ANNE, the Princess Royal was fined £500 last week after
pleading guilty under the 1991 Dangerous Dogs Act after Dotty,
one of her Bull Terriers, bit two boys in Windsor Great Park.
But District Judge Penelope Hewitt spared three-year-old Dotty's life, opting to impose a contingent destruction order on the bitch, which means that if she attacks again the death sentence will be automatic. The Princess was ordered to ensure that her dog was kept on a lead at all times in public places. It was further ordered that Dotty would be sent for behavioural training.
Princess Anne is the first senior Royal Family member to appear as a defendant.
Accompanied by her husband, Commodore Timothy Laurence, and her two children, she pleaded guilty at East Berkshire magistrates' court, Slough, to a charge under the 1991 Dangerous Dogs Act. The case against Commodore Laurence was dropped after the Princess admitted responsibility as the dogs owner.
She was ordered to pay £250 compensation to each of the boys, as well as £148 costs, and given seven days to pay. Anthony Smith, prosecuting, said the father had gone to Windsor Great Park for a ride with his son, aged seven, and three nephews, including a 12-year-old.
As the boys were riding down a hill, Dotty, the Princess's three-year-old bull terrier, ran at them from 150 yards away. The boys panicked and tried to ride off but the dog jumped at the 12-year-old who fell of his bike and tried to "fight off" the dog.
Smith said the father twice kicked the dog away but it then
jumped on the seven-year-old, who was now off his bike. The
father again tried to kick it away but the dog came back several
times. "At this point Cmdre Laurence came over and attempted
to catch the dog," he said. But the dog avoided him and
ran back to the Princess Royal who put it in her vehicle along
with two other dogs.
"The Princess Royal apologised to the boys father for the dog's behaviour, and in due course gave him a lift back to his car, so he could collect the boys' bikes and take the boys to hospital," said Mr Smith.
"Cmdre Laurence remained with the other boys until they got back with the car. Both boys were traumatised by the incident."
The Princess and her husband provided details and were interviewed by police on July 13 at Gatcombe Park, their Gloucestershire home.
The court heard the couple had been walking in a private area of the park, two days after the death of HRH Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother. But as they returned to their vehicle Dotty ran into the public area.
She became excited by the bicycles, and reacted to the panic shown by the children. What followed was completely out of character, said Hugo Keith, defending.
"By her plea of guilty, the Princess Royal has acknowledged responsibility for the actions of Dotty," he said.
"It is quite clear that her first action after putting Dotty in the car was to apologise profusely."
He said a dental expert found the dog used only its front incisors, rather than opening her mouth "fully to use her 'aggressive' teeth".
Thus the boys suffered "coincidental tearing of the skin" when the dog's "weak grip of the incisors" slipped off, he said.
Canine Behaviourist Dr Roger Mugford, had subsequently examined Dotty and said there "need be no risk of public concern", although she became excited around bicycles.
But once he had used a radio-controlled device to squirt a harmless gas at her, she swiftly lost interest in bikes, which led him to believe that she would respond well to training.
He concluded: "She is a quick learner, a very good candidate for retraining."
But the boys' families maintained that they remained traumatised by the attack. In a statement issued after the case, the two families, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, criticised the dog's reprieve.
"We do not think justice has been done. The dog is still free and is a danger to society," they said.
"Therefore the decision made today is neither moral nor just. Our children were lucky that they avoided grievous injuries - other children may not be so lucky.
"Our children have been psychologically affected and are fearful of going out on their own. They have become very fearful of all dogs and still have nightmares.
"If the dog had been put down, it would have been recognition of this and helped our children psychologically."
The familys comments after the case seem at odds with earlier reports whilst the case was waiting to come to court when a family friend had said that the family had no axe to grind and had not wanted the Princess charged and taken to court. "I dont think the family wanted Princess Anne to be taken to court, but the police probably want to make it an issue to prove that nobody is above the law. It is not personal."
Roger Mugford, a dog psychologist, appeared as a witness in
Dotty's defence. He said she was "a quick learner"
and could be retrained.
Janet Payne of the anti-DDA Fury Defence Fund was at East Berkshire Magistrates Court to lend the groups support to the Princess. She was accompanied by Elizabeth Holland, the owner of Bull terrier Rickson who is currently on death row in Liverpool council kennels awaiting the outcome of an appeal for his own Section 3 case. "We were interviewed by several national newspaper journalists and TV reporters," Janet Payne told OUR DOGS, "but none of them, except the Daily Mirror used our comments. I have come to the conclusion that they wanted us to say the sentence was unfair, or that the Princess received preferential treatment. Id have to say, although the DDA is a dreadful piece of legislation, the outcome in this case was wholly correct and fair.
"If the Princess received any sort of preferential treatment, maybe it was when the police cordoned off the road and allowed her to park immediately outside the court, but then again, theyd have done that for any high profile case.
"Basically, the media wanted this to be a bigger story than it ultimately was, building upon anti-Royal feeling after the Paul Burrell case. But, at the end of the day, people were more concerned about the effects of Firemens Strike than about the Princess Royal getting fined under the DDA."