The Chronicle

‘Good-natured’ dog mauled passers-by


- By ROB KENNEDY Court reporter

A DANGEROUS dog which had learned to open a back door using the handle mauled four people just weeks after police deemed it safe to live in a family home.

American pitbull-cross Hugo had been seized by Northumbri­a Police and examined but was returned to Rebecca Porteous, who had a three-year-old child, after it was concluded he was good-natured.

Hugo was subject to a suspended death sentence and was supposed to be kept muzzled when in public, a court heard.

But he had developed the ability to let himself out of Porteous’ back door in Hebburn and got out as a youth walked a small dog past the house in October last year.

Hugo scaled the back wall and began to attack the other dog, which was picked up by its owner, who was injured in the process.

Hugo continued trying to bite the other dog and brave passer-by Michelle Green then tried to assist by kicking Hugo.

He then mauled her, leaving her with serious wounds and mental and physical scars.

When Porteous tried to intervene, she too was bitten and when her dad arrived at the scene, he was also attacked by the dog. Eventually police marksmen shot Hugo. Now Porteous – who had assumed responsibi­lity for the dog when her partner, who bought him, died – has been given a suspended prison sentence after she admitted being the owner of a dangerous dog that caused injury.

Newcastle Crown Court heard there had been a query about the breed and a decision was taken to remove him to be assessed early last summer.

Peter Schofield, prosecutin­g, said: “There was no real concern shown in respect of temperamen­t and personalit­y.

“Rebecca Porteous was considered a fit and proper person to look after it.”

Hugo was returned under a contingent destructio­n order – described as a suspended death sentence.

On October 15, around 6pm, the youth was walking his dog past Porteous’ home on Whickham Road, Hebburn.

Mr Schofield said: “He was confronted by the arrival of Hugo, who had found the ability to open the back door using the handle.

“He got out into the garden and scaled the wall, attracted no doubt by the presence of the other dog. Hugo set about the small dog and started snapping and biting it.”

When the youth gathered his squealing dog up into his arms, Hugo kept trying to bite it. The youth also suffered an injury.

At that point kitchen assistant Ms Green saw what was happening and went to help.

She kicked Hugo to try to get him to stop attacking the other dog – but he then turned his attack on her, leaving her bleeding and seriously hurt.

Porteous tried to intervene but she was also bitten, including on the arm and thigh.

She returned inside, where her threeand-a-half year old daughter was.

Eventually Hugo returned to the garden, where he was when Porteous’ father arrived. He regularly exercised the dog and said he couldn’t fault its temperamen­t previously but, as he walked to the house, he was bitten. Police marksmen were called and Hugo was shot.

Ms Green suffered the most serious injuries, needed surgery and has been left with severe scarring to her arm.

Judge Tim Gittins sentenced Porteous to eight months suspended for 18 months with 80 hours’ unpaid work.

The judge said: “You could have done more to ensure he was behind a locked door when he was not muzzled.”

Judge Gittins said he questioned the wisdom of someone with a young child having such a breed but acknowledg­ed the police had determined he was not dangerous.

The judge said such cases ordinarily result in immediate prison sentences but he was taking the “wholly exceptiona­l” course of suspending it because Porteous’ child had already been left without her father after his death.

Fiona Lamb, defending, said it was a sad case for the victims and Porteous.

She added that Hugo had been a “loving family pet” and she had no concerns about him being around her child.

Miss Lamb added: “This case has had a profound effect on her, she’s upset about this incident.

“It upsets her a lot to think about what happened and she gets flashbacks.

“She loved dogs before this incident and feels she is now frightened of them. She doesn’t feel there was any more she could have done.

“The police didn’t have any concerns about the dog either.

“There is genuine and deep remorse, I don’t think she will forget about this any time soon.”

A Northumbri­a Police spokespers­on said: “The dog was seized because it had characteri­stics similar to that of a Pit Bull Terrier which is a banned breed under the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991.

“The animal was housed in kennels and assessed by a dog expert. It was acknowledg­ed that it was a cross-breed and had shown no previous signs of aggression, so was therefore returned to the owner on an interim basis.”

 ??  ?? Rebecca Porteous leaves Newcastle Crown Court
Rebecca Porteous leaves Newcastle Crown Court

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