Dangerous American pitbull terrier cross that 'degloved' woman's hand is allowed to live

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Lennox, the dog which "degloved" a woman's hand, will be returned to its owners, after spending more than nine months in the pound.
Lennox, the dog which "degloved" a woman's hand, will be returned to its owners, after spending more than nine months in the pound.

The owner of a "dangerous breed" of dog which "degloved" a woman's hand cried tears of happiness as a judge declined the Hastings District Council's application to have it destroyed.

Matthew Fa'alele, his wife and three children had visited Lennox, their American pitbull terrier cross, at the pound every day for nine months and five days - including Christmas Day.

The dog had been impounded after it attacked one of Mr Fa'alele's children's teachers, Cherie Youngman, who was still dealing with emotional and physical repercussions from the attack.

In December Mr Fa'alele lost an application to have the dog home for Christmas.

Documents tabled during that Hastings District Council hearing said Ms Youngman was still receiving physiotherapy and had anxiety around dogs.

She had gone to the Flaxmere property on October 8 after arranging to meet with the Fa'aleles.

After watching the children play from outside the property and with no sign of parents, she reached over the gate to release the latch. Lennox, who had been sitting quietly nearby, jumped and bit Ms Youngman's right hand, "degloving" it.

Animal control officers were told about the attack on October 12 but when they arrived at the Flaxmere property the dog had been removed. The 2-year-old dog was found on the property the next month.

Mr Fa'alele pleaded guilty to a charge of owning a dog that attacked a person and one charge of failing to register the dog.

In the Hastings District Court yesterday, Judge Tony Adeane ordered him to pay, within three months, a $300 fine for failing to register the dog and $1000 for emotional harm to the victim.

Outside court, Mr Fa'alele said he was happy. Lennox's homecoming would be a "good bath".

It turned out Mr Fa'alele's hunch that his dog's playful mood during a pre-court visit was a "good omen" was right.

However, Fiona Cleary, who appeared for the Hastings District Council, said the dog's character was a risk.

Ms Cleary called on a vet to give evidence. The vet said when she visited Lennox the dog launched itself at her.

The woman's hand after surgery.
The woman's hand after surgery.

She said it was in a "positive" mode, with an erect tail and all four feet off the ground.

"I felt quite frightened - I actually felt it had been encouraged to do that," the vet said.

"It seemed to think that that was its job."

Ms Cleary said the dog was a "dangerous breed" and the seriousness of the injury he caused meant he was unsafe and should be destroyed.

Dog trainer Michael Blatch gave evidence for the defence, saying he had had no issue working with the dog in the past.

"The incident that happened would have been a one-off situation," Mr Blatch said.

"Ninety per cent of young adolescent dogs would've acted in the same way."

He said his training had a life-time guarantee and he would continue to work with Mr Fa'alele training the dog.

Judge Adeane said the Fa'aleles were responsible owners and their section had "modern" fencing to keep the dog contained.

The judge said the dog must be neutered, be muzzled in public and access the front yard only when Mr Fa'alele was present.

He ordered the dog be registered as dangerous, which meant any repercussions, if another incident occurred, would be serious.

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