Dog attack: owner ignored victim’s injuries

Lesley Ellis leaves Scarborough Magistrates Court.
Lesley Ellis leaves Scarborough Magistrates Court.
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Lesley Ellis, of The Garlands, told Rita Highton “my dog has not done that” just seconds after it had ripped open the 74-year-old’s right forearm.

The unprovoked attack by the large Hungarian Vizsla hound left Mrs Highton needing a skin graft to cover deep permanent scarring.

Chairman of the bench Tony Green told Ellis: “It is outrageous that on the day in question you were more concerned about the future of your dog than the impact of the bite on the woman.”

The dog has not been destroyed but Ellis was ordered to pay £2,500 compensation to Mrs Highton.

Ellis, 55, appeared at Scarborough Magistrates’ Court yesterday charged with allowing her dog to be dangerous and out of control during the incident on the junction of Filey Road and Queen Margaret’s Road in November last year.

Prosecuting, Katy Varlow said Mrs Highton was rushed to Scarborough Hospital by a taxi driver, who wrapped her arm in a makeshift bandage to stem the bleeding.

However, the damage was so significant Mrs Highton, a volunteer at Scarborough’s Rainbow Centre, had to undergo a skin graft at Hull’s Castle Hill Hospital.

Mrs Varlow told the court Ellis only came forward after an Evening News appeal to snare the dog’s owner.

She said: “Mrs Highton had got off the bus and was walking home.

“She was aware of somebody holding a dog on a lead who was picking up dog dirt.

“Without any warning the dog then bit her on the right forearm.

“She was wearing two layers of clothing but could still feel it piercing her skin.

“The owner approached and said ‘he has never done anything like that before’ adding ‘he has not just done that.’

“The victim then told her that she didn’t walk around with her arm looking like that every day.

“The defendant said nothing, turned, and walked away.

“There will be significant and permanent scarring on her arm.”

Mitigating, Nick Tubbs said Ellis was a considerate pet owner and had looked after dogs all her life.

Mr Tubbs said Ellis had since taken the dog on an intensive obedience regime, which had led to glowing recommendations from an animal trainer and veterinary expert.

He added it was also now always on a muzzle and attached to a slip-lead in public.

He said: “She feels enormous regret about the incident and the injuries caused by her dog.

“This type of dog is primarily used to retrieve game and it is a pet that has been with her family for around three to four years.

“She has had dogs most of her life and never had any issues about their behaviour or aggressive tendencies.

“This was a normal day and she cannot begin to explain the dog’s actions, she was very alarmed at the consequences.

“It is fair to say, in view of the training and steps she has taken, a repeat is more than unlikely.”

Magistrates told Ellis her initial denial of the injury to Mrs Highton was “outrageous”, but spared her a custodial sentence.

She was handed 100 hours unpaid work.

They issued her pet with a suspended dog order, giving it a stay of execution as long as it is neutered and muzzled and kept on a lead in public.

Chairman of the bench Tony Green added: “We have taken into account your previous good character and the dog’s previous history.

“If we had heard evidence that it had been dangerous then we would have been looking at a more serious penalty which could have looked at locking you up.

“If you break any one of the three conditions surrounding your dog then it will be seized and destroyed.”