Attack sparks calls for tougher dog controls

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The husband of a Glengormley woman who was seriously injured in a dog attack last week has said Newtownabbey Borough Council must look again at its policy of allowing dogs to run free in local parks.

Brian Patterson’s wife, Liz, is still undergoing treatment at the Royal Victoria Hospital for the injuries she sustained in the attack on council-owned parkland at Burney’s Lane in Glengormley on Thursday afternoon (September 5).

The 70-year-old had been out walking her terrier dog, Mr Maxx when he was attacked by a Staffordshire bull terrier-type dog, which wasn’t on a lead.

Mrs Patterson tried to lift her beloved pet out of harm’s way, but ended up being attacked herself. She suffered two fractures to her leg and a broken ankle, as well as serious puncture wounds.

Mr Maxx was treated at a nearby vets for puncture wounds, but escaped more serious injury thanks to his owner’s bravery.

Speaking to the Times on Tuesday, Mr Patterson said that his wife was still awaiting an operation on her broken leg.

“Her leg is broken in two places and her ankle’s also broken. They’re looking after her very well, but there’s just such a backlog of work at the hospital that she’s had to wait to get the operation.”

Mr Patterson said that while he and his wife are dog lovers, they feel that the council needs to look again at its policy of allowing dogs to run free in parks and other public places.

“I don’t want to deny anyone their freedom or deny dogs their freedom, but if people insist on keeping dogs like this then unfortunately we will have to have some sort of legislation to stop them running loose.

“If it had been a child who was attacked the child could have been killed - you just cannot have these sorts of dogs running around loose.”

Earlier this year councillors voted against parts of a proposed Dogs on Leads Order, which could have led to a ban on dogs being allowed to run off-lead in some council parks and other open spaces. The debate on the matter split the council chamber, with those wanting tougher dog controls losing the argument. However, following the attack on Mrs Patterson, it looks like some councillors will be pushing for the local authority to reconsider its policy.

Indeed, Mr Patterson’s call for the council to rethink its dog control legislation has been echoed by UUP councillors Mark Cosgrove and John Scott.

Passing on his best wishes to Mrs Patterson, who he has known for 40 years, Councillor Cosgrove said: “This has resulted in serious and potentially life-changing injuries and my thoughts and those of the entire community go out to her. An inevitable result of what has happened is that there will have to be a review of the ‘Dogs on Leads’ legislation. Given the severity of the injuries to Mrs Patterson one can only begin to imagine the horror if a similar attack was visited upon a child.”

Councillor Scott, who is a dog owner but was one of those who voted for dogs to be kept on leads in parks, added: “I have every sympathy for the woman who was attacked and I hope that she and her wee dog make a full recovery.

“Certain councillors gave dogs the freedom to roam off the lead on council property. Myself and others voted against that, but certain other councillors went against us.

“I believe that all dogs on council property should be kept on a lead.

“I hope that those who voted for dogs off leads reflect on this and I think the council needs to look at this issue again.”

A council spokesperson confirmed that staff made contact with Mrs Patterson’s family within an hour of receiving the report of the attack on September 6.

At the time of going to print on Tuesday, the council’s dog warden still hadn’t been able to interview Mrs Patterson about the attack due to her ongoing hospital treatment. However, the council has confirmed that its dog warden service has traced the ‘Staffy cross’ dog involved in the attack and taken a statement from the person who was responsible for it at the time.

It’s understood the council’s dog warden has also interviewed the owner of the Staffordshire bull terrier, who has disputed the claim that her dog attacked Mrs Patterson.

“Our thoughts are very much with the injured lady and appreciate the distress that this incident has caused her and her family. The council is continuing to investigate the attack and once more information has been obtained the council will take appropriate action,” the spokesperson said.

At their planning and consultation committee meeting on Monday evening, councillors passed on their best wishes to Mrs Patterson and wished her a speedy recovery.

Cllr Cosgrove asked why the police aren’t treating the incident as an assault given the severity of her injuries. He was informed by chief executive Jacqui Dixon that council officers have liaised with the police on the matter but that the council is responsible for investigating such incidents and pursuing prosecutions.