Anger at ‘indifference’ over dangerous dogs

A judge has excoriated the State, local authorities, and dog wardens for their blind indifference to dangerous dogs being allowed to roam around off-lead and unmuzzled in public.

Circuit Court president Mr Justice Raymond Groarke set aside a date especially to deal with the future of a German shepherd, also known as the alsatian wolfhound, who, he was told, has already attacked twice.

After hearing that the authorities have still done nothing about a dog known to have bitten twice, Mr Justice Groarke branded their failure to act as “an absolute disgrace”.

Barrister John Nolan told the Circuit Civil Court that when Milo O’Brien, 8, knocked on a neighbour’s door to inquire if they had seen his own missing pet dog, he was attacked and bitten by their alsation which lunged at him from behind the front door.

Mr Nolan, acting for Milo, now aged 10, and his mother Anne O’Brien, said the boy had been bitten on his left leg by the dog, owned by Stephen Collier, Knocknagin Rd, Balbriggan, Co Dublin.

He said Milo, of Knocknaginra, Balbriggan, as well as suffering two wounds to his leg, had developed psychological trauma as a result of the attack and still had to live with the knowledge that the dog which attacked him was still living next door.

Mr Nolan said Alliance Assurance, with which Mr Collier had an insurance policy that also covered pets, had offered Milo a settlement of €25,000.

“I fear that if this offer is not accepted by the court, Alliance may raise an issue of an exclusion clause in the policy regarding animals governed by the Control of Dogs Act,” said Mr Nolan, asking the court to approve the offer.

Mr Nolan said a clause in the Alliance policy excluded cover for dangerous dogs as specified in regulations made under the Control of Dogs Act unless they were “at all times” muzzled and under effective control. He said while the dog was not muzzled, the question remained had it been under effective control.

He said the Injuries Board had, with the consent of Alliance, assessed damages for Milo at €25,000. A medical report showed evidence of teeth marks on the boy’s left shin, puncture wounds, and superficial laceration consistent with the bite of a dog. Mr Nolan said Milo had been left with two small scars.

Mr Nolan said the dog involved in the attack was still living at the Collier homestead which Milo had to pass regularly.

Mrs O’Brien said the attack, in August 2015, had been reported to the authorities, which were told the same dog had been involved in a previous attack.

“Owners who allow dangerous dogs to roam around off-lead and without a muzzle are almost entirely ambivalent about the fact that if their pets stepped out of line they could do untold harm, particularly to children,” said the judge.

He said that on his way to court yesterday, he saw a dog, clearly a wonderful pet but also capable of committing untold harm to someone, neither on a lead nor muzzled. “There is no real enforcement by the State, dog wardens, or local authorities regarding the running free of these animals,” said Mr Justice Groarke. “This was a different case in that the dog was behind the front door and while the natural affection for the beast is understandable it annoys me intensely when I see the hurt that these dogs do. People seem to think their dog is an exception to the rule.”

He said it was an absolute disgrace that the authorities, having been told this was the second time the dog had been involved in an attack and bitten someone, had not stepped in and dealt with the animal.

Mr Nolan told Mr Justice Groarke that Milo did not have a fear of dogs before the attack but now was frightened of them. Having the dog remaining nearby his home had created a worry for him.

Approving the €25,000 settlement, Mr Justice Groarke said he would hold on to the matter and put it in for mention in two weeks. “I am concerned that there is a degree of pain and suffering continuing for this young lad because the dog continues to live near him and I want to make sure that it is dealt with,” said the judge.

Dogs that require short, strong leads

The Control of Dogs Regulations 1998 impose additional rules in relation to the following breeds and strains and cross-breeds of dog: American pit bull terrier, English bull terrier, Staffordshire bull terrier, Bull mastiff, Dobermann pinscher, German shepherd (Alsatian), Rhodesian ridgeback, Rottweiler, Japanese akita, Japanese tosa and Bandog.

The rules state that these dogs must be kept on a short, strong lead by a person over 16 years who is capable of controlling them, be muzzled whenever they are in a public place and wear a collar at all times bearing the name and address of their owner.

The rules on muzzling and leashing do not apply to dogs used by State bodies and bona fide rescue teams or to guide dogs for the blind.


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