A Magistrate has ordered that a dog should be put down after it bit a two-year-old girl in the face, seriously injuring her.
Its owner, 81-year-old Elizabeth Evans, was also fined and has been banned from owning dogs, meaning that her two other dogs will have to be re-homed.
A Magistrate’s Court civil trial on Friday was held to determine the fate of Annie, a seven-year-old Collie-cross.
At an earlier hearing, Evans had already admitted three counts of being unable to control her dogs after three incidents within a six-week period in April and May: two involving one of her dogs, Tibo, biting other dogs, and the third involving Annie biting the child.
Outlining the third - and most serious - of those attacks, Legal Adviser Susie Sharpe told the Court that on 18 May this year, while Evans was walking her three dogs on Ouaisné beach with a friend and her three dogs, their path crossed a mother and her two children, who were walking down the beach towards the sea.
Pictured: The attack happened on the beach at Ouaisne in May.
Tibo - a rescue dog from Spain who was muzzled and on a lead after the earlier incidents - became aggressive and started to bark at the family. Evans struggled to control Tibo and her verbal commands had little effect on his behaviour.
In the commotion, Annie began to circle the family. The scared children tried to shield themselves behind their mother but Annie lunged forward and bit the two-year-old.
The young girl needed stitches for two 2cm-deep wounds on her right cheek and there were superficial injuries to her nose and lip, which were all caused by at least one bite and possibly clawing. Doctors are hopeful that the scars will heal in time but she may require further surgery.
Taking the stand, an emotional Evans said: “Annie has a beautiful personality; she is a most loving dog and everyone loves her. She has not behaved like this before: she is a family dog.”
Pictured: Advocate Rebecca Morley-Kirk was representing dog owner Elizabeth Evans.
Evans said that Annie, a rescue dog from Ireland who had passed three rounds of obedience training, had been recovering from an operation on her hind leg, which may have meant she was in pain. She also conceded that Tibo was a difficult dog, having lived his early life on the streets in Spain.
“Because of his past, his behaviour is unreliable and he can revert to being a street dog,” she said. "He and Annie are fine together but Annie rounds him up because she has a motherly personality. I have kept Tibo because he was a rescue dog and I feel as though I need to stand up for him.”
Facing questions from the prosecution, Evans denied that she had struggled to control Tibo that day.
She also said she was shocked at being told of another incident last month - having been taken away from Evans by Police and sent to the JSPCA following the beach attack, the dog had growled at an 18-month-old child who was at the next-door nursery.
A defence expert witness, animal behaviourist Rosemary Barclay, told the court that Annie had been dangerous on this particular occasion but that did not mean that she was a dangerous dog.
“With Tibo kicking off and Mrs Evans shouting, struggling and getting stressed, everything was ramping up. To Annie, a threat was coming and she was not in control. She had adrenaline pumping after running around and she may have been in pain.
“She sorted it out in the only way she knows: she circled, she looked menacing - because that is what shepherd dogs have to do to control sheep - and she acted. It was genetics; it was her job to sort out the situation, but she made the wrong decision. All the stars aligned that day for this unfortunate outcome.”
Summing up the prosecution case, Ms Sharpe said: “It is fortuitous that the child’s injuries were not life threatening but they were still very serious. We have heard strong and compelling evidence of Annie’s dangerous disposition and if it is her job to attack, then any training is going to have to go a long way to address that.
“And if she acted out of vicarious fear, that equally is a serious situation in terms of risk to others about her. At the time, she was dangerously out of control and also demonstrated a dangerous disposition, and we just cannot be sure that she will not act like this again.”
For the defence, Advocate Rebecca Morley-Kirk referred to the expert evidence of this incident being a one-off which was caused by a number of factors coming together.
“There is absolutely no way Mrs Evans could have predicted that Annie reacted in the way that she did,’ she said.
She added that her client was now committed to always walk with Annie on a lead and muzzled, she would choose walks where there was a low risk of children being present and she would be prepared to have Tibo rehomed if it meant that she could keep the others.
Pictured: The day-long trial took place in the Magistrate’s Court on Friday.
She added that Mrs Barclay was confident that she could work with Annie to ‘desensitise’ her when around small children.
Giving her judgment, Magistrate Bridget Shaw said: “There is no doubt that Annie acted dangerously and she was acting out of character but I have heard no reliable explanation as to why Annie acted in the way she did. Mrs Barclay accepts that we cannot look into a dog’s mind.
“She was not a faithful over-excited puppy biting nor was she responding after being attacked. It was an unprovoked attack on an innocent child, therefore it cannot be predicted that it won’t happen again. And speculation as to why Annie attacked therefore leads to speculation as to what she should be desensitised from.
“In my view, Annie still poses a risk of causing a serious injury to a child because it is not possible to predict or prevent. Any measures would have to be guaranteed to be effective, and they cannot be guaranteed. I therefore conclude that she is a dangerous dog and I order that she is destroyed.”
Pictured: Annie has been homed at the Animals’ Shelter since the attack.
Evans was also fined £6,500 for not controlling her dogs during the three attacks and ordered to pay just under £1,000 in compensation to the two people whose dogs were bitten by Tibo on separate occasions, on 3 April at La Pulente and on 21 April at Ouaisné.
The family of the child who was bitten is making a separate civil claim for compensation.
In disqualifying Evans indefinitely from owning dogs, the Magistrate said: “You have unrealistic ability to control three dogs. Their backgrounds are unknown and they will always present risks. Tibo was an unsuitable dog and he has not been controlled. You have let your emotional attachment to your dogs get the better of your judgment and consideration of other dogs.”
Evans was given 14 days to re-home the two dogs that remain with her.
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