Lifelong scarring likely from dog attack

A woman faces likely lifelong scarring and a seven-year-old boy is missing his “best bud” after a vicious dog attack in Sydenham.

American Bulldog Chase was a family pet at a Barrington Street house when he jumped the fence and tore into the legs of the woman who lived next door, while she was in her front yard.

The woman needed 20 stitches, and some of her wounds needed glued back together. She was in hospital for five days and on ACC for eight weeks.

She is now consulting a specialist about reconstructive surgery and may need skin grafts. However, the medical advice is that she would be best to try to live with the scarring.

The woman works as a rehabilitation assistant for people with brain injuries and she is now self-conscious about getting into the pools with the people she works with, the Christchurch District Court was told today at the sentencing of the dog’s owner.

Shaun Leonard Dennis, 39, had earlier admitted a charge of being the owner of a dog that caused serious injury.

Judge David Ruth was told that the dog had been a family pet. Defence counsel Olivia Jarvis said Dennis had trusted the animal with his seven year old son. The attack on May 1, 2017, was out of character.

Dennis pulled the dog away after the attack and threw it back over the fence. The dog then jumped across again – using gym equipment placed near the fence – and Dennis put it back a second time. He helped the victim.

Dennis took Chase to the veterinary surgery to be euthanised four days after the attack.

The victim of the attack had not wanted to meet Dennis at a restorative justice conference, but Miss Jarvis passed on his apologies in the court. She said he was very sorry about the trauma and suffering caused by the dog, and the stress suffered.

He had also written a letter of apology that had been given to her. Miss Jarvis also noted a letter from Dennis’s son, who wrote that he was very sorry that his “best bud” had caused pain to somebody. He wrote that he was finding it hard to move on in his life without his best bud.

Dennis had outstanding fines payable to the Christchurch City Council totalling $635 for dog control matters. Chase was not registered at the time of the attack. Also, in 2009 Dennis got a year’s home detention for his involvement in an organised drugs ring that was buying methamphetamine in Auckland and transporting it south to sell to Christchurch drug users.

The court was told he no longer had a dog.

Judge Ruth quoted from a High Court decision by Justice David Gendall that said people might own threatening dogs for “status or simply statement” but it was crucial to protect the public, and there was a high obligation on the owners.

Judge Ruth imposed 220 hours of community work on Dennis, and accepted a submission from Christchurch City Council prosecutor Heather McKenzie that an offer of $1500 for emotional harm to the victim was not high enough.

He noted that Dennis – an ACC beneficiary himself – had already saved that amount and ordered that it be paid within 14 days. But he also ordered that another $2000 be paid to the victim in $50 weekly instalments.

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