Sark dog attack owner to pay victim £2,000
LIFE-CHANGING injuries were suffered by Sark day tripper Philip Taylor, 57, after a dog tore half the side of his face away.
The dog’s owner, Christine Roberts, who admitted failing to restrain an animal that belonged to her, or that was in her control, from attacking a person was fined £300 and ordered to pay Mr Taylor £2,000 compensation in the island’s Seneschal’s Court.
But the Seneschal, Jeremy La Trobe-Bateman, rejected a prosecution request for the eight-year-old Dogue de Bordeaux/Neapolitan Mastiff cross, called Zeus, to be put down, although he did impose an order requiring it to be muzzled and on a leash in public.
The incident happened outside the Bel Air Inn in the late afternoon of Saturday 2 September last year.
Mrs Roberts told the court that Mr Taylor’s actions had contributed to his injuries.
Acting on behalf of the Sark Constables, prosecuting officer Jenny McVeigh told the court that Mr Taylor and two friends were on a day trip and had visited a number of pubs.
Mr Taylor had suffered a heart attack in November 2016 and was still convalescing.
The group arrived at the Bel Air at about 4.50pm as they were working their way back to the harbour for the journey home.
Mr Taylor saw his friend pat the dog, which was under a table outside, before entering the bar. When he went to do the same the dog lunged at him, biting the right side of his face.
The dog still had a grip as Mr Taylor pulled away.
Friends helped him initially before the Sark medical services arrived and he underwent an operation in Guernsey later.
In a victim impact statement made on 8 March this year, Mr Taylor said he had suffered facial disfigurement after losing one inch of his lip. He had a tingly sensation in his right cheek and could only drink through a straw because of the missing lip.
It felt as though he had stammer and he thought he might need a speech therapist. He had had to have 14 or 15 stitches inside his mouth and another 15 outside. Having these removed had been worse than being bitten.
He had not been able to work since his heart attack and feared now that he might never be in a fit state to work again.
Mr La Trobe-Bateman said he had seen the reports from the doctor and the surgeon who operated on Mr Taylor that night. He had also seen CCTV footage from a mobile phone camera that showed the aftermath of the incident.
Mrs McVeigh said the court had the power to impose a maximum fine of £2,000 and the same in compensation.
It could also impose a control or destruction order on the dog. Due to the nature of the incident, the prosecution were proposing the latter, but the court could only do this if it found that the animal was dangerous.
Mrs Roberts told the court that Mr Taylor had put his face within one centimetre of her dog’s.
‘I think that that led to his action,’ she said.
She said her dog had been tied to a table and only had about 30cm movement. It was also on a lead which she was holding.
‘He [Mr Taylor] bent down and his face was level with the dog,’ she said. ‘As awful as it is - and yes it’s horrendous - I do feel his actions contributed to the severity of his injuries.’
Mr La Trobe-Bateman said that that was his view too. He noted from the report that Mr Taylor had drunk eight pints of cider. A large person could drink that amount and he was sure that the statement that he was not drunk was correct. Eight pints however caused people not to behave in a sober way.
‘Either way the dog did take half the side of a man’s face away which you must accept and that will be on your conscience too,’ he told Mrs Roberts.
Mrs Roberts said her dog had never attacked anyone before though there had been an incident where somebody had suffered bruising to their tummy after the animal bumped into them.
Mr La Trobe-Bateman said it was a big dog.
Mrs Roberts said that since the incident the dog was always muzzled in public and she never let it off its lead.
Mr La Trobe-Bateman said he had done research on the breed for which it was an old dog and he would take that into account.
He retired for about 25 minutes to consider his decision.
In his judgment, he said two doctors had described the injuries as extensive. The effects from the bite were ongoing, still traumatic and life-changing.
‘I have taken into account the age of the dog and I think it will probably not live more than one or two years,’ he said in deciding not to have the dog put down.
Also, it had not been possible to have the animal assessed by an expert in dog behaviour as the court had hoped.
He warned Mrs Roberts that the consequences would be extreme should anything like this happen again.
Mrs Roberts did not wish to comment after the hearing.