Two families left traumatized by a dog attack say Northern Ireland needs an urgent overhaul of rules and enforcement after a man and an assistance dog were seriously injured by out-of-control hunting dogs.
Cody, a two-year-old Bischon Frize mix was being exercised by couple who are professional dog boarders and walkers, when they were set upon without warning in Co Armagh.
The incident happened last March but the injured dog’s family and his carers say action by the police and the council has been slow and scant with little contact to date, and they feel they have had no justice for the distress and injured suffered.
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The owner of the lurchers “was offered a caution” from the council, in line with their dog control enforcement policy. An Environmental Health officer from the council, said: “He accepted the caution and signed it and we have requested further information in writing form him. No decision on the final outcome of this investigation will be taken until the additional information is obtained.”
In the meantime, the owner of Cody and his carers are still recovering from the trauma, both physical and emotional.
Cody’s owner, a mum of two, told DogsLive: “Cody is my youngest daughter’s assistance companion dog and he was almost ripped apart by lurchers that were out of control. Not only was he mauled, one of our professional dog carers was bitten and left with serious wounds to his leg.
“Despite his injuries, thankfully his quick actions saved Cody’s life but he’s a scared and nervous little dog now, and we as a community are afraid that we could face another attack like this. It was horrible.
“It seems to me that everyone on the receiving end of this attack has been scarred physically, emotionally or psychologically and the owner of the lurchers has basically got off with a caution.
“Our lives have changed terribly because of what happened. Our confidence is shattered, we’re spending a fortune on training for Cody to try to help him, more money on hiring enclosed dog parks to try to stay safe, and we now have to walk our two dogs separately in case they are attacked again .
“I was advised by a council officer I could take a civil case if I wanted more action but other than that the case was closed, not even an apology. And it is only after we contacted DogsLive for help, that we heard the council is now seeking further information.
“We want justice, justice for the injuries inflicted, for the pain and distress we have been through, for the physical, emotional and psychological scars.
“I want to be able to show my young daughters that when people do wrong, they face consequences. At the moment we’ve been left with nothing except distress and worry, upset and fear of it happening again.”
Cody was being walked with the other family dog Timmy, by a husband and wife, and their five-year-old daughter in late March when the incident happened in Tandragee.
The husband tried to get the dogs off Cody and was bitten on the back of the leg, while as his wife and five-year-old daughter saved the other dog from the attention of the lurchers.
The dog owner received a caution investigating under the Dog Control Enforcement Policy, Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon Council, who say they are the matter and take “all dog attacks extremely seriously”.
The wife, who witnessed the attack, said: “We are professional dog minders and walkers. We know dogs, respect them and know how to treat them and we do everything in our power to keep them safe. we had Cody and Timmy on the lead and our daughter was walking with us. Until then it has been a beautiful, peaceful say.
“But the attack seemed to come out of nowhere. There was no warning, no growling and even during the attack those dogs made no sound. It happened in a moment and it was terrifying. It has left us very traumatized and I personally feel very frightened to go back there. It was horrific and has left me feeling very angry towards anyone who thinks it’s acceptable to not be in control of their dogs.
“The attack happened on March 27 on a country road when two lurchers ran out of a field and launched into Cody. They were completely silent, no barking, no growling, just ripping at wee Cody. It all happened in a split second. They were not muzzled, not on leads and they were in no way under control.
“I managed to lift Timmy up as I saw these dogs launch while shouting for our daughter to stand right behind me.
“My husband shouted at the attacking dogs and tried to pull them off Cody, and poor Cody was squealing out in terror and pain. He was being pummeled into the ground and flung about like a rag doll .. it was just awful.
“The owner of the dogs arrived but he couldn’t get them off Cody either. Cody stopped moving and whether he played dead or he collapsed we don’t know, but the other dogs stopped for a moment and my husband managed to grab Cody away from them.”
As the couple fled to a nearby house, they managed to photograph the lurchers and their owner.
The wife said: “We were trying to run with our little daughter who was hysterical, with Timmy in my arms and my husband who was injured, had Cody. We didn’t know if he was dead or alive. I kept asking my husband if Cody was breathing but he couldn’t tell.
“We just kept running. We got to the safety of a neighbor and then my husband tried to run to our house to get the car to take Cody to the vet but he was badly injured on his leg too. One of the big dogs had bitten him on the back of the knee and left four big puncture wounds. He was in agony.
“There was a two hours waiting time at Cody’s vet so we drove to try to find a vet and on the way spotted police officers in a patrol care, and we told them what had just happened. They drove to the scene of the attack and spoke to the dog owner.
“We managed to get Cody to a vet in Lurgan and he was treated as an emergency. And it was only when he was shaved that we could see the severity of his injuries. The wee pet was a mess but he was at least alive.
“After that we got my husband to the hospital and his bite injuries were flushed and treated too and then we got back home we had to work out how to tell Cody’s owner about the attack.
“This happened almost three months ago and despite reporting it to the police and the council we feel no further on. Cody thankfully has survived but he is scarred by the whole thing, and very traumatized and we too are still feeling the effects of the attack.
“I no longer feel safe walking anywhere near my home, especially with our own dogs so I have to drive to find a place I hope will be safe.
“We are real dog lovers and we know that all dogs have the potential to be great companions. But if they are reared to attack, trained to hunt, allowed to run out of control, and not socialized properly, it is not the fault of the dog if they attack but the fault of the owner and the owner should be held responsible.
“My husband and I abide by the rules, we chip and license our dogs, we are insured for our business, we are careful and responsible with other people’s dogs and we would expect that if we broke the rules that we would be penalised.
“What I want to know is what penalty do irresponsible dog owners actually face in Northern Ireland. It’s almost three months since the attack and it seems that very little has been done.
“We should not have to speak to the media to force an issue like this. Every council in Northern Ireland should be dealing with these incidents in the right way, in a uniform and effective way. The community should be able to feel safe from attacks from out of control hunting dogs run by irresponsible owners.”
The owner of little Cody also backed the call for action.
She said: “We trusted our dog minders and we still trust them. They did their absolute best in terrible circumstances and I’m so sorry they’ve been through this while our dogs were in their care.
“We all need answers and action. Two out of control dogs attacked my dog and ripped him up, and during that incident his carer was bitten and seriously injured, his wife and child left terrified yet we’ve had no contact from the police and nothing from the council until we started calling for action.
“The man who owns the dogs who attacked Cody paid the vet bill which is the least he could. But we have been left traumatized.
“Cody was bought for my young daughter as her assistance companion dog and she is just devastated that he has been so seriously injured. It’s very difficult for her to understand he is safe with us.
“I had to take three weeks off work without paying to look after Cody while he was recovering, and look after my daughter who was deeply distressed. Now I’m paying for specialist training to try to help Cody regain his confidence so that he is able to go for walks again and not be reactive to other dogs. So our family has been physically, emotionally and financially damaged by what happened. And our dog carers have been left deeply scarred too.
“Northern Ireland needs to get the legislation around the care of and responsibility for dogs and their behavior straight. The people who follow the rules seem to be the ones suffering and the ones who break the rules don’t appear to have to face many consequences.”
A spokesperson for the PSNI, said: “Police received a report of an incident which occurred at the Madden Road area of Tandragee on Sunday 27th March. The matter was referred through to the local council dog warden.”
A spokesperson for Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon Council, said: “The council takes all dog attacks extremely seriously. This case is part of an ongoing investigation under the Dogs (NI) Order 1983 and we cannot comment any further at this stage.”
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