Police have publicly apologised after mistakenly having a man's support dog rehomed in Leigh when he went into hospital.
Officers for GMP have this afternoon issued a statement after coming under fire from campaign group “Bring Alfie Home”.
The group was launched in April after Alfie, a six-year-old Border Collie, was taken from his owner Rich Howard when he was hospitalised with a mental health disorder.
On the afternoon of April 6, Rich was taken to hospital by officers after calling police for a referral when he suffered a low episode.
Officers took the dog from him, but instead of taking him home to Rich’s partner Kate and their children, Alfie was reportedly taken to the vets before being moved to Leigh Cats and Dogs home.
A statement released by Rich, said: “Alfie as my support dog was keeping me calm. The police officer saw this and she said I could take Alf with me.
“We travelled to the unit in the van. The police officer took Alfie and she said they would look after him.
“She even let me say goodbye to him in the van.”
The following day, when Rich returned home and Alfie was not there, the family began to call 101 for information.
They were informed that Alfie, instead of being taken home, had been transported to a veterinary surgery in Worsley, where he was scanned for a chip.
Despite Rich having guardianship of Alfie, the registered details were of a former girlfriend of his, who reportedly told police that the dog should be adopted which he was, just two days after arriving at Leigh Cats and Dogs home.
He was rehomed just two days later.
Support for Rich and his family has exploded via Facebook and campaigners have been contacting MPs including Jo Platt for Leigh and Liz McInnes for Heywood and Middleton where Rich lives.
Following rising pressure, GMP have now released a statement publicly apologising to the distraught family.
Inspector Graham Cooke from GMP’s Rochdale Borough said: “On Monday 6 April 2019 police supported medical professionals during an incident in the Middleton area.
“A 30 year old man was taken to hospital and the man’s dog was left with police.
"Due to no one else being in a position to care for the dog, an animal welfare provider was contacted.
“As is policy, the dog was checked over and the registered keeper, according to the dog’s microchip, was contacted in order for the dog to be taken care of.
“The registered owner requested that the dog be put up for adoption so her instructions were followed.
“Unfortunately it appears to have been against the wishes of the man, who was no longer in contact with the registered owner and had taken guardianship of the dog
“The dog was re-homed shortly after its arrival at the shelter.
“We have spoken at length to the owner of the dog, and as much as we wish the situation could be rectified happily, unfortunately there are no legal powers available to Greater Manchester Police for us to get the dog back.
“We have advised the man of his options going forward.
“We apologise for the upset this situation has caused.”
The group is hoping to raise enough support to have Alfie reunited with his family.