A PET owner whose Jack Russell was mauled to death by a dog with a history of aggression yesterday criticised the Dogs Trust, the canine charity which re-homed it, writes Nick Mays.
Teresa Dronfield watched in horror as her four-year-old terrier Snooker was "tossed into the air" by the dog – described as a Lurcher - called Faye during an early morning walk.
The Lurcher was put down following the attack in the village of Bishop’s Itchington, Warwickshire, which followed similar incidents in previous years.
But Mrs Dronfield said she remained angry staff at the Dogs Trust re-homing centre in nearby Kenilworth had assigned the Lurcher a new owner in 2000, even though it was known to react violently to other dogs.
The 37-year-old marketing manager was making a daily trip with Snooker and her other dog to tend to her daughter’s pony on Tuesday morning last week when she spotted the other dog with a man, who was understood to be caring for it on behalf of the owner.
"It just broke free of the lead, ran towards her and then tossed her into the air and just tore her to bits," Mrs Dronfield said.
"She was killed on the spot, it was so awful." Mrs Dronfield continued: "What was the trust doing re-homing a dog like that?"
In a statement, the Dogs Trust said it was saddened to learn of the death of the terrier, but added, "Every dog deserves a second chance at happiness."
"The new owners were aware that she was aggressive towards other dogs and were still prepared to take her on.‘This is not the first time that a dog rehomed by the Dogs Trust has attacked and killed another dog. Late last year, the charity’s rescue centre in Ilfracombe, Devon rehomed an adolescent Lurcher named Leo to pensioner Ronald Banks. Although Mr Banks cared for Leo very well, he was unable to restrain the powerful dog when it broke away from him during a walk near his home in Ilfracombe and attacked and killed a small terrier being walked by its owner.
Leo already had a reputation as a cat killer before he was rehomed, and was known to be somewhat aggressive towards other dogs. However, he was rehomed against the advice of an experienced dog trainer and behaviourist. Usually he was muzzled whilst being walked, but was off muzzle when the attack took place.
Mr Banks was charged under Section 3 of the Dangerous Dogs Act for allowing his dog to be dangerously out of control in a public place. Magistrates ordered Leo’s destruction. However, well-known dog solicitor Trevor Cooper took on the case and the death sentence was quashed at the appeal hearing at Barnstaple Crown Court on February 13th this year. The judge ordered that Leo should be returned to the Dogs Trust and banned Mr Banks from keeping dogs for two years.
Kaye Fitzgerald-Gorham of the Lurcher rescue charity Lurcher Link added a cautionary note about the designation and rehoming of ‘Lurchers’."The problem with most non-Lurcher specific rescue organisations is that they tend to lump Lurchers into one category, as if they were a breed of dog," said Kaye. "This is as misleading as calling all mongrels ‘collie crosses’ or ‘GSD crosses’. Lurchers are a deliberately crossbred dog whose original purpose is that of a hunting dog. Nowadays they have become ‘trendy’ as pets, which can lead to difficult situations if the owners are not aware of the nature of their dog. There are many different crosses of Lurcher and the types of dog in these crosses will tend to influence their behavioural traits.
"A lot of working Lurchers these days have Bull Terrier blood in them, which although it is an admired trait in a working dog, can be problematic if the dog is kept in a pet home with owners without experience of bull breeds. They can be aggressive to other dogs and obviously are also fast movers, so in the wrong hands they could wreak havoc.
"Lurchers are wonderful dogs in the main and normally interact with other dogs without any problems, but it is the rescues responsibility to determine what type of breeds are in the Lurchers they rehome and to inform the potential adopter of the type of behaviour that dog is likely to exhibit. The people seeking to rehome a Lurcher should read up on the various types and seek advice from responsible organisations such as ourselves and specific Lurcher rescues who have the experience to advise them on what type of cross to look for."
In a statement the Dogs Trust said it was aware of the attack involving Mrs Dronfield’s dog and rehomed Dogs Trust dog Faye.
“Faye was rehomed in September 2000. The new owners were aware that she was aggressive towards other dogs and were still prepared to take her on. A disclaimer stating the terms and conditions of the adoption was signed by the new owner. These terms stated that the dog would be kept under control and on a lead at all times. Dogs, like almost all mammals, including humans, can show aggression. Where Dogs Trust believes there is an above average risk, the adopter is briefed that precautions have to be taken and offered continuing help and advice on training. We believe that every dog deserves a second chance at happiness and will rehome dogs with problems to those owners who we believe are capable of dealing with the issue that dog brings.
“Faye sustained injuries in the incident and was returned to us, due to these injuries Faye was subsequently put to sleep”.