Case Highlights Need For Vigilance
A Staffordshire mum has spoken for the first time of the moment when her son was subjected to a terrifying dog attack, after a game of football with friends in a neighbour’s back garden ended in horror.
Penkridge Middle School pupil, Joseph Duckhouse (then aged 9) from Penkridge in Staffordshire had to be airlifted to hospital with serious leg and facial injuries, following the out of the blue attack by a German Shepherd, which had only been bought from an animal rescue shelter just a few days prior to the incident.
Lawyers from Irwin Mitchell Solicitors, who are acting for the family and are supporting Child Safety Week which runs from 20th June, say the case highlights the need for vigilance and, in particular, for children to be made aware that no matter how friendly a dog might appear, its behaviour can change without warning.
The attack, which happened on 28th February 2010, left Joseph with deep bite wounds to his leg. His left ear was partly torn off and a team of plastic surgeons at University Hospital in Stoke on Trent had to reconstruct his ear due to the amount of tissue loss. Joseph was off school for three weeks and in addition to his physical injuries, he also suffered psychological damage, as did his younger brother, Jake, who witnessed at, first hand, the horrific incident.
The German Shepherd, named Bruno, had been purchased as a family pet from Holly Trees Kennels in Bournville, Birmingham just a few days prior to the attack, was later put down by Holly Trees Kennels.
Mum, Miss Atkins Green, who has spoken of her son’s ordeal in a bid to raise child safety awareness, commented: “This attack came completely out of the blue. One minute the boys were playing football together with their friend in a neighbour’s garden and the next, the dog attacked Joe without any warning.
“More than a year on, both Joe and Jake are both finding it very hard to cope with what happened. It has affected their personalities. Before they were both very confident young boys who loved animals. Now, they get very nervous if they are out in the park and they see a dog off the lead.
“Although Joe will be left with the physical scars of what happened I do hope that in time the psychological injuries he has suffered will ease. We have always been a family of dog-lovers and Joe and his brother have been brought up with family pets so it’s heartbreaking to see the change in them both since the attack.
“I don’t bear any ill will towards our neighbours. They certainly weren’t to blame. Like us, they love dogs and thought they were doing a good thing by giving a rescue animal a new home. They have young children themselves and were just as shocked and upset about what happened as us.”
“I would urge all dog owners to ensure that they take out insurance to cover for personal injury. If it hadn’t been for our neighbours taking out insurance we would have had to consider suing them personally which I would have found very uncomfortable”
Toni Knott, a personal injury solicitor with Irwin Mitchell, who has handled the Duckhouse family’s civil claim explained:
Expert Opinion“Many people aren’t aware of the legal position if a dog causes an injury to an innocent member of the public.
“Even though the dog had only recently been purchased from a rescue home, the kennels’ public liability ceased as soon as Bruno left the kennels which meant from that point onwards the new owners were completely responsible.
“Although the Duckhouse family’s first concerns were for their son and his welfare, they were understandably concerned about taking action against their neighbours as, despite what happened, the two families remain good friends.
“Thankfully, the neighbours have not been left financially out of pocket by the incident because although they did not have pet insurance, the dog was covered under their home contents insurance. Thanks to the neighbours’ co-operation, liability was admitted straight away by their insurers, Legal & General.
“Although no amount of money will turn back the clock, it is important to try to provide some financial recompense for Joe in the future as he continues to recover from the terrible injuries he has suffered.
“Medical evidence is currently being finalised and it is hoped that we will be able to settle the case shortly. The money will then be held in Trust by the Court Funds Office for Joe until he reaches the age of 18.” Toni Knott - Associate Solicitor
This year’s Child Safety Week, organised by the Child Action Prevention Trust, has as its theme ‘Take a Second Look at Safety’ and is encouraging families to take positive action to help reduce the number of accidents involving youngsters.
For more information visit www.childsafetyweek.org.uk