Chorley woman traumatised after Staffordshire Bull Terrier attacks her and her eight-month-old English Golden Retriever puppy

“We are traumatised…and I keep reliving it.” Those are the heart-breaking words of a Chorley woman after witnessing a Staffordshire Bull Terrier attack her “timid” eight-month-old puppy

By Laura Longworth
Thursday, 21st July 2022, 3:45 pm
Updated Thursday, 21st July 2022, 5:31 pm

Vanessa Alvarez was walking Maisie, a cream English Golden Retriever, on a patch of grass in Oxford Street last fortnight when the offending dog was let off its lead by its owner and launched itself at the puppy.

The unprovoked assault left Maisie with an approximately 10 centimetre bite wound on her shoulder and a scratch to her eye, the former leading to surgery due to complications. Her owner also required stitches after being bitten while trying to force the Staffy off her pet.

Vanessa, 30, said: “We now have a traumatised dog. I’m traumatised myself. I keep reliving it. I think of when it happened, and seeing my dog suffering again and again makes me upset. I’m struggling to get her out of the house. She’s petrified and so am I.”

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Vanessa Alvarez with her dog Maisie who was attacked by another dog whilst she was taking her out for a walk in Chorley. Photo: Kelvin Stuttard

Recalling the assault, she added: “I’m 100 percent sure the dog’s owner saw us and took it off the lead. It went straight for mine and wouldn’t let go.

“We managed to get them on the floor and I was punching this other dog. I was screaming my lungs out. Eventually, it let go and we went home.

“The owner didn’t apologise. He just kept saying his dog had never done that before.”

How has the attack impacted Vanessa and Maisie’s daily life?

Maisie was attacked by another dog whilst out for a walk with her owner Vanessa Alvarez. Photo: Kelvin Stuttard

Vanessa said: “Maisie’s not herself because she’s in pain. She doesn’t want to eat so we have to hand-feed her, and the antibiotics are making her feel strange. It’s horrible to see my dog in such pain.”

The pair have now reduced their twice daily walks from an hour to just five minutes as they fear being targeted again.

If they see someone, Vanessa added: “Maisie tries to get between my legs and we have to go back home because she refuses to move.

“She’s upset and barely wants to go anywhere. I don’t want to be around any dogs - what if it happens again?

The park where Maisie was attacked off George Street, Chorley. Photo: Kelvin Stuttard

“Maisie was a very happy puppy before this happened and liked being close to people but now she’s stuck to my leg.

“She’s traumatised and there’s nothing I can do to make her better.”

How are authorities helping the pair?

Vanessa believes the police do not take dog-on-dog attacks seriously enough, saying: “It’s just frustrating because I’m not getting any information from them. I don’t think they’re going to do anything because it’s dog-on-dog.

Vanessa Alvarez whose dog Maisie was attacked by another dog whilst she was taking her out for a walk in Chorley. Photo: Kelvin Stuttard

“It would be like if someone randomly punched me in the face and nothing was done. I don’t think there’s anything in place to punish the owner or protect my puppy from other dogs.

“It leaves you a bit hopeless, and I’m scared it could happen again. It gets dismissed and swept under the carpet. Maisie deserves more than that. It’s upsetting that she’s not going to get justice because she’s a dog and nobody cares but she’s a member of my family and this shouldn’t have happened in the first place.

“We want some sort of justice. I don’t think [the Staffy] should be on the street or out without a muzzle. I don’t think it should be put down because it’s not the dog’s fault but I think the owner should be fined.

“What if it had bitten a child? They could have lost an arm. Those dogs have very strong jaws.

“People should have their dogs on leads around other animals as it’s not worth the risk.”

A Lancashire Police spokesman says queries are ongoing.

Maisie was attacked by another dog whilst out for a walk with her owner Vanessa Alvarez. Photo: Kelvin Stuttard

Meanwhile, an Executive Member of Chorley Council for Early Intervention, claims an animal welfare officer is investigating the incident.

Coun Bev Murray, said: “We were alerted to the allegation last week and our Animal Welfare Officer has been in contact with the person who has made the claims to discuss and obtain necessary information about the alleged incident. Once received, our team will review and take the appropriate action.”

What powers do police have for punishing irresponsible dog owners?

It is illegal for a dog to be dangerously out of control in all places, including inside the owner’s home, or to attack an assistance dog.

Police can charge offenders with either non-aggravated or aggravated assault for dog-on-human attacks. The latter involves bodily harm and carries either a fine or a prison sentence of up to 14 years if the attacked person dies.

If prosecution succeeds, the court can order the offending dog to be destroyed.

Despite these powers, officers penalised just 57 dog owners across central Lancashire from 2017 to 2020, an FOI reveals. Some 28 were in Preston, 24 were in South Ribble, and five were in Chorley.

Prosecutions plummeted by more than 60 percent overall over the same period, and by 80 percent in South Ribble.

Prosecutions often fail because victims cannot identify the culprit, says legal expert Carrie Gilgun, of Forbes Solicitors, Preston.

How many people have been bitten by dogs in Chorley, Preston and South Ribble?

Dogs attacked 459 people across central Lancashire from 2017 to 2020, police data reveals. Some 269 attacks occurred in Preston, 107 in South Ribble and 84 in Chorley.

They fell by more than 10 percent in Preston and just over five percent in South Ribble during the same period but soared by around 50 percent in Chorley.

There were 175 hospitalisations for dog attacks in Lancashire in 2018-19, having steadily increased by around 17 percent since 2014-15 from 150. But they fell by around 11 percent (155) in 2020-21.

What powers do councils have?

Councils deal with dog attacks on other animals and can enforce public spaces orders. Dogs are not allowed in public children’s play areas, and should be kept on leads on roads, footways and grass verges.

Council officers have the power to serve and prosecute dog owners for breaching Community Protection Notices, and can seize aggressive animals.

Vanessa's injuries after being bitten by the Staffy.
Vanessa required stitches for her injuries.
The bite wound to Maisie's shoulder.
Maisie required surgery for her injuries due to complications.
Hospital admissions for dog attacks in central Lancashire have mainly been steadily increasing for the past six to seven years.