Danger dog owners jailed after child attacked

A COUPLE have been jailed after their Staffordshire Bull Terrier savaged a four-year-old boy’s face.

dangerous dogs, Robert Cowan, Peta Brannigan

A COUPLE have been jailed after their Staffordshire Bull Terrier savaged a four-year-old boy’s face.

The dog escaped while its owners were out drinking and bit a chunk out of little Adam King before turning on his dad as he tried to protect him.

Now Peta Brannigan and Robert Cowan have been sent to prison for three months each by a judge who said he wanted to pass a “deterrent sentence” as a warning to others.

Newcastle Crown Court heard Adam has been left with horrific facial scarring after the bull terrier tore part of his cheek off.

Judge John Evans told them: “Young Adam was attacked, savaged, he is left with appalling facial scarring and responsibility for that lies with each of you. Custody has nothing to do with rehabilitation in this case, it is about reflecting the public concern of the failure to keep dogs of this kind under control. This is a pure deterrent sentence. The purpose of imposing custodial sentences today is to make clear to the public that those people who are inclined to have dogs of this kind are under a heavy burden to ensure they look after them and look after them properly, that does not mean abandoning them overnight. The public have to understand if they choose to have dogs of that kind and behave in that way and fail to look after them as dogs require, there will be consequences.”

The dog had been left in a dilapidated pen with another dog while Brannigan and Cowan went out drinking. Both animals got out and the Staffordshire Bull Terrier pounced on Adam then attacked his father, Brendan, when he intervened.

The out-of-control animal tried to continue the attack even after Mr King managed to get his son inside their house to safety. Mr King’s shoe was shredded and his foot was wounded from where the dog had bitten him.

When the attack happened on June 29 both animals had been left in the outdoor pen for more than 24 hours. The pair, of Clydesdale, Hetton-le-Hole, Sunderland, admitted being the owner of a dog which was dangerously out of control in a public place. Both were jailed for three months yesterday. The dog has been destroyed.

The court heard Mr King had been outside his home with Adam, and his 10-year-old child, when the dogs approached. When the bull terrier nudged Adam the youngster became frightened and started to cry.

Prosecutor Simon Worthy told the court: “At that point the dog responded aggressively and began to bite Mr King. He picked Adam up as he feared for the safety of his son and the dog jumped up and bit Adam to the face, tearing a large part of his cheek from his face. Mr King began to kick out at the dog to try and force it away from himself and his son.

“Neighbours came to the assistance of Mr King, who at that point managed to run back into his home. He was pursued by the dog which was still attempting to bite him and attack further.”

Tom Moran, defending Brannigan, said the care home worker, who also looks after her disabled mother, has never been in trouble before and is at a loss to understand why the dogs behaved in such a vicious way that day.

Brannigan had bought the bull terrier for Cowan as a gift because he had a “genuine interest” in the breed. Julian Smith, for Cowan, who has no previous convictions, said he will be haunted and punished by the consequences of what his pet did.

Journalists

David Whetstone
Culture Editor
Graeme Whitfield
Business Editor
Mark Douglas
Newcastle United Editor
Stuart Rayner
Sports Writer