Killer dogs' owner will not face prosecution after mauling of schoolgirl
The owner of four dogs that savaged a 14-year-old girl to death is unlikely to be prosecuted, it has emerged, prompting calls for a change in the law.
Beverley Concannon was not at her home on Wednesday as police continued to investigate the death of Jade Anderson, who was alone there when she was attacked.
Officers had not received previous complaints about the animals – believed to be bull mastiffs and Staffordshire terriers – and the Dangerous Dogs Act does not cover attacks on private property if the owner is not deemed culpable.
Pictures of dogs on Miss Concannon’s Facebook page included an American bulldog, Staffordshire bull terrier and a bull mastiff.
The legislation is under review and as more details of Jade’s death emerged politicians and animal charities called for immediate changes.
Jade had been at a sleepover with Miss Concannon’s daughter, Kimberley, 16, the night before, friends said.
The pair had gone back to the terrace house in Atherston, Greater Manchester, at lunchtime on Tuesday and it is understood that Kimberley left Jade alone for a few minutes to warm a pie next door.
“We think the dogs were in the kitchen and Jade had gone into the kitchen and so had let them out,” said Chloe Dewett, 12, a friend of hers. “Kimberley came back to find Jade lying on the ground. She ran back next door and was banging on the door shouting, 'She’s dead, she’s dead’, and the neighbour called police.”
Officers used shields to fend off the dogs as they attended to the teenager, who was in the living room. They killed four animals and contained a fifth.
Jade’s family were too upset to speak. Janet Garretts, head teacher at Fred Longworth High School, in Tyldesley, said she had made a “real impact” since starting there last summer.
Flowers at the scene included some from her uncle with a note reading: “Dear Jade, can’t believe you’re gone. You will always be in our hearts and minds. Rest in peace, all our love Uncle John, Aunty Jo, Mollie and Amy.”
Supt Mark Kenny said that Miss Concannon had been spoken to and was cooperating. He said she was deeply upset.
Anne McIntosh, a Conservative MP, said that dog attacks on private property should “carry the full force of the law and all the criminal sanctions that would take effect if the attack happened in a public place.” She added: “We owe that to Jade’s family, at the very least.” A report by the Commons environment, food and rural affairs committee, which she chairs, said last month that the law on dangerous dogs had “comprehensively failed”.
Ministers had said they would make such a change but had yet to clarify their proposal, Miss McIntosh said. The Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 bans four breeds – pit bulls, Japanese tosa, dogo Argentino and fila Brasileiro, but its critics say that other breeds can be equally dangerous.
Jade is the sixth child to die after a dog attack on private property since 2007.
Kim Hamilton, the head of Blue Cross, an animal welfare charity, said: “Until we see a radical overhaul of the law that allows authorities to step in at the first sign of aggressive behaviour these shocking incidents will continue.”
Richard Leaman, of Guide Dogs’ for the Blind, added: “The owner of the dogs involved should be brought to justice. We have been leading the campaign to make owners responsible for their dogs.” A spokesman for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said that police and local authorities had powers to deal with irresponsible owners and dangerous dogs and that there were already plans to change the law to cover attacks on private property.