized.

In fact, in the last three years, nearly 5,000 dogs across England and Wales have fallen prey to the law. Many jurisdictions in the U.S and Canada also enforce breed-specific legislation, or BSL.

Darla, her family maintains, is an incredibly gentle cross between a shar-pei and a Staffordshire bull terrier. “Darla has never bit, nipped or even growled at anyone or anything,” Maddison’s mother, Jenny Armer notes in a Facebook post. “Her nature is very soft and loving. She has been taken for the fact that she looks like a banned breed.” Lancashire Constabulary, the agency responsible for Darla’s incarceration, did not immediately respond to The Dodo’s requests for comment.

The Armer family’s options are limited. “They told me I could sign a disclaimer to have her put to sleep or I could fight the decision in the court,” Jenny told the Mirror. “I have to fight it because she is Maddison’s best friend. She helps keep her calm. If Maddison is having problems, Darla comes and gets me.” After a period of observation and tests, authorities may also opt to put the 3-year-old dog on an exemption list.

A dog named Hank was given a similar reprieve last week, after he was seized from his family in Belfast, Northern Ireland — but not before an online petition garnered 300,000 signatures around the world.
If Hank, the dog whose plea was heard around the world, can find his way back to his family, public outcry can help reunite this gentle giant with the little girl she’s known all her life.

Join the fight to free Darla.