‘Stomach churning’ injuries for councillor bitten by dog

Judge Robert Pawson described Susan Greene as "an extremely robust and phlegmatic character" after her ordeal
Judge Robert Pawson described Susan Greene as "an extremely robust and phlegmatic character" after she was mauled - BNPS

A council’s rights of way officer was left with “stomach churning” injuries after she was attacked by a dog, a court heard.

Susan Greene, 88, was walking on a public footpath next to a farm when Yogi, an old English bulldog, set upon her.

The dog, that was already subject to a control order, sank its teeth into the pensioner’s right calf, causing her to scream in pain.

Mrs Greene, the wife of a vicar, escaped by limping to her push bike and peddling away from the rural scene with blood gushing from her severe leg wounds.

A passerby stopped to help and wrapped her leg in a plastic shopping bag before driving her straight to hospital.

Mrs Greene was hospitalised for four days and left with serious scarring, with the injuries described as level 5 on the Dunbar bite scale – the highest level without being fatal.

Graham Habberfield, the dog's owner
Graham Habberfield, the dog's owner - BNPS

The dog’s owner, Graham Habberfield, 62, a beef and dairy farmer, had no idea the attack had happened until police turned up to question him.

His three-year-old dog Yogi was already the subject of a dog behaviour control order having bitten another member of the public six months earlier.

Habberfield believed Yogi got out through a badger