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Now Florence bites maid

FLORENCE, THE Bull Terrier owned by the Princess Royal that attacked one of the Queen’s corgis before Christmas later bit a maid at Sandringham.

The maid had entered the room with three other servants but they panicked after the Princess’s two Bull Terriers started barking. They tried to run out of the room but one of the maids, named as Ruby Brooker 55, was caught by Florence and nipped on the knee.

The Princess and her husband, Commodore Tim Laurence, were dining at a log cabin on the Norfolk estate at the time of the attack on Saturday evening. Royal staff members treated the maid’s wound but, according to Buckingham Palace, the Princess insisted that a doctor was called. The maid’s wound was bandaged and she was given a tetanus injection. Health & Safety officials later interviewed her as a matter of procedure. Both the Queen and the Princess were understood to have later spoken to Mrs Brooker and expressed their sympathy at her injury.

Since the death of the Queen’s corgi Pharos, Florence and Dottie - who was originally blamed for attacking Pharos - have been confined to quarters.

Mrs Brooker’s husband David dismissed the hysteria generated by many tabloid newspapers over the latest incident. Speaking from the couple’s house in Terrington St John, near King’s Lynn, Norfolk, he told the Mail On Sunday: "We own dogs ourselves, so we are quite used to them. It’s only to be expected that the Queen would show sympathy [to Ruby] and talk to her personally.

"Princess Anne saw her and apologised the same day. It was very amicable. Ruby carried on working and the doctor has given her the all clear. She knows Princess Anne’s dogs well. I think they were bored because they were shut up."

The latest biting incident added to the pressure on the Princess to take action over the dogs’ behaviour. Buckingham Palace said that Florence would not be destroyed. A spokesman said: "It is expected that Florence will undergo training, similar to the type Dottie received."

Inevitably, several experts were wheeled out to give their views on the Princess’ dogs and on Bull terriers in general. Caroline Bower, a member of the Association of Pet Behaviour Counsellors, said: "The vast majority of Bull Terriers have a very good temperament and are not known for their unpredictability," "They’re not the easiest breed to train and aren’t keen on other dogs, but they don’t tend to suffer as much from behavioural problems as, say, collies or German shepherds. I’d say Bull Terriers are pretty low down in the list as far as problem breeds are concerned.

"I would take a much dimmer view of an animal who showed no aggression in general and bit out of the blue than of a dog who frequently growled and so forth," she said.

"At least with consistency you know what you’re treating. If the dog occasionally just flips, you could say it was a form of canine psychosis. The owner should consult a vet immediately."

Valerie Ford, an animal behaviourist, from Hunstanton, Norfolk, said: "There is not an awful lot you can do in a situation like this but keep the dog out of the way."

However, she said: "Two dogs together can act as a pack so I would be very careful. Some people might say anger management might work but I think not. It is a very difficult situation and there is no set remedy.

"Of course, it all depends on how the incident happened and the dog's behaviour. Any dog can bite and there are bull terriers with the nicest of behaviour. However, bull terriers are very strong because they were bred for fighting."

Animal Behaviourist Roger Mugford, who operates from his Company of Animals in Surrey treated Dotty last year after the incident in which she bit two boys cycling in Windsor Great Park – an incident which led to the Princess being prosecuted under the 1991 Dangerous Dogs Act - said last week that he had been asked to treat eight-year-old Florence. He was expected to begin the dog’s training this week.

Dr Mugford claimed some success in subduing Dottie by attaching a canister to her collar that released a gas when bicycles passed. Although a spokesman for the Princess said that Dottie was now cured, there has been speculation that it was Dottie, not Florence that mauled the Queen’s dog over the Christmas period. Attributing the attack to Florence, it has been alleged, prevents Dottie from being labelled an incurable "problem dog" and destroyed.

Techniques that Dr Mugford might use included using human "stooges", such as himself, to re-enact attacks with the aim of training the dog not to bite, he said. He did not agree with those who had called for Florence to be destroyed. "There is probably some underlying medical factor. We are not talking about an inherently aggressive or dangerous dog," he said.

"I am sure it is just a dog who is feeling a bit out of sorts about something, perhaps pain or old age, and is feeling a bit cranky on the day. I will be seeing her. The timing has not been arranged, but it is likely that I will be seeing her..."

Dr Mugford insisted that Florence could be saved. "Cases like this have a high probability of being sorted out, and that's what I hope will happen next week. I am quietly confident, but I can't be certain."

OUR DOGS contacted Dr Mugford’s office on Monday of this week. His PA said: "Dr Mugford is not making any comment on this matter due to client confidentiality." When it was pointed out that Dr Mugford had already made comments to the media, the PA added: "He will not be making any further comments."