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I hope the dog doesn't do something like this to another child; Mum of young girl bitten by animal hits out as criminal charge against owner is dropped by court.

Byline: SARA NICHOL

45p SATURDAY, JUNE 9, 2012 chroniclelive.co.uk chroniclelive.co.uk A DANGEROUS dog which viciously attacked a little girl has been spared from being put down.

Rebecca Learmouth, six, needed surgery to stitch wounds between her eye and nose after the male Staffordshire Bull Terrier bit her.

The owner of the animal, Thomas Hope, was summoned to court to answer a charge of being the owner of a dog which was dangerously out of control in a public place and injured a child - an allegation he denied.

And at a hearing at Newcastle Magistrates' Court yesterday, the criminal charge was dropped to a lesser civil complaint.

The court had previously heard Rebecca had been playing with her friends near her home on Harbottle Street, Byker, Newcastle, on May 29.

Hope's partner was walking two dogs - Max and Ellie - who were both on leads when the primary school pupil approached the animals and asked to pat them.

After being told to stay away from Max, Rebecca began to stroke Ellie.

But seconds later four-year-old Max turned on the Year One Byker Primary School pupil, biting her face and leaving her dazed and bleeding.

At the hearing yesterday, 23-year-old Hope, from Norbury Grove, Walker, Newcastle, who hadn't been near the animals at the time of the attack, admitted the civil complaint of being the owner a dog which was dangerous and not kept under control.

He had previously pleaded not guilty to the more serious criminal charge, which carries a maximum sentence of six months in prison, and that charge was withdrawn.

Neil Connell, defending Hope, said: "The dog's reaction to the child in this case came as a complete surprise.

"The dog has never behaved like this before or indicated that it might.

"Mr Hope has nephews and nieces and they had contact with the dog all the time and it never acted inappropriately.

"It has now been muzzled and has been since a few days after this incident."

Hope was issued with a control order demanding that Max be neutered and kept on a muzzle at all times while out in public. If Hope is caught breaching the order he will be called back before the court and the dog could be destroyed.

Rebecca's mum, Louise Cavanagh, said the decision not to criminally charge Hope was "ridiculous".

The 30-year-old, who lives with Rebecca, Rebecca's dad Dylan, their other daughter Ellie, nine, and Dylan's two sons, said: "I didn't want the dog put to sleep as it was on a lead, but they shouldn't have let Rebecca close to it when she asked.

"They obviously didn't have a lead short enough to keep it under control. We didn't realise it was a lesser charge he was admitting to.

"Rebecca is getting there.

When you look at her you can still see the scar and we're waiting for an appointment to see if she'll need any more surgery.

"We have our own dog, so she's not scared of them, but the attack has made her more wary and a lot more jumpy around them. I hope the dog doesn't do something like this to another child."

CAPTION(S):

CALLED TO COURT Thomas Hope appeared before magistrates in Newcastle and admitted a civil complaint after the original, more serious allegation, was dropped BADLY HURT Rebecca Learmouth, pictured with her mum Louise Cavanagh, is on the road to recovery, but the six-year-old is waiting to see if she will need further surgery
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Publication:Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)
Date:Sep 1, 2012
Words:582
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