Man falsely accused of hanging his dog demands apology after video is widely shared online
A dog owner wrongly accused on social media of hanging his pet has said people called to his home looking for him.
Andre Perrott (26) was filmed playing outside in the New Lodge area, Belfast with his dog Buster on Sunday. The one-year-old American boxer was swinging by his teeth from a rubber toy, with some mistakenly believing the dog was being strangled.
The video was widely shared on social media, including the PSNI North Belfast Facebook page.
"Distressing isn't a strong enough word to describe the effect this has had on me," Mr Perrott said.
"On Sunday I got a phone call to say people were outside my flat looking for me.
"I didn't know anything about what had happened.
"I contacted the police immediately on Monday morning because I've nothing to hide.
"They came to my house and checked the dog with animal welfare and they walked away."
Mr Perrott, who is originally from France, said he was owed an apology.
"The young girl who posted the video isn't an adult yet, so I'm not pointing the finger at her although it would have been better if she called the police before posting it online," he said.
"The police should have done their job and investigated a possible crime before posting it on Facebook. This is a residential area with a communal garden; it would have been easy to find out where I lived and check on my dog.
"The PSNI should apologise to me over this. A councillor who shared the video (the SDLP's Paul McCusker) has apologised and I've an appointment with him."
Mr Perrott calls Buster his "best friend" and credits him for helping him through hard times.
Mr Perrott said the swinging game was part of training for a strength competition, adding that Buster also acted as his guard dog after he was previously targeted by paramilitaries.
He added: "I adopted Buster from his previous owner. He was too strong for her but she's very happy he's with me and she comes to visit him.
"Anybody who knows me knows how much I love my dog, he's spoilt rotten. He's probably the reason I'm still here, he took me out of depression and the fear of going out on my own after I had some unfortunate events in my life.
"My dog's my best friend, I wouldn't change him for anything."
Yesterday PSNI North Belfast posted a retraction online.
"After extensive enquiries following a post on social media about suspected abuse of a dog, police located the dog owner. We have visited the dog owner this morning along with colleagues from animal welfare in Belfast City Council," the statement said.
"We can confirm that the dog is in good health and no abuse had taken place.
"Rather the dog was being trained and was playing with a toy. We are satisfied that no crime has taken place and the animal is well looked after."
Councillor McCusker commented: "I have since spoken to police, animal welfare and the dog owner. The dog is in good health, is well cared for and this has been a misunderstanding.
"Thanks to everyone for their help with this."
In an earlier statement on Facebook, which has now been shared over 3,000 times, Mr Perrott clarified the purpose of Buster's training exercise which had been filmed.
"There's a strength competition that I'm actually training my Buster for and one of the categories is called springpole.
"This is where a dog bites a rug or some rubber and he's off the ground biting it and the goal is to bite it for as long as he can. It's exactly what you see on the video I also posted."
Showing his support, one friend said: "I can see he is well looked after and exercised. You're a good owner and I'm sure Buster is more than happy to have you."