A woman has walked free from court despite owning an American bulldog that chased down and mauled a five-year-old boy leaving him “scarred for life”.
Sarah Dean, 43, was walking her dog Carlo off his lead when it chased down the young boy as he played football outside his home.
The five-year-old ran, but Carlo gave chase, biting him on his rear and then his groin, before sinking his teeth into the boy’s chest as it tried to drag him.
The boy, who is expected to be scarred for life, has been left severe physical and psychological damage, as well as behavioural problems.
Mother-of-two Dean, from Bristol, blamed the boy, claiming his injuries were caused by him falling to the floor as he ran.
She initially denied that her dog had attacked the youngster, even when shown graphic images.
But Dean later pleaded guilty to being in charge of a dog dangerously out of control, causing injury on August 17, 2018.
Judge William Hart sentenced her to a 12-month jail term suspended for two years at Bristol Crown Court on Wednesday.
The court heard Dean had previously received letters from her housing association urging her to keep Carlo on a lead, following complaints from neighbours.
Nicholas Lee, prosecuting, told how the boy and his brother were playing football outside their block of flats in Kingswood, Bristol.
He said: “The defendant walked through the area with her dog Carlo off the lead.
“The five-year-old boy ran. The dog ran after him, caught him and bit him, first on his rear. It cornered him.
“The boy’s sister was inside the flat and heard screaming. She saw her brother grabbing some railings.”
As the boy clung to the railings, the defendant held his arm to stop him running away and also tried to hold the dog.
Dean was heard to say to the boy: “Stop running”.
Mr Lee added: “Carlo got away from her and bit him again, near the groin.”
The dog then bit the child in the chest and tried to drag him along the floor.
After the boy managed to get away, the defendant left the scene, and the child was taken to hospital, where he stayed for two days.
He suffered a severe injury to the groin area, lacerations to the chest and thigh, along with puncture marks to his backside and upper thigh.
The boy required the “removal of non-viable tissue from wounds” in hospital.
He must now wear a silicon covering from his knees to his stomach for two years and is expected to be scarred for life.
But in police interviews Dean claimed the boy’s injuries were caused by him falling to the floor, and by her nails when she grabbed him.
Mr Lee said: “She blamed the five-year-old boy for what happened. She denied the dog attacked him.
“Miss Dean said the dog is a big friendly giant. She could not answer the question of why, if it was so friendly, she ordered the boy not to run.
“Even when shown images of the severe injuries, she stood by her evidence.”
Evidence from the boy’s father, summarised in court by Mr Lee, told how the boy has been left with behavioural problems, including sometimes biting other people.
Mr Lee said: “He was previously a well-behaved and happy child. Now he is prone to outbursts of anger at home and school.
“His parents have had to collect him several times from school due to unmanageable behaviour, with four or five adults trying to calm him down.
“Sometimes he bites people. His parents worry about his school place.”
The child has regular nightmares and still has to sleep in his parents’ bed, the court heard.
“He freezes whenever he sees a dog and panics if the house door is not fully locked when he is inside,” the prosecutor added.
The boy’s brother was victim to an attack by the same dog in 2013, during another occasion when Dean had failed to keep Carlo on his lead.
The family did not report the 2013 incident to police.
Nikki Coombe, mitigating, said Dean had “considerable remorse”, adding: “She was very upset when looking at the photographs of the child.”
But Judge Hart replied: “Her initial response did her no credit.”
Handing down the suspended jail term, the judge told Dean: “The consequences for the victim have been dramatic.
“It’s hardly surprising, given his age and what happened to him.
“Your initial reaction was to dispute what happened. You were afraid of what was going to happen to your dog.
“No doubt that would be the instinctive reaction of many in those circumstances.
“Your attitude towards control of your dog was in my view wholly inappropriate and unacceptable.”
The prosecution made an application for Dean to pay compensation to the family due to the boy’s serious psychological issues and his injuries.
Judge Hart said this was “not realistic” given the defendant’s limited means. Her high dose of antidepressants made her unfit for unpaid work.
She must complete 10 days of rehabilitation and adhere to a 16-week night curfew.
The prosecution has applied for the dog, which is in police custody, to be put down. Dean opposes this and does not believe her dog is a danger to the public.
A hearing at Bristol Crown Court on June 14 will decide whether the dog is to be put down.