Indifference to rules on dangerous dogs an ‘absolute disgrace’

Judge says people think ‘their dog is an exception to the rule’ as boy awarded €25,000

An eight-year-old boy who was bitten by his neighbour’s German Shepherd dog has been awarded €25,000 damages at the Circuit Civil Court. Image: Getty.

An eight-year-old boy who was bitten by his neighbour’s German Shepherd dog has been awarded €25,000 damages at the Circuit Civil Court. Image: Getty.

 

A judge has criticised the State, local authorities and dog wardens for their indifference to dangerous dogs being allowed to roam around without leads and muzzles in public.

Circuit Court President Mr Justice Raymond Groarke set aside a date to address the future of a German Shepherd which, he was told, had already attacked people twice.

Judge Groarke branded the failure of the authorities to act as “an absolute disgrace.”

Barrister John Nolan told the Circuit Civil Court that when Milo O’Brien (8) knocked on a neighbour’s door in August 2015 to inquire if they had seen his missing dog he was attacked and bitten by their German Shepherd.

Mr Nolan, representing the boy who is now 10, and his mother Anne O’Brien, said Milo was 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. He still had to live with the knowledge that the dog was still next door.

Insurance policy

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. He asked that the court approve the offer.

Mr Nolan said a clause in the 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 put at €25,000.

Mr Nolan said Milo had been left with two small scars after the incident.

Mrs O’Brien told the court the attack had been reported to the authorities, which had also been told the same dog was involved in a previous attack.

‘Untold harm’

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.

“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.

Approving the €25,000 settlement for 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.