A dog which had been ordered to be killed after it seriously injured a two-year-old girl has been given a reprieve by the Royal Court.
In September, the Magistrate ruled that the collie-cross, called Annie, should be destroyed and its owner, 81-year-old Elizabeth Evans banned from owning dogs indefinitely.
This was at the end of a day-long trial following an attack on 18 May on the beach at Ouaisne, when Annie, a seven-year-old rescue dog, bit the child at least once, leaving scars that require facial surgery.
Mrs Evans appealed these judgments to the Royal Court, which yesterday quashed them after ruling that they were disproportionate.
However, the court gave Mrs Evans an order restricting her ownership and handling of dogs: she can only own her two dogs, she cannot look after or walk any other dogs, and Annie must be kept muzzled and on a short lead whenever she is in a public place. At Mrs Evans’ home, Annie will have to be muzzled or removed if a child aged under ten is present.
Commissioner Sir Michael Birt, who was sitting with Jurats Olsen and Austin-Vautier, said: “We fully understand what a frightening experience this must have been for the family, especially their daughter, however the duty of this court is to ensure proportionality, and in our judgement, the orders we put in place today are reasonable and proportionate to ensure that this doesn’t happen again.”
The appeal was not based on the criminal aspect of the case: that Mrs Evans had failed to control her dogs on three occasions in April and May this year, for which she was fined £6,500 in September and ordered to pay just under £1,000 in compensation.
Pictured: Advocate Rebecca Morley-Kirk represented Elizabeth Evans at the successful appeal.
Rather, the appeal was based on the civil element of the case: which ended with the Magistrate ordering Annie’s destruction and giving her the indefinite ban, subject to an annual review.
For Mrs Evans, Advocate Rebecca Morley-Kirk argued that both punishments were disproportionate. She said that while no one disputed that the beach attack caused serious injury, it did not mean that Annie had a general dangerous disposition.
She added that the two April attacks had involved Mrs Evans’ other dog at the time, Tibo, biting other dogs, and Annie had not been involved. The Court heard that Tibo, a rescue dog, had since been sent back to Spain.
On Thursday, Mrs Evans and her dog-walking companion on the day of the Ouaisne attack both gave evidence to say that Annie had been frightened by the clatter of the bucket and spade that the children were carrying.
They also said that the collie-cross instinctively rounded the family but did not circle them in an aggressive way.
However, also giving evidence, the mother of the two children said that one of her children was carrying a spade and the other a bucket so there was no noise. She said that both dogs were barking and had their hackles up. Annie had then circled them aggressively at least twice and had lunged at them.
For the prosecution, Crown Advocate Richard Pedley said: “It is the unpredictability of what took place is of the most concern. If there had been taunting or playing, or Annie had behaved in a way that could be addressed by further training, then you could perhaps see an argument for trying to manage the risk.
“But this was a mature dog which, for reasons unknown, attacked a two-year-old. It is therefore unpredictable that it will happen again; there could still be a terrifying attack on an innocent child.”
But having received an assurance from Mrs Evans that she would abide by its order, the court overturned the Magistrate’s decision, allowing Annie - who has been living at the JSPCA since the attack - to be reunited with her owner and Mrs Evans’ other dog, a bodeguero-cross called Leah.
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