Owner 'sorry' for injury

By Chloe Johnson

Ben Oliver. Photo / Greg Bowker
Ben Oliver. Photo / Greg Bowker

Scars on 5-year-old Ben Oliver's face haunt his parents as a reminder of the day a large dog attacked him in the street.

This week Tamsin Orr-Walker appeared in the Waitakere District Court charged with owning the dog named Wolfe that caused serious injury.

Father David Oliver said his family were walking past the Hardware Cafe in Titirangi in July last year when a bull mastiff-great dane cross lunged at Ben's face, puncturing his cheek, lip and chin.

"I saw [Ben] running towards me with all this blood running down his face," David said. "I shouted at someone to get an ambulance."

David - who was pushing his 20-month-old son Alex in a pram - grabbed Ben and held him close to his chest to stop the blood from flowing.

He took his screaming son into the cafe as the dog growled and barked outside.

"I tried to stop the blood with towels over his face, but the worst thing was that, until the towels came off, we didn't know how bad it was going to be."

Then he saw his son's top lip had burst open, a tooth had pierced through his left cheek and there were puncture wounds on his chin.

"Two of those holes had subsequently gone all the way through his cheek. Had it been lower or higher, or had the dog clenched on, the consequences could have been a lot different."

Ben was taken to Middlemore Hospital where he underwent plastic surgery for more than an hour and came out with 20 stitches holding his face together.

It has been eight months since the terrifying attack and Ben still doesn't go outside without looking around for dogs.

"He is physically scarred and, emotionally, he is still very wary of dogs," David said.

"He's always scanning and always on the lookout. We frequently have to cross the road or turn back if there is a dog in front of us."

Orr-Walker, a conservationist who was named Auckland Zoo's conservationist of the year in 2009, has not entered a plea but her lawyer Paul Borich indicated he would seek a discharge without conviction for a guilty plea.

"Obviously she is sorry for the injury and distress caused to Ben and his family," Borich said. He declined to comment further.

Wolfe was seized by the Auckland City Council but later returned to Orr-Walker under strict conditions.

Orr-Walker is due to appear in the Waitakere District Court on June 22.

- Herald on Sunday

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