Girl, 3, left fighting for life after Sheffield dog attack – court

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A three-year-old girl was left fighting for her life after she was attacked by a Staffordshire bull terrier owned by a Sheffield woman.

Lisa Swann­-Ferris, aged 44, of Jenkin Road, Wincobank, Sheffield, who is a school governor, admitted she was the owner of a dog dangerously out of control which had injured a mother and daughter, a court heard.

The attack happened while Swann­-Ferris was on holiday at a Lincolnshire seaside caravan park, Skegness Magistrates’ Court was told.

Jim Clare, prosecuting, said both victims, who cannot be named for legal reasons, and Swann-Ferris, her family and the family’s pet dog were on holiday at the Golden Sands Caravan Park in Quebec Road in Mablethorpe.

He said that at 11.30am on August 15 last year, the dog – a two year old Staffordshire bull terrier – was let out of its cage in the caravan and ran out after Swann­-Ferris’ niece.

He said the dog went up to the three-year-old victim, who was not known to Swann­-Ferris, and jumped up at her causing her to fall over.

The dog then bit her legs and tried to drag her but the girl’s mother and other by-standers were able to prise the dog’s jaws apart and get it off her.

The mother was also bitten during the attack, he added.

Mr Clare said Swann-­Ferris took the two-year-old dog the same day to a local vet and it was put down.

He said the girl had ‘large wounds to the upper thighs which were life threatening’ and said she had come ‘very close to dying’ in the ambulance on the way to hospital as an artery had been exposed.

He said she had needed 28 stitches in the wounds and was in hospital for five days and the mother had puncture wounds on her upper arms and now needed counselling to deal with her anxiety and feelings of guilt.

Mr Clare said the mother’s victim statement showed the girl now had difficulty sleeping, was frightened of ‘dogs and monsters’, which she never had been before, and was much more clingy, needing someone with her at all times.

Dean Bawer, defending, said the dog, which was a family pet and had never before displayed any violence, was kept inside the caravan in a cage but had been playing with Ms Swann-­Ferris’ niece, who had failed to shut the cage door properly afterwards.

He said the dog ran after the niece when she went outside but jumped up at the victim and put its paws on her shoulders to try to lick her face but the girl fell over and the dog ‘just attacked her’.

“Maybe it was frightened itself,” said Mr Bawer. “It’s a tragic case and very sad indeed.”

He said Ms Swann­-Ferris, who is a school governor in Sheffield and a charity volunteer, was ‘very very sorry’ for what had happened.

The magistrates adjourned the case until April 26 for sentencing and ordered a pre-sentence report from the Probation Service.