A £12,000 Children in Need project to train a labrador to support a young autistic child has been put in jeopardy after an attack by a vicious bull terrier.
Two-year-old Grant, a labrador cross, was nearly at the end of a programme training him to live with a seven-year-old autistic boy when he was injured by another dog in a Sheffield park.
Sheffield-based charity Support Dogs were given a financial boost from Children in Need - and Grant was the first dog to be trained with the cash.
Now experts fear Grant’s £12,000 training may have been wasted after the attack in Wadsley Common, Hillsborough.
Mum-of-two Ruth Elliott, who looks after Grant in the evenings and weekends in her family home, had just entered the park when the attack took place.
She said: “There were lots of people walking their dogs and I was trying to keep Grant to one side on his lead because he is very friendly and takes an interest in other dogs.
“Two women walked close by, with what looked like a bull terrier on a lead. As we passed, this other dog just flew at him.
“He bit him on the face and wouldn’t let go. The dog’s owner pulled him off and apologised and it wasn’t until later that I realised he was bleeding.”
Grant received a badly split lip which needed stitches. The labrador was put on antibiotics and anti-inflammatory tablets but is still recovering.
Just weeks away from the completion of his training, Grant had been lined up to move in with a seven-year-old boy. But that plan is now jeopardy as experts fear the attack could lead him to become aggressive to other dogs.
Support Dogs trainer Michelle Bellamy, who heads the charity’s autism assistance programme, said: “Although Grant is now healing well we have lost at least a fortnight of his training schedule.
“Such an attack can lead dogs to become aggressive towards other dogs as a self-defence mechanism.
“If that happens we will have to withdraw him from the programme because we wouldn’t be able to let him go out to a family.
“That deprives a family desperate for the sort of assistance a dog like Grant can offer. It means the cost of getting him so far through the programme might have been better spent elsewhere.”
Ruth added: “We had been looking after him because my daughter Emma is the same age as the boy he was being trained for.
“They are all lovely dogs, but we really fell for Grant. He is so friendly.”