Dog attack victim wants smile back

By Mark Story


The scarred survivor of a vicious dog attack has told a court "I want my face back" after getting daily reminders of her disfigurement every time she looks in the mirror.

"Every day I look in the mirror it reminds me of the attack. I see a smile that isn't mine. I want my smile back."

Dannevirke mother-of-two Katrina Smith said her 5-year-old daughter had been afraid to come near her because of the horrific facial wounds suffered during the mauling this year.


 


The attack also left her with a fractured and dislocated shoulder, a broken arm, irreparable nerve damage to her face and injuries to her eye.

After arriving at a client's property to clean his house on April 18 this year, she was set upon by an American bulldog shar-pei cross. The animal jumped at her from behind, knocked her to the ground and began biting her face.

In an earlier interview with Hawke's Bay Today Mrs Smith said: "I still remember the sound - the ripping, this horrible squelching noise.

And I thought by that stage he had ripped my cheek off. It was just so aggressive. I was bleeding a lot. Half my head was in his mouth, that's how big he was. 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.

"My children could so easily have been without a mum ... my first thoughts were disbelief and I could not believe it was happening. Then I had the thought that there was no way I was going to die like this and leave my children."

At the sentencing of the dog's owner in the Hastings District Court yesterday, Mrs Smith, 45, told of emotional and physical struggles in the aftermath of the attack. It had had "a detrimental effect" on her mental health.

After two hours of facial surgery in Hutt Hospital, a surgeon lost count of how many stitches he'd put in. "He said he'd stopped counting", she said in her victim-impact statement read in court.

She said she'd also been growing her hair longer to cover scars, had trouble sleeping, felt anxious to be by herself and had a "droop" to the right side of her face. "I'm still scared of other dogs. If our farm dogs are not chained up, I won't go outside."

Due to her inability to fully use her shoulder, her family had suffered financially, as she was unable to help out on the family farm.

Last month her former client - and the dog's owner - Daryn Paul Boyden, 29, defended a charge of not having his dog "Hooch" under proper control, and claimed the dog had been on a chain tied to a tree at his Tamaki River Rd home, in rural Dannevirke.

Mrs Smith said the dog could run the length of the driveway on a lead attached to a wire.

Judge Richard Watson found the charge proven in a reserved decision.

At yesterday's sentencing Boyden's lawyer, Sam Cowan, said his client was "extremely remorseful" and had suffered as a result of the case's publicity. He said Boyden had visited his former cleaner to apologise for the attack and had set up an account at a Dannevirke osteopath to help with her recovery.

At the time of the attack, he was at his parents' home nearby, but when called by a neighbour he returned and shot the dog.

Judge Watson said while he accepted Boyden's good character and that the dog was not running loose, he should have warned his cleaner of his dog's changing demeanour. "He did nothing to warn her of the problems he was having with the dog's increasing aggressiveness," Judge Watson said.

Boyden was ordered to pay $5000 in emotional reparation.

Outside court he refused to comment, while his lawyer said his client was "just glad it's all over".

Mrs Smith said the sentence was "a good outcome". "I'm just pleased he was convicted and that this has set a precedent for anyone else," she said.

"The main thing that bugged me was that it dragged on for so long - I'm not sure what that says for someone who was supposedly remorseful. But I'm happy it's finished in time for Christmas."

- HAWKES BAY TODAY

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