A FARMER has been given a suspended jail sentence after a jogger was bitten by one of his dogs.

David Bowling deliberately opened his farmyard gate to let his three German Shepherd dogs out as 32-year-old John Donoghue was running along a public footpath towards him.

The dogs, which are used by Bowling for security at Reeves House Farm, Westhoughton, surrounded Mr Donoghue and one of them bit him on the left buttock.

At Bolton Magistrates' Court 64-year-old Bowling denied being the owner of a dog which was dangerously out of control and caused injury.

But he was convicted following a trial, with magistrate Gerard Connor telling him his claim that the dogs had got out of the yard accidentally was not credible.

Andrew Hey, prosecuting, told the court that at around 5pm on May 16 2016, Mr Donoghue, who lives next to his parents' home in nearby Dodd Lane, decided to go for a run around local public footpaths.

Dressed in shorts, trainers and a top, he took a circular route which passed through Bowling's land.

But as he headed down a pathway towards Reeves House he saw the farmer leaning on the farmyard gate.

"The defendant then opened the gate and released the dogs," said Mr Hey, who added that the jogger was 80 yards away at the time.

The animals, a male named Ozzy and two females, Tess and Ria, hurtled towards father-of one Mr Donoghue, snarling and baring their teeth.

"I panicked," Mr Donoghue told the court, adding that, as he headed for the safety of a nearby kissing gate, two of the dogs were in front of him.

"I just wanted to get out of the way because I thought I was going to get attacked.

"They were packing, acting as a group of dogs," he said. "One of the German Shepherds ran behind me and grabbed me on the bottom."

He added that, once though the gate, he shouted back to Bowling, "Your dog just bit me."

But the farmer laughed and replied: "No it's not."

Back home, builder Mr Donoghue found his running shorts had been ripped by the dog and there was a three inch bruise and teeth marks on his buttock.

The wound was dressed in hospital, he was given a tetanus injection and antibiotics and lost two days of work.

The next day he reported the incident to police.

Bowling has lived at the farm six years and makes a living from growing hay and storing caravans.

Giving evidence in court he claimed he had spotted the jogger taking a short cut through his crops and admitted he had been angry when he opened the gate to go and confront Mr Donoghue.

He revealed that he had previously been involved in a dispute with Mr Donoghue's family over some land, but on that day had not immediately realised who the jogger was.

He claimed he had pulled the gate closed behind him but the latch had not caught and the dogs had managed to 'nose' it open to escape.

"In hindsight I wish I had taken more time to secure the catch," he said, adding that the German Shepherds had got near to Mr Donoghue, but he had not seen any of them bite him.

Michelle Brown, defending, stressed that Bowling was of previous good character and, since the incident, has installed another gate to ensure the dogs cannot escape again.

"He is a responsible dog owner and someone who does his utmost to ensure there is harmony between his dogs and visitors," she said.

"There is no reason to suggest there is going to be any repeat of this incident."

Magistrates sentenced Bowling to 16 weeks in prison, suspended for a year and ordered him to pay Mr Donoghue £200 in compensation. The farmer must also pay £650 towards prosecution costs and a £115 victim surcharge.

Speaking after the hearing Mr Donoghue said he was pleased with the outcome, but the trauma of the attack means he has not jogged on the public footpaths near Bowling's farm since.

"I just hope he is going to take more care with his dogs now," he said.

"His dogs are dangerous — they should have been put down, or one of them at least."