Warning contains graphic imagery
Dannevirke's Katrina Smith broke down in tears in the Dannevirke District Court yesterday, as she recalled the day an American bulldog shar-pei cross viciously attacked her.
Mrs Smith was giving evidence in the case police have taken against dairy farm worker, Daryn Paul Boyden, 29, following the attack by his dog on April 18 of this year.
Mrs Smith was employed to clean Boyden's Tamaki River Rd home once a week and she told the court how, as she left her car and began walking to the front door, the dog jumped at her from behind, knocking her to the ground, and biting her face. "I don't know how it happened. I was bleeding a lot. I was thrown to the ground and my cellphone flew out. I don't know where it landed, but I managed to get back to my car and drive to a neighbour on Te Rehunga North Rd, who called the ambulance."
Mrs Smith spent two nights at Palmerston North Hospital where her broken and dislocated shoulder was put back in place, before being transferred to Hutt Hospital for plastic surgery to repair lacerations and nerve damage to her face.
Police prosecutor, Sergeant Ollie Outtrim, asked Mrs Smith if she had any issues with the dog before the attack.
Mrs Smith said she hadn't.
"My arrival at Daryn's that day was like any other. I pulled up and I briefly saw the dog to the right of me. It was chained to a wire. Any other time, the dog would lie alongside my car and sleep and when I'd leave, it'd just hop up and walk away."
Defence counsel, Sam Cowan said he understood how distressing the attack had been for Mrs Smith and Boyden accepted that it was his dog which had caused the serious injuries.
"Our defence is that the dog was under control at the time of the attack," he said. When questioned by Mr Cowan, Mrs Smith said the dog could run the length of the driveway on a lead attached to a wire.
However, Boyden insisted the dog was on a chain attached to a tree.
Anna Clarke, a witness for the defence, said Boyden "dropped in to see my husband, Justin and myself to catch up just prior to the attack". Mrs Clarke said they talked about the dog for five minutes, during which time Boyden said the dog suffered from food aggression.
"I just told him (Boyden) to get hard on it because aggression can escalate," she said. "He needed to dominate it. To me it was obvious the dog ruled the household."
The following day the Clarke's visited Boyden at his home.
"When we drove in the dog was lunging at us as far as the chain would let him and barking," she said. "I wouldn't have gone near it." When asked by Mr Outtrim how far away from the dog were they when they got out of the car, Mrs Clarke replied, "three metres", and added that she hadn't noticed any warning signs about a dog.
Mrs Clarke said she, "would have put it down."
However, Mrs Clarke agreed with Mr Cowan that some adults could be naive around dogs.
Sergeant Tony Le Sueur of the Dannevirke Police interviewed Boyden after the attack.
"In a statement he said he knew the dog had gotten playful and nipped a child, but it didn't sound too bad at all to him," Mr Le Sueur said. "He said the guy Boyden received the dog from didn't want it and just wanted to get rid of it."
Boyden indicated it was the first dog he'd owned.
"He had been running on a piece of number 8 wire, but he was rushing up to me when I was coming up on my farm bike and that's when I attached it (by a chain) to the tree," he said.
Mr Outtrim asked Boyden if he was concerned enough to mention the dog's behaviour to Mrs Smith.
"No I didn't, because she'd already had a conversation earlier with the previous owner," he said.
However, Boyden agreed with Mr Outtrim his dog was becoming more aggressive and he had concerns, but had not relayed those concerns.
At the time of the attack, Boyden was at his parents' home nearby, but when called by a neighbour returned and shot the dog.
Mr Cowan said in legal submissions that the dog had been confined to an area by a 5.3m chain. It was his space where he slept and ate. "Under Section 58 of the Dog Control Act, I believe the dog was under control," he said.
Judge Watson said he needed time to consider all the arguments and reserved his decision until a later date.