Monday 22 May 2017

'Absolute disgrace' - Judge hits out at 'lack of action' regarding German Shepherd who has attacked two people

Anne O Brien and her son Milo (10yrs) of Knocknagin Road, Knocknagin, Co. Dublin pictured leaving the Four Courts today after the Circuit Civil Court approved a settlement offer of €25,000 damages for Milo. Pic: Collins
Anne O Brien and her son Milo (10yrs) of Knocknagin Road, Knocknagin, Co. Dublin pictured leaving the Four Courts today after the Circuit Civil Court approved a settlement offer of €25,000 damages for Milo. Pic: Collins

Ray Managh

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 un-muzzled by their owners 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, which, he was told, has already attacked twice.

After hearing that the authorities have still done nothing about a dog known to have bitten twice, including injuring an eight-year-old schoolboy, Judge Groarke branded their failure to act as "an absolute disgrace."

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

Mr Nolan, who appeared with Tracey Solicitors 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 Road, 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 that attacked him was still living next door.

Mr Nolan said Alliance Assurance, with whom Mr Collier had an insurance policy which 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," Mr Nolan said and asked that the court 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 that 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 which it found to be valued at €25,000. 

A medical report revealed evidence of teeth marks on the boys 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.

When Mr Nolan said that the dog involved in the attack was still living at the Collier homestead, which Milo had to pass regularly, Mrs O’Brien told the court the attack, in August 2015, had been reported to the authorities which had also been told that the same dog had been involved in a previous attack.

Judge Groarke asked what more effective control could one have than to have their dog behind the front door.

"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," Judge Groarke said.

He said that on his way to court this Wednesday morning he saw a dog, clearly a wonderful pet but clearly capable of committing untold harm to someone, and neither on a lead or muzzled.

"There is no real enforcement by the State, dog wardens or local authorities regarding the running free of these animals," Judge Groarke said.

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

Mr Nolan told Judge 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 to Milo, Judge Groarke said he would hold on to the matter and put it in for mention in two weeks time.

"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," Judge Groarke said.

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