A woman who allowed a Staffordshire bull terrier she was looking after to run amok in a play park was banned from keeping dogs for five years and fined £1,400 at Lerwick Sheriff Court today.
Keri Butler, 31, of the town’s Nederdale, allowed the dog to get loose in August last year after her garden gate was left unsecured.
She subsequently failed to turn up for a court appearance on 23rd February.
The animal went dangerously out of control, at one point chasing a five-year-old boy, who was left distressed and crying as it snapped its jaws at him.
A man tried to distract it away from the child, but it turned and chased him instead.
Sheriff Graeme Napier had previously said he was considering having the dog, which is actually owned by someone else, put down.
Today he stopped short of this after hearing references for the dog’s good character.
However he considered sending Butler to jail after a background report ruled out any other sentencing option available to him.
Defence agent Tommy Allan said Butler, who has a history of drug misuse, was keen to be referred to the mental health unit.
But the sheriff said he was struggling to think of anything she required treatment for. He pointed to a previous opportunity she had to attend mental health, when she failed to follow it up.
Urging the sheriff to spare her from a prison term, Mr Allan said a financial penalty would be more “appropriate” than a custodial sentence.
The court heard Butler was in line to receive an inheritance, and she had no outstanding debts.
He stressed that, although the incident had been a frightening experience, nobody was physically harmed by the animal.
“Her culpability for this is against a background that it is her position the dog would not harm anybody,” he said.
“Apart from her failures in relation to this case, I don’t think she’s been in trouble since August last year when this case occurred.”
Sheriff Napier fined Butler £900 for letting the dog loose and £500 for her failure to appear.
“Mr Allan’s persuaded me not to send you to custody, which was my first option,” he said.
“You will be disqualified from keeping a dog for five years. By that time you may have conquered your drug addiction, and may be in a responsible enough position to own a dog.”