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Children see dogs bite off mother's lip

A CHILD picked up part of her mother's lip which had been bitten off when she was allegedly attacked by three collie dogs while staying at a relatives' house, it was claimed in the High Court yesterday.

But despite the efforts of Bernadette O'Leary's 11-year-old daughter Eleanor, including keeping the three centimetres of her mother's lower lip on ice, it could not be stitched back on in the hospital.

She later underwent five operations for her injuries, which included a wound to her left arm.

She cannot smile without severe pain and is now terrified of dogs as a result of the incident, the court heard.

The alleged incident occurred when Ms O'Leary was putting out washing in the back garden of a relatives' house where she and her family were staying on June 28, 2004.

Ms O'Leary and her husband Neil yesterday, settled their High Court claim for damages against the owners of the dogs, their relatives, Mary and Jeremiah Kelleher, of Beechwood, Ballyshoneen, Waterfall, Cork, and against Michael Kelleher, also of Ballyshoneen, who had been looking after the animals while the owners were in Australia.


The O'Learys had been staying at Beechwood when the attack occurred. The settlement was without admission of liability and was not disclosed.

However, the court heard that two of the O'Learys' five children, Eleanor (11) and Conor (13), who witnessed the attack are to receive €75,000 between them for trauma and shock as part of the settlement.

The defendants denied they were negligent and said the house was only to be used for a two-day period.

They also claimed that at the time of the incident the plaintiff was a trespasser because she entered the back garden area when she had been expressly not authorised not to do so.

Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns was told yesterday the matter could be struck out with costs to the O'Learys.

Counsel for the O'Learys, of Augherea, Strokestown Road, Longford, told the court that the family were staying at the Cork house for three weeks while the Kellehers were in Australia.

Michael Kelleher was to look after the dogs which were to be confined to the back garden.

Counsel said there was an issue about how the dogs were to be dealt with, but in order to get to the washing line, Ms O'Leary had to go into the back garden.

While walking to the washing line she was surrounded by the collie dogs and despite trying to re-enter the house, she was knocked to the ground and bitten.

The dogs continued to attack her until her husband, who was also injured, intervened.

Counsel said that Eleanor picked part of her mother's lip from the kitchen floor after the attack.

It was brought to the hospital but could not be stitched back, on despite being stored in ice, the court was told.

The court was told the incident had led to an enormous rift in the family.