Dog cage
A dog looks out of its cage at the APCA (Protection Association for Abandoned Dogs) centre in SintraRafael Marchante/Reuters

Stella the dog has been held in a 1m by 3m cage by police ever since she was seized in 2014. In the two years that she spent cooped up in her kennel, Stella was not exercised and was only allowed out twice a day for behaviour assessments.

Devon and Cornwall police said the pitbull could potentially be dangerous, but declined to say precisely why she did not received any exercise. Earlier this month (8 February), Torquay Magistrates' Court ordered Stella to be put down.

Laura Khanlarian, who worked at the kennels where Stella was kept by the police said: "We were always told not to exercise or go into a kennel with any dogs, regardless of character, that had been brought in under the Dangerous Dogs Act.

"We were under no circumstances allowed to touch any of those dogs - which was hard," she added. "Animal welfare comes before anything, and that was my job. I don't believe I would be doing it properly if I would sit back and think that's ok. It wasn't ok - it's not ok."

Stella was classed as a potential danger because of her breed and behaviour when seized and in subsequent assessments. The dog's owner, Anthony Hastie had been to court 11 times in an effort to have her returned to him and insisted during hearings that she had never previously been aggressive.

Vet Kendal Shepherd branded the treatment as unnecessary and ineffective. "It's terrible. It's unjustified. It's wasting huge amounts of money and it's not doing a single thing to prevent dog bites," he said. "It's cruel. But it's what our system forces us to do."

Small kennels and restricted exercise can influence the animal's behaviour patterns, according to an RSPCA guide on the welfare of seized dogs. "Dogs must be provided with the opportunity to exercise away from their kennel at least once a day and this should be for a total of at least 30 minutes," the RSPCA notes.

Speaking to the BBC, Sergeant Allan Knight from Devon and Cornwall Police's dog handling unit said: "There will always be some dogs, for whatever reason, that cannot go back, and cannot get walked by staff because of the danger they possess." He added: "We are bound by the court process."