Burnley’danger’ dog escapes death sentence

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A “DANGEROUS” rottweiler, facing the death sentence after attacking three people in Burnley, has been spared – and her future is now in her owner’s hands.

Tia, a four-year-old bitch, had left two pensioners petrified and injured in two separate incidents near her home and owner Sara Hourihan was warned by police after the second attack.

The dog, which had been pregnant, had a litter of puppies on or about the day she struck a third time, Burnley Crown Court heard.

The rottweiler was said to have escaped and been running free with a male bull mastiff, then also in the charge of mother-of-four Hourihan.

The bull mastiff, left with Hourihan when his owner took his life, was later re-homed after “the inevitable” happened and the dog and Tia mated.

Burnley magistrates had ordered that Tia be put down after Hourihan (30) was earlier convicted of three counts of having a dog dangerously out of control in a public place, and injury being caused.

But Hourihan fought to save her, enlisted a top dog behaviourist, and won a suspended destruction order at an appeal hearing.

Hourihan, who lives in Barden Lane, and whose daughters are aged between five and 13, has five conditions to obey to keep her family pet.

If she complies with them, the destruction order will not be activated.

Judge Simon Newell said the fact Tia was pregnant at the time was a very important fact as the appellant had had her for three years before, without any problems, and there had been no trouble in the eight months since.

He said when Tia had been behaving, she had been the only dog at the Hourihan home, and had not been pregnant or just had puppies.

The judge, sitting with two justices, said: “We have come to the conclusion, after much thought, that we are not going to order the immediate destruction of this dog, but we are concerned about members of the public in this area.”

He told Hourihan her home must be secure at all times so the animal cannot escape, the dog must be kept muzzled and on a lead in public at all times, and the appellant must not keep any other dogs or allow any other dogs on her premises.

Finally, Hourihan must make arrangements for Tia to be spayed and prove written evidence from a vet to that effect by February 25th.

Judge Newell added he hoped a local beat officer in the Barden Lane area would be informed of the order, and members of the community were aware of it “so this order is, in effect, policed by the community”.

Hourihan had been given a community order with 12 months’ supervision by the lower court, but appealed only against the destruction order.

David Bentley, for the Crown, said last February 7th, a pensioner was walking in the Barden Lane area, when two dogs ran at her.

She froze and they circled her, snarling and foaming at the mouth. The victim was bitten on her elbow and thigh.

On May 23rd, an 82-year-old woman was walking her Corgi/Jack Russell, when two large dogs ran towards her pet.

She pulled her dog in close and was screaming for help. The rottweiler jumped up and put her paws on the victim’s chest. The dogs eventually ran off, leaving the woman with a bleeding leg.

Mr Bentley said on June 14th, Imran Sarwar (32) was bitten by both dogs and leapt over a 3ft fence to get away. He went to Hourihan’s home and told her he had been attacked.

All three victims needed medical treatment.

Dr David Sands, an animal behaviourist, said he had assessed Tia at her home and a nearby grassed area.

He told the hearing: “This dog did not respond aggressively in any way to these standard tests.”

He gave Hourihan a series of recommendations over handling the dog, which had owner attachment issues.