Pitbull attack victim 'literally a dog's breakfast'

By Frankie Webb of the Horowhenua Chronicle

File photo / NZ Herald
File photo / NZ Herald

The victim of a vicious attack by two pitbull dogs still suffers anxiety attacks and flashbacks about the day she was savaged.

Julie Harrison, 48, was mauled outside her Kapiti home on November 29 last year when a neighbour's dogs turned on her in a frenzied attack.

She lost a finger tip, part of her nose, had tendons severed, and her forearm suffered lacerations and muscle damage. She managed to get to her front door, dragging one of the dogs, its teeth locked on her thigh. The animal only let go when she slammed its head in the door three times.

"I was literally a dog's breakfast," she told the Horowhenua Chronicle. "I think I'm ok but I see a pitbull type of dog and I panic, I can't move."

The dogs have since been destroyed.

The dog's owner, Floyd Richards, 25, escaped a custodial sentence when he appeared for sentencing in Levin District Court yesterday.

He was sentenced to 200 hours' community service and four months' community detention, ordered to pay $3400 reparation and given a curfew which allowed him to continue working so he can pay the money.

Richards had been jointly charged under the Dog Control Act with his then partner Kelly Murray, 21 whose sentencing was delayed until October 4 because no pre sentencing report was available.

The court heard that Richards had been working out of the region at the time of the attack and left the dogs in the care of Murray.

Ms Harrison, who lived next door to the couple, noticed their three dogs wandering in the street. She enticed them into their yard and closed the gate, returning a short time later with water. The dogs escaped, two became agitated and menacing, then attacked.

A neighbour, Glenys Richardson, 67, heard screams and came to assist. The dogs then focussed their attention on the pensioner latching onto the back of her right thigh and destroying part of her hamstring, and parts of her index finger and thumb. One of the dogs was lunging with pieces of flesh in its mouth.

When Ms Harrison's 9-year-old daughter arrived home from school, a passing motorist stopped and got the child into a car to prevent her being targeted.

Justice Gerard Lynch relayed the graphic details of the attack to the court during summing up before sentencing Richards.

"It is still unclear how the dogs got out," Judge Lynch said. "Both Mrs Richardson and Ms Harrison have requested a non custodial sentence for you, preferring community work at an animal refuge."

He said Richards had visited Ms Harrison shortly after the event and helped with domestic duties.

"You pleaded guilty as soon as possible, surrendered the dogs immediately, engaged in a restorative justice meeting which ended in embraces and offered to honour reparation payments. Circumstances here don't demand a custodial sentence," Judge Lynch said.

Speaking to media for the first time, Ms Harrison said she was happy with the outcome.

"I thought, 'What point is there sending them to prison?' They were my neighbours, they're young and they have lessons to learn in life."

Ms Harrison still suffers anxiety attacks and in extracts of a victim impact report read to the court she admitted having flashbacks.

Survival instincts had kicked in at the time of attack, she said.

"I knew my daughter was coming home from school, I had to make sure she didn't walk into the attack."

She had never had an opinion on pitbulls before the animals turned on her. "I didn't know the potential was so great (for attack).

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