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Owner of dog who killed admits cruelty

A DOG owner whose pet mauled a woman to death admitted today that he kept his animal in a cage more than six inches shorter than the dog.

Barbara Williams, 52, suffered a severe haemorrhage to her head and neck when she was attacked by the Neapolitan mastiff at her home just before last Christmas.

Alex Blackburn-Smith pleaded guilty at Croydon Magistrates' Court to failing to ensure the dog's welfare, as well as being in possession of a banned pitbull terrier.

The 35-year-old, from south London, was originally due to go on trial today, but changed his pleas to guilty.

Nicola Wood, prosecuting, said: "These offences have arisen out of an incident that happened on December 23 last year in which a woman called Barbara Williams died."

She said that Blackburn-Smith's pet, called Debo, attacked Miss Williams when she was lodging at his former home in Demesne Road, Wallington, south London.

"He (Debo) attacked her, and her injuries were fatal to her," she said.

"In relation to her death, the circumstances in which the Neapolitan Mastiff was kept has led, the Crown say, in part, to the incident in which she was attacked by the dog.

"He was being kept in a cage too small for him.

"In relation to the cage, Debo was 124.5cm (49in) long, and the cage was 106cm (42in) long.

"The dog was 18cm (7in) longer than the cage in which he was being kept."

In addition, the prosecutor said, the dog measured 70cm (27.5in) tall, from the ground to his shoulders, and his cage was 80cm (31.5in) high.

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"This would mean that Debo would have to keep his head continually hunched over, which would be a very uncomfortable position for the dog to be in," Ms Wood said.

The dog was shot dead by police marksmen after the savage attack, and another dog, a pitbull puppy called Ruby, was removed from the property.

Blackburn-Smith was charged with breaching the Dangerous Dogs Act for the possession of a fighting dog, the pitbull.

He was originally charged with failing to ensure the puppy's welfare also, but Ms Wood told the court the Crown was offering no evidence on that charge today.

The case was adjourned for pre-sentence reports, but magistrate Brij Kalia warned Blackburn-Smith he could face a custodial sentence.

He also banned the defendant from owning any animal, or having anything to do with keeping or transporting animals.

The magistrate also ordered the pitbull to be put down.

Blackburn-Smith will be sentenced on January 3 next year.

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