Evidential hearing to determine fate of Staffy which killed two pet dogs

The owner of a Staffordshire bull terrier cross which killed two smaller dogs must provide evidence of her pet’s improved behaviour to save it from being destroyed.

Sheriff Ian Cruickshank granted rescue dog Joey a reprieve when he deferred sentencing at Lerwick Sheriff Court on Thursday for an evidential hearing in July.

The court heard Joey, owned by 23-year-old Anna Etzel, was already subject to a control order when it fatally attacked a Jack Russell near her home in Holmsgarth Brae, Lerwick, on 28th December 2018.

Etzel admitted being the owner of a dangerously out of control dog, which was not muzzled or on a lead, as required by the order, at the time of the attack.

Procurator fiscal Duncan Mackenzie said Joey got out the house at around 9pm and encountered a couple returning from a walk with their 13-year-old Jack Russell.

Mr Mackenzie said Joey “lashed out”, attacked the other dog and began to “shake her wildly”.

He said the owner of the other dog tried to intervene but was knocked to the ground.

While he made further attempts to rescue his pet, the court heard his wife was so distressed she was “screaming for help”.

Mr Mackenzie said Etzel and her partner then arrived and tried to force Joey off the smaller dog.

Only when a friend of Etzel’s partner joined in did they finally manage to separate the two animals.

Mr Mackenzie said the couple called the police.

Their pet lost consciousness and was taken to the vets with five deep puncture wounds to her body.

“She was distressed and in a great deal of pain,” Mr Mackenzie said.

The court also heard the owner of the other dog was experiencing difficulty breathing.

His wife called 999 fearing he was having a heart attack.

When the ambulance arrived, however, the husband was feeling better.

Mr Mackenzie also referred to the previous attack, which saw the control notice imposed, from three months earlier, when Joey killed another family pet in East Voe.

The procurator fiscal said while his “fondness for dogs is well known” he felt the nature of the attacks meant a destruction order must be at the “forefront” of the sheriff’s mind.

Since the incident, Mr Mackenzie said there had been opportunities to rehome Joey, which Etzel had declined, demonstrating an element of “selfish interest”.

Defence agent Tommy Allan said Joey was a rescue dog and both attacks happened within a short time, soon after Etzel had taken ownership of him.

In the two and a half years since the latest attack, Mr Allan said that “to the best of my knowledge” there had been no further breaches of the dog control notice.

“In one view there’s been good behaviour for two and a half years,” he said.

Mr Allan said his client did not have a “cavalier attitude” about dog ownership, highlighting steps she had taken to ensure safety, including moving home, and spending a “considerable sum of money” making the new place safe.

Mr Allan said Etzel knew that she would not be able to keep the dog if she could not satisfy the relevant authorities.

Despite this, he said Joey was her “best and closet friend and she was ‘very anxious, if at all possible, to keep the dog'”.

On the day of the attack, Mr Allan said his client had only recently returned home from work when Joey got loose, due to friends of her then partner’s leaving the door open.

He said the lapse was “fairly brief” with “unfortunate consequences”.

While acknowledging the incident had been a “profound and upsetting experience” for the owners of the other dog, Mr Allan also said it had “quite an effect” on his client.

He said Etzel had tried to apologise to the couple.

Sheriff Cruickshank said the evidence had “certainly given me some matters to think about”, to which he had given “careful consideration”.

While he said he would take into account the time since the offence, he also said he still had some concerns for public safety.

Sheriff Cruickshank said “rather than seal Joey’s fate” he would assign a hearing on 7th July when parties could present evidence about Joey’s current circumstances.

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