Dog breeder spared jail over attack

First published in News

A DOG breeder has avoided being jailed after two of her dogs launched a “vicious” attack on three young girls.

Julie Lindley, aged 53, of Higher Dunscar, Egerton, pleaded guilty to being the owner of two dogs dangerously out of control.

Manchester Minshull Street Court heard how two large Bullmastiffs — one which had just been named one of the country’s best dogs at Crufts — savagely attacked three girls as they made their way home from school on March 22, last year.

Nicola Hamer, aged seven, Matilda Dawning, aged five and Charlotte Riggs, also aged five, were walking home from Walmsley Primary School when Nicola’s mother, Caroline Hamer saw two dogs “bounding towards her”, the court heard.

Alison Hayworth, prosecuting, said she described the dogs as “high as her waist and very powerful”.

Ms Hayworth told the court: “The dogs pushed them all to the ground and Mrs Hamer quickly got up, however Nicola was still on the pavement with both dogs attacking her, biting her and shaking her like a doll.

“Mrs Hamer got the dog off and tried to wedge herself between it and her daughter. A passer-by put the girl, who was covered in blood, in a car, .”

The dogs then “lunged” at Matilda Dawning. Her mother lifted her up above the dogs but one of them bit the girl’s leg “like a tug of war”, pulling both the mother and the child into the road.

A car driver, Darren Westhead, saw the incident and said the dogs were “enormous and solid muscle”.

His reaction was to strike the dog with his car but it got up again and began snapping once more.

Mr Westhead got out of the car and tried to control the dog until the police arrived.

Lucy Riggs, the mother of Charlotte, had watched the attacks before one of the dogs grabbed her daughter’s arm, wounding her forearm.

All three girls were extremely distressed and taken to Royal Bolton Hospital and Manchester Children’s Hospital.

Nicola had multiple bites and puncture wounds to her face, head, back, hand, shoulder blade and a deep cut on one hand between her thumb and finger, causing nerve damage.

She had surgery over the next two days .

Matilda also had multiple injuries to her leg, knee, face and below her right eye and also had surgery over the next two days.

Charlotte Riggs had “a ragged wound on her arm”, which needed stitches and had to be kept partly open to clean it.

When police found the two dogs, the larger male, Theo, had blood in his mouth.

Officers then saw a piece of fence panelling missing at the back of the premises owned by Lindley.

Lindley had both dogs destroyed that day and admitted she was the owner. She said she had let the dogs out to go to the toilet for 10 to 15 minutes when they had escaped.

A third dog was found inside her garden in “an upset state” and a fencepost seemed to have been removed.

Since the incident, two cages have been put into the garden and the fence has been strengthened, the court heard.

In a statement to the court, the three mothers said their daughters had been “terrified” by the incident and would have physical and psychological scars for years, if not life.

In a written statement to the court, Charlotte Riggs wrote “mummy keeps me away from Bullmastiffs”.

Craig MacGregor, defending, said Lindley was of good previous character and a responsible dog breeder.

Theo, the male dog, had been named a top UK Bullmastiff and had come third at Crufts shortly before the attack.

Judge Martin Allweis accepted Lindley was full of remorse, as was evidenced by her destroying the dogs.

The judge said she had a good reputation and the court received many character testimonies in her support.

However, she was strictly liable for the dogs and the attack had been “serious and sustained” against three children.

Lindley was not banned from keeping dogs in the future because of her previous responsible record.

She had shown “genuine remorse at the horror” but was sentenced to three months in jail, suspended for 12 months, and ordered to pay £1,000 court costs.

Lindley faces civil action for compensation, the court heard.

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