A DOG whose barking helped alert neighbours to a rapidly developing fire has now been evicted from his home.

Paul Withers had to get rid of his Alsatian, known as Willy, from his flat in St Nicholas Road, Littlemore, last week after persistent complaints about the dog's barking and aggressive behaviour.

But Mr Withers, 51, claims that if it wasn't for the dog, then someone could have died in a flat fire in the neighbouring block on June 2.

He says he was at asleep at home when Willy, who has had specialist K9 training, woke him up after smelling smoke.

He ran outside and, seeing the top floor flat was on fire, attempted to climb scaffolding to rescue those inside while calling the fire service.

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At the time firefighters praised the quick actions of neighbours in alerting them to the fire but the service has not confirmed Mr Withers' account of what happened.

Willy has now been moved to a relative's home because Oxford City Council's anti-social behaviour team said Mr Withers' didn't have permission to keep him and they have received persistent complaints about the noise.

Neighbours told this paper that the dog's barking had been making life unbearable and he had been seen acting aggressively.

But Mr Withers, who bought Willy at Christmas for £1,000, says the dog was harmless and friendly.

His girlfriend Rachel Keene said: "He bought Willy at a tough time for him and he had great sentimental value.

"His dad died at Christmas and he was finding it very difficult.

"He suffers from fits and the dog helped to look after him and bring him round.

"Whenever he goes out, the dog would be with him, they were inseparable.

"He got so upset when the dog was forced to leave, he could not get his head around it."

Taranjeet Kwurana, who runs the corner shop next door to the block of flats says she had never heard Willy barking, despite being there seven days a week.

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She said lots of customers has described Mr Withers and Willy as 'heroes' for their actions during the fire.

The blaze, which started from a discarded cigarette, devastated the flat and the entire block is still suffering from smoke damage.

Kevin Beastall, who lives next door to the burnt-out flat said he was at home at the time and heard Mr Withers shouting.

Oxford Mail:

He was trapped inside and managed to climb out of a window onto some scaffolding to escape, where he was rescued by firefighters.

He said: "Another couple of minutes and I would have died. It was very scary.

"I don't think the dog should have been sent away.

"Lots of people around here have dogs."

Oxford City Council first wrote to Mr Withers about the dog in January and advised him to not leave Willy on his own as he suffered from separation anxiety.

Representatives from the council wrote again on May 31 to advise that, as no attempt had been made to control the noise, he would have to be rehoused by June 28.