A judge who almost jailed a 51-year-old grandmother has issued a warning to the owners of potentially dangerous dogs following an attack on young girl in Halifax.
The two-year-old girl had been walking with a doll’s pushchair on Kingston Road in August when Staffordshire Bull Terrier Buddy jumped over a four-foot wall and started sniffing the youngster.
Diane Neil told the child’s mum that the dog wouldn’t hurt her, but Bradford Crown Court heard that the animal suddenly locked its jaws onto the girl’s left thigh and wouldn’t let go.
Prosecutor Clare Walsh described how attempts were made to get the dog off, but it was only when Neil’s husband James arrived on the scene that it was forced to release its grip and taken back into their home.
The court heard that earlier this year Buddy had attacked another dog and the couple had been warned to keep the animal tethered whenever it was in their yard.
Following the attack on the girl in August the dog had been signed over to the police and Neil’s barrister Ben Smith said he understood that the animal had now been destroyed.
Care assistant Neil, of Kingston Road, had admitted a charge of allowing a dangerous dog to be out of control in a public place when she first appeared before magistrates in Halifax and they committed her case to the crown court for sentence.
Mrs Walsh said the girl suffered teeth marks and puncture wounds to her thigh and had to undergo emergency treatment in hospital.
“It’s clear that for a while she was not able to walk due to the pain. I don’t know yet whether there has been any nerve damage as she is still receiving out-patient treatment,” said Mrs Walsh.
“In September her uncle reported that his sister and niece were scared of going out in case the little girl was attacked again.
“It has caused sleep problems for the child and the child’s mother who had witnessed it.”
Neil said she had come out of the house to speak to someone and the dog had rushed outside.
Mr Smith said Neil naively told the girl’s relatives that she would be ok with the dog because it had never shown aggression towards humans before and it regularly interacted with her own grandchildren.
He said his client’s mistake had had very grave consequences and she had now decided not to have dogs again.
Recorder Jeremy Barnett told Neil that he was able to draw back from imposing an immediate prison sentence, but he stressed that she had come within an inch of going to jail.
“The message has got to go out to all people who insist on keeping dangerous dogs like this in their homes and yards that they will be held responsible when something awful like this happens,” said Recorder Barnett.
“I think you can see by the way I have dealt with this case today that you have come as close as it’s possible to get to receiving an immediate custodial sentence, do you understand that?” the judge told Neil.
“I do, yes,” replied Neil.
“I’ve drawn back from taking that step today with a great deal of reluctance because I hope that the message that goes out from this courtroom is that people who insist on keeping dogs like is at home will be held responsible for their actions,” said the judge.
Neil’s 12-month jail sentence was suspended for a year and she will also have to do 100 hours unpaid work for the community.
The judge also banned her from having custody of any dog for the next five years.