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Former Scotland star Kevin Gallacher accused over pub dog attack

Former Scotland international Kevin Gallacher "took his eye off the ball" as his golden retriever bit a seven-year-old girl on the head in a pub beer garden, a court has heard.

The former Blackburn Rovers forward is said to have let the youngster stroke his dog, Baxter, unsupervised as he turned to chat to a friend at a picnic table.

The girl needed hospital treatment for lacerations to her face and scalp after she said she was bitten "three, four times", Blackburn Magistrates' Court heard.

Gallacher, 48, denies owning a dog which was dangerously out of control at The Bonny Inn in Clayton le Dale, Blackburn, on September 28 last year.

Opening the case, prosecutor Andrea Fawcett said: "The Crown's case is that this was an omission on the part of Mr Gallacher. An omission in that he has failed to supervise the contact between (the girl) and Baxter.

"Mr Gallacher, by his own admission, is an experienced dog owner and as such must have known that any animal is never entirely predictable, and if you own a dog, from a Yorkie to a pitbull, you must have some duty of care for anyone who comes into contact with your animal.

"The prosecution further say that this incident took place in a busy beer garden. It is an environment which, it is fair to say, where there were unsupervised young children playing around and certainly at least one other dog in that area."

She said the defendant consented to the girl's request to stroke his dog.

She went on: "The prosecution say that should have rang alarm bells and that contact between (the girl) and Baxter, however long it took, should have been supervised by the owner of the dog, Mr Gallacher.

"The prosecution case is that is not what happened and, in effect, he has resumed his conversation with a friend who he was talking to at the time, and he has taken his eye off the ball.

"It is clear that he did not actually see what happened. The Crown's case, in a nutshell, is that he should have done."

When interviewed by police, the girl said: "I asked the man if I could stroke him (the dog). He said yes. I stroked him and he just turned on me.

"He just bit me. Bit me really hard, he bit me three, four times."

She said the dog was on a lead and sat down, but said the man was not holding it as it was tied to the bench where he sat.

Giving evidence, the girl agreed with Gallacher's solicitor Kathryn Jamieson-Sinclair that she may have frightened Baxter when she went to continue stroking him under the table bench.

The court heard that a family friend carried the injured girl into the pub where her parents were.

In a statement, the girl's mother recalled telling Gallacher in the pub: "You want to get that dog under control with a muzzle."

Gallacher, of Ribchester Road, Clayton le Dale, who also played for Dundee United, Coventry City and Newcastle United, faces a two-day trial.

Giving evidence in his defence, Gallacher said he believed he had control of eight-year-old Baxter, who he had owned since he was a puppy.

He said he held the dog's collar and lead when the girl patted his dog at his side before Baxter laid underneath the bench.

Gallacher said he turned from his astride position at the picnic table to face his friend, with his feet touching the dog.

He then heard "a yelp" from underneath the table which he compared to a sound if he stepped on the dog's tail.

He looked down and Baxter was sat "placid as if nothing had happened" and the girl was in a squat position.

He told the court: "There was no crying, which I thought strange. I asked her three times if she was okay.

"As I moved her hair away, I noticed a cut to her head."

Ms Jamieson-Sinclair asked him: "Do you believe you had control of your dog?"

He replied: "I believe I had control of my dog."

The solicitor continued: "Do you believe Baxter was doing anything untoward?"

Gallacher said: "No, I don't believe he has done anything untoward."

Ms Jamieson-Sinclair said: "Did you feel in any way concerned that day at any point over his behaviour?"

The defendant said: "I had no reason to feel concerned. I had more reason to feel concerned for the child because I didn't know what happened."

Gallacher said Baxter was a "good-natured dog" with no previous problems who regularly played with his two daughters.

He told police that Baxter's actions may have caused the injuries but not his nature.

The court heard that Baxter was the third golden retriever that he and his wife, Aileen, had owned and the dog had been trained through The Kennel Club.

He said Baxter had been to The Bonny Inn pub "a few times" without incident.

He said: "I always keep him in close proximity.

"Even though he is tied I am stroking him."


Gallacher agreed with the prosecutor that he did not think to ask the girl to be careful before she stroked Baxter.

But he said the girl "stepped back" to the corner of the bench after the initial stroke.

He said: "I believe the child should have come back to me and asked if she could stroke him again. That is what I have always been told by my parents."

He disagreed that the whole incident happened "in a matter of seconds" and was instead "nearer to 30 seconds plus".

He said when he turned to face his friend the girl was "nowhere within touching distance of the dog".

Earlier, two doctors who treated the girl told the court the injuries were consistent with a dog bite but they could not "conclusively" say that was the cause of the injuries.

Ms Fawcett asked Gallacher: "Are you personally suggesting that Baxter did not bite (the girl)?"

He replied: "I am not personally suggesting Baxter did not bite her. I have a belief that he did not."

The prosecutor said: "Are you saying she is mistaken how she got injured?"

Gallacher said: "I don't know how she got the injuries."

He denied taking "zero notice" of the girl while she was with his dog.

The court has heard there were no witnesses to the alleged dog bite other than the girl.

The trial continues tomorrow.


From Belfast Telegraph