(Updated 01/02/01)

Akita attack victim gets justice - eventually

by Nick Mays

THE VICTIM of a savage attack by a Japanese Akita has called for greater awareness of the need to train and control powerful breeds after he saw the dog’s owner found guilty of allowing his dog to be dangerously out of control.

Chris Duffy pointed out that he was a dog lover and had no desire to see any dog destroyed under the draconian Dangerous Dogs Act legislation, but had no choice but to press charges against the Akita’s owner after the unprovoked attack left him needing 17 stitches.

On August 7th last year, around 8.30pm, when Mr Duffy, 37 was out walking his dogs with his wife Gaynor 33, two children, Simon aged 8 and Scott, aged 12 and their nephew aged 15, on Castle Hawk Golf Club. The two dogs, Ben, a black Labrador/German shepherd cross aged 2 and Angus, a 12 week old West Highland White Terrier were running free, but under control and in no way unruly.

The group heard the sound of a rifle and realised that someone must be shooting nearby.

Mr Duffy details what happened next, “Whilst walking our two children, who were ahead of us, shouted to us to warn us of a man coming towards us. We therefore put both our dogs on leads. From out of the undergrowth from a railway cutting, we saw a Japanese Akita, which was stalking our two children. We called out to them to stand still. Angus, the Westie, then began to bark, the Akita turned its attention to my wife who was holding Angus in her arms. I then shouted to the Akita’s owner to get hold of his dog. It then turned its attention to Ben who was sat at my side. For no apparent reason the Akita attacked Ben clamping its jaws around his head. I tried to pull the dog off by the scruff. It subsequently sank its teeth into my left forearm. At this point I punched the dog about its head. It let go only to spin around behind me and attack again, in what I can only assume to be an attempt at my throat. I turned to put my right shoulder up in defence to which it then sank its teeth into my right upper arm causing a massive injury.”
Whilst the attack was over in a matter of minutes, the owner of the Akita made no attempt whatsoever to restrain his dog. It was only when his dog released Mr Duffy and attempted to savage Ben, who at this point was running with his lead round his legs away from Mr Duffy and towards the Akita’s owner that the Akita’s owner got hold of his dog.

Despite being in terrible pain, Mr Duffy accosted the Akita’s owner and demanded his name and address, but gave Mr Duffy false details.

Following the attack, Mr Duffy went to hospital where he received a total of 17 stitches to various wounds.
“I reported the incident to the combined Police of Rochdale, Heywood & Middleton on the morning of the 8th August, due to not getting home until the early hours from the hospital,” said Mr Duffy. “That same morning at approximately 11am, PC Bennett attended at my home and took details of the incident. I gave him the details that the Akita’s owner had told me, at this point we discovered them to be false. I informed the Police that this man wore a uniform associated with “Wincanton Logistics” a warehouse company based in Middleton. PC Bennett’s first line of enquiry was to investigate at Wincanton to see if he could discover a name for this man, which he failed to do so.”

Golf course

Mr Duffy was naturally concerned at this, feeling that there was an irresponsible owner with a dangerous dog at large. “After all, it could have attacked my children instead of me and the dogs,” adds Mr Duffy. “It could attack someone else, and its owner would make no attempt to stop it.”

On the evening of the same day, 8th August, Mr Duffy’s eldest son Scott was on the same stretch of golf course and came home to tell his parents that he had seen the same man shooting rabbits, but without his dog. Mr Duffy immediately telephoned the Police and passed on this information in an attempt to ascertain who this man was. He was informed by the central control room operator that there was no patrol in the area at that time and therefore they were unable to help.

Naturally, Mr Duffy felt totally dismayed at this response and set about trying to trace the dog’s owner himself. A few days later, in frustration he contacted the Greater Manchester Police via their web site and sent an e-mail outlining his frustrations.

“We then contacted the local newspaper group in an attempt to try to discover the name/address of the Akita’s owner, purely in an attempt to help the Police identify this man,” continues Mr Duffy. “Following this article a lady called to our home relaying a similar story about her grandson being bitten by a dog of the same description in the local park. Unfortunately she did not know the name of the dog’s owner, as in this incident it was being exercised by a woman, she did however inform us that he was a local man who owned the dog and gave us his approximate area of where he lived. This lady also informed us that she had been fighting for nearly 18 months to try to ascertain a conviction but to no avail, as the Police informed her that they were unable to assist in her case, even though they knew the identity of the owner and his whereabouts.

“A few days later I received a telephone call from a Superintendent Paul McIver who is in charge of the telecommunications at Clayton Brook, Manchester. He agreed that my call was not dealt with efficiently and was extremely apologetic.

