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Terrier in Wolverhampton city centre guide dog attack allowed to live

Staffordshire | News | Published:

A dog which savagely attacked a guide dog in Wolverhampton city centre has had its life spared.

The guide dog was injured and its owner left 'frightened to death' after the attack by a Staffordshire Bull Terrier earlier this year.

Wolverhampton Magistrates Court was told how John Botham's dog savagely attacked a guide dog belonging to Alistair Dunbar on August 1. Mr Dunbar said the attack had left him afraid to go into Wolverhampton city centre.

Botham, aged 57, of Carter Road, Whitmore Reans, Wolverhampton, was made the subject of a six-month supervision order after admitting being in charge of a dangerously out of control dog which caused injury to an assistance dog.

He was also banned from taking the dog, called Toke, but also known as Popeye, inside the Wolverhampton ring road.

An order was made that the dog must be muzzled and on a lead when in a public place, and that it must be neutered within one month.

Speaking after the case, Mr Dunbar, who lost his sight four years ago after being struck with glaucoma, said his dog Teresa was a lifeline allowing him to make regular visits into Wolverhampton.

"I've had her almost three years now, and she's everything to me," said Mr Dunbar, of New Street, Portobello, Willenhall.

"It was really terrifying because I couldn't see anything. I'm just frightened to death now, I hope he complies with the order. Every time I go out I will be expecting him to be around the corner."

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Mr Dunbar, who is 65, said he had already had to change the route he walked through the city to avoid Woolpack Alley, where the attack happened.

"I get the bus from Willenhall into Wolverhampton, and my dog knows the route. If I didn't do that I would never go out."

Mr Dunbar said he felt some sympathy for Botham, but had mixed feelings about the order which allowed him to keep his dog.

"I do feel sorry for him, it's his best friend too," he said. "Half of me didn't want the dog to be put down, half of me said yes, it should be, not for me but for my dog.

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"I know he's said he's sorry, I just hope he will comply. I hope he will be honourable and do the right thing."

The court was told it costs £35,000 to train a guide dog.

Mr Dunbar added: "At first they thought she might have to be retired, but now I've got a new cane she likes carrying that in her mouth and is a little bit more confident. I said if she had to be retired I don't think I would want another dog."

During sentencing Mr Roger Bleazard, prosecuting, said the attack happened for no obvious reason.

"It was a savage attack on the guide dog, and the treatment required resulted in a vet's bill of £1,300, which will be met by Guide Dogs," he said.

Mr Richard Quinn, representing Botham, said his client was drawing sketches in the city, inviting passers by to give him coins at the time of the incident.

"He had the dog on a lead, but he dropped a pencil," said Mr Quinn.

"When he went to pick it up, he momentarily let go of the chain."

Mr Quinn said Botham's dog had shown no behavioural problems until that point. Deputy district judge Sophie Toms also ordered that Botham's dog must not be allowed in a public place unless supervised by somebody over the age of 16, and warned Botham that failure to comply would lead to the dog being destroyed.

He was also ordered to pay £200 compensation and a £60 victim surcharge.

After the case, Botham said he wanted to offer his heartfelt apologies to Mr Dunbar.

"Nobody is more sorry about this unfortunate incident than I am," he said.

"I'm so sorry, I don't know what caused it, my dog is normally good."

In court, Mr Bleazard said the guide dog, a labrador cross called Teresa, had physically recovered from the attack, but was still traumatised.

He said it was feared the dog might need to be retired, but Mr Dunbar said he was hoping Teresa would be able to continue working.

Mr Bleazard said Mr Dunbar had no great desire to see the dog destroyed.

At the time of the attack Mr Dunbar feared his faithful guide dog Teresa had been killed.

He told the Express & Star shortly after: "The whole thing was probably over in a few minutes but it felt like it lasted an eternity. I was covered in blood from head to toe."

Theresa was taken to the vets and received multiple stitches in her neck.

Butchers Bill Ions, Steven Foster and Richard Ashton ran out of Michael Kirk in Woolpack Alley when they heard the commotion outside the shop and Mr Dunbar said their actions may have saved Theresa's life.

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