Site hosted by Build your free website today!

by Nick Mays

A STAFFORDSHIRE Bull Terrier has been blamed for the death of its owner after father-of-four, George Dinham, 47, was found slumped on his living room floor with ‘horrific’ face and neck injuries, by his brother Fred.

According to a lurid report in the Daily Mirror newspaper, Mr Dinham’s Staffordshire Bull Terrier Ben was ‘caked’ in his master's blood.

Fred Dinham, who lived with George in Wandsworth, South London, said: "We can only think he had some sort of fit and scared the dog. There's no way Ben would have gone for him otherwise - he loved that dog and the dog loved him."

Much was made in the article of reports that nine-year-old Brenda Salawu was taken to hospital with cuts and scratches after Ben ‘attacked’ her three months previously, although evidence has emerged to indicate that the dog merely jumped up at the child rather than ‘attacking’ her.

Brenda, who was taken to hospital with cuts and scratches, said: "We were making too much noise and he came out to warn us. We started to talk quietly but he came out again and this time the dog came with him.

"Everyone ran - but I just walked because I thought that if I didn't the dog would get me. The dog pounced on me and made me fall to the ground and he scratched me. When the man came up he just took the dog off and said 'Sorry'.

"I was very hurt and shocked and I went to the hospital where they checked me and X-rayed me. It is not a nice dog. When the man held it he looked like he couldn't control it too well."

Scotland Yard confirmed: "The death was initially treated as suspicious and the Serious Crime Directorate started an investigation. However a post mortem has shown that the deceased died from a neck injury consistent with a dog bite."

Det Insp Kevin Clingham, of Wandsworth CID, said: "In 27 years of police work I've never seen anything like this.

"Dogs have been known to attack but fatalities are incredibly rare. I've certainly never heard of a dog causing such injuries to its owner."

Mike Butcher, of RSPCA special operations, was quoted as saying that Staffordshire Bull Terriers were “once a fighting breed but do not normally attack people.”

He said: "There's always a tendency they may attack other dogs but they're generally good natured with humans. I've never heard of one attacking its owner."

But he added: "If you were to get one on a bad day then you'd have a problem. They're strong - particularly their jaws - they're tenacious and they don't let go."

RSPCA chief vet Chris Laurence said: "It is possible for a dog to be spooked by its owner in some way.

"Any dog presented with an unusual change in its owner's behaviour may react equally unpredictably. It might run away or even attack. But it is highly unusual."

A neighbour told how she heard the dog barking. Amy Barnett, 13, who lives in the flat above the Dinhams, said: "Ben is usually quiet. I have hardly heard him bark before.

"But on the night George died I was woken up by the barking. It went on and on. I thought someone must have been ringing their buzzer to set Ben off like that."

Brendan O'Malley, who runs an off-licence, said Mr Dinham had had epileptic fits in the past. He added: "He used to come in for his Heineken and tobacco and was always with his dog. He always had a muzzle on the dog but people used to stroke it. It seemed OK."

An inquest into Mr Dinham’s death was formally opened yesterday at Westminster coroner's court. Ben is in kennels while police consider the case for having him put down.

Seems like the owner may have been having a fit, he was epileptic, dog was known to bite and nudge him to wake up, a perforated ulcer on the neck could have led to his tragic death.

The Daily Mirror report was accompanied by a photograph of a Staffordshire Bull Terriuer with its mouth wide open. The redness of the dog’s mouth seemed to indicate deliberate ‘touching up’ of the photograph to convey a more horrific impression in the keeping with the tone of the story.

Meanwhile, The Sun decided to list a number of recent dog attacks involving ‘bull terriers’ alongside the known facts – or circumstantial evidence – of Mr Dinham’s death.

Dave Levy, Kennel Club Liaison Officer for the Staffordshire Bull Terrier Breed Council told OUR DOGS: “The death of George Dinham in Wandsworth on Friday 9th May - reported in that day’s media - was a tragedy. What is perhaps worse for his family is the current speculation and mis-reporting of the circumstances of his death. At best, some of the reporting is being ‘economical with the truth’, at worst it is intentionally distorted and trying to spread unnecessary and unjustified fears to hundreds of dog owners.

”It is very difficult to ascertain the FACTS of the evening although the Daily Mirror article does seem to contain a great deal of detail. There are also various theories being promoted both in the media and on the internet. Much of this is probably ill-informed. We do not yet know what actually happened.”

Mr Levy pointed out that certain ‘facts’ can be identified:

* It appears that Mr Dinham's dog Ben may indeed have been a Staffordshire Bull Terrier. This will not be known for certain unless and until a qualified dog judge has seen Ben but the issue is probably irrelevant.

* The actual cause of Mr Dinham's death will not be known until the Coroner has reported his findings.

* It is reported that Mr Dinham occasionally suffered from epileptic fits. There are at least two previous reported cases of people suffering from epileptic fits being killed by their own pet dog.

* There is talk of Ben having "attacked" a 9 year-old girl just 3 months ago. The facts seem to indicate that he jumped up, did not bite, but that the girl suffered a few minor scratches as a result of being pushed over. i.e. the incident appears to be irrelevant to the current situation.

* We are told that Ben was always walked on a muzzle. This appears to be because he was not good with other dogs and nothing to do with any previous incident with people.

* Mr Dinham's own family are repeatedly quoted as saying that George and Ben were devoted to one another and that it can only have been a tragic accident. Indeed Mr Dinham's brother says that Ben would nip George to help bring him around after an epileptic attack.

Mr levy added: “The police (we are told) are apparently trying to decide whether Ben should be put down. Obviously that would be illegal without Mr Dinham's heirs' permission.

The DDA does not apply since the incident happened in a private dwelling and anyway, they can hardly claim under section 5 that they cannot locate the owner.

Unless the owners (presumably Mr Dinham's brothers) agree to Ben being destroyed then it would require a difficult court case and who exactly would be prosecuted? What is surely more important is for animal behaviourists to be allowed to test Ben and see if they can ascertain the actual trigger that caused him to bite Mr Dinham.

”We are already hearing of Staffords being rejected by families scared by this story. You can be sure that if the Coroner eventually rules that Ben was in fact not the actual cause of Mr Dinham's death, or that Ben is not a SBT it will not warrant even a single column inch tucked away on page 17.

”The news story should be "what actually happened to George Dinham" and "are there lessons to be learned from his tragic death". It's a shame that once again "professional journalists" seem to have missed the most important issue. Will they never learn?

I have attached a copy of an article that I wrote that was published in the August 2002 edition of The Kennel Gazette. I am quite sure that they would give permission for The Sun to reprint the article if you feel it can cast some light on the issue of dog attacks on people.”

Mr Levy has written to the newspapers concerned along the lines above. Meanwhile, police and forensic investigations continue.

"Copyright © Our Dogs/Nick Mays 2003".,