“Following my complaint PC Bennett then called to my house with his Sergeant to apologise for the delay in responding (this was approximately 10 days after the initial reporting of the incident). He then went on to inform us that he had drawn a blank and was unable to trace the owner of the dog which attacked me. My wife and I then informed the Police that due to our own persistence and enquiries, we had been able to locate the owner, his address and the actual name of the dog, together with details of a previous attack.”
The Police then informed Mr and Mrs Duffy that they would check out the information and would visit the man to discover his version of events and if true that they would ask that he hand the dog over to them. They added that if he refused to do so, then a Court Order could be applied for and they could then seize the dog.

The dog’s owner was identified as Scott Gray, 30, a nightclub bouncer who, it transpired, was ‘known’ to the police. However, what happened next caused Mr Duffy to express total incredulity at the emphasis of the law and how it is interpreted.

Self defence

“Our information was correct but we heard nothing from the Police. Two days later I contacted Sergeant Sherlock of the Middleton Police Station, who informed me that officers had indeed visited a Mr Gray at the address we had given and that he had admitted that his dog had bitten a man on the Golf Course. However, he had claimed that I had attacked his dog and that it had bitten me in self defence. He had reported the matter to the Police on the very same evening on the 7th August. When asked at what the situation would be regarding the dog, Sergeant Sherlock informed me that the Police were extremely reluctant to seize the dog as in his view public funding was better spent elsewhere as the cost of kennelling the dog would be £5 per day until any Trial outcome. The dog - which let us remember was dangerous - was left in situ approximately a quarter of a mile from our home from August until the present time.

“My wife made the comment that she was a witness to the attack and why had the Police not taken a statement from her, or my nephew aged 15. I contacted PC Bennett to ask this question and he informed me that the CPS would be in touch should they need further evidence.”

Approximately two weeks later P C Bennett contacted Mrs Duffy and called to take a statement from her. This was now nearly three months after the event. When asked if she remembered the incident, Mrs Duffy replied “It was like yesterday.” She then gave her version in a very detailed statement to PC Bennett. He informed her that a statement would not be required from her nephew.

Scott Gray was duly charged under Section 3 of the 1991 Dangerous Dogs Act for allowing his dog to be dangerously out of control in a public place.

The case was eventually heard at Rochdale Magistrates’ Court on January 5th 2001. Mr Gray pleaded not guilty to Section 3(a) of the Dangerous Dogs Act, as this is defined as being an aggravated offence. Whilst at Court the Solicitor for the CPS asked PC Bennett how he had traced Mr Gray and why it had taken 10 days from the incident to establish who he was. PC Bennett informed the court that he checked the dog bite register and discovered that Mr Gray’s dog had indeed bitten a 14 year old boy in a Heywood Park. The long delay in time was apparently due to shift changes and holidays.

Mr Duffy continues: “Whilst in Court and in my evidence, I informed the bench that the Akita was a specialised breed of dog and the recommendation of the Japanese Akita Association is that they NEVER be let off a lead in a public place. Also, they would recommend that Akitas be muzzled when not in their own surroundings. Mr Gray was unaware of these facts. The Japanese Akita Association do not recommended the breed as a first time dog, another point Mr Gary did not know.”

Mr Duffy also told the court that he had been off work for a week with his injuries and that he and his wife had suffered nightmares about the incident. Mrs Duffy was so upset that she had taken their own dogs to dog training classes to reintroduce herself to other dogs. Initially, attending the classes and seeing the other dogs had caused her great distress, although she was getting better.

Gray told the court that he had bought the Akita as a puppy five years previously and that it had grown up with his children and was not aggressive. He was unable to answer on the official complaint he made that Mr Duffy had attacked his dog, as the evidence did not tally with his statement.

The magistrates duly found Gray guilty and fined him £500 for not being in control of his dog in a public place, with the added fact that this was an aggravated offence. He was also ordered to pay £118.00 costs and £200 compensation to Mr Duffy.

The magistrates also ordered that the dog be destroyed. Gray had 21 days to appeal against the Court’s decision which ended on the 26th January.

Mr Duffy added: “ I was satisfied with the court’s verdict. As I’ve said, I am a dog lover, but I am also a responsible dog owner and would not dream of allowing my dogs to attack other dogs or people. I take no pleasure in seeing a dog destroyed, but it is obvious that Mr Gray cannot control his dog. As of yet I have not been informed of whether or not has been destroyed or whether an appeal has been mounted, so once again I feel that it will be up to me to discover the outcome of the matter and once again contact the police to chase things up.

“We hear a lot these days about spiralling crime rates, and how the police rely on the help and vigilance of the public. I provided as much information as I could to the police in this case, and they initially failed to act upon it, even when Mr Gray was known to be out shooting and could have been questioned. It was only after my own investigations and my pushing for action at the highest level that anything was done. What’s more, it is obvious that the police officers involved in the case did not understand the workings of the Dangerous Dogs Act.

“That said, I’m relieved that it was me who was bitten by the dog and not one of my children, or the situation could have been a lot worse and I must be grateful for that.”


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