A woman whose massive Akita dog attacked a teenager, her mum and an 86-year-old war veteran was yesterday warned if she didn't have the animal put down she will go to jail.
Imposing a four-month prison sentence, but suspending it for three years, District Judge Mark Hamill told Helen Blackwood (44) "the whole basis of the suspended sentence is the dog being destroyed".
"Mention this case again next Monday and I want confirmation that the dog has been destroyed," said the judge. And he warned Blackwood: "If I find it hasn't been destroyed I will bring you back and send you to prison for eight months."
Describing it as "one of the worst dog attack cases I have come across", Mr Hamill added while he should be rewarding £3,000 compensation for each victim, "she is a woman of straw... but there will be civil ramifications, I would have thought".
At an earlier hearing Blackwood, from Quarter Road in Cloughey, Co Down, admitted three charges relating to her dog: attacking a person, allowing the dog to stray, and keeping it without a licence - all committed on April 15 last year.
A prosecuting lawyer told Newtownards Magistrates Court how a 15-year-old girl was attacked while out for a walk with her mum. The animal bit her arm and then bit her mum when she intervened and "managed to wrestle the dog" off her.
The terrified victims fled to the nearest house. A short time later the dog attacked a Korean War veteran.
The lawyer said a passer-by tried to shout a warning to the pensioner, but because he was "rather short of hearing" he didn't heed it and the dog knocked him to the ground and it "went for his throat", inflicting bite marks and bruising to the elderly man's chin and chest area.
He said despite fighting in a war, the veteran said the dog attack "was the most frightening experience of his life".
"He still gets flashbacks of the dog on top of him, drooling... he really thought it was going to rip his throat out and kill him," said the lawyer.
The court heard some passers-by were reluctant to help "because of the size of the dog" but eventually a "Good Samaritan" grabbed it by the collar and managed to drag it off the pensioner, while a district nurse who came across the scene gave him first aid.
Enquiries and investigations led Ards and North Down Council to Blackwood, who claimed "she would get the dog put down". But the court heard, coming up to 12 months after the attack, Blackwood still has the Akita "chained up at her property".
While the PPS lawyer said he was applying for a destruction order, defence counsel Conan Rea revealed Blackwood had an appointment with a vet yesterday to have the dog destroyed. The lawyer said he was also applying for Blackwood to be disqualified from owning or keeping a dog.
Mr Rea confirmed there was no insurance policy covering the dog, which had originally belonged to her brother, submitting that she had not been able to have it put to sleep due to the pandemic.
Describing the Akita as a "monster of a dog", Mr Hamill said he was "appalled that this dog is still alive", and the fact it was not licensed was "the icing on the cake".
In addition to the suspended prison sentence, Blackwood was fined £100 and ordered to pay £296 court costs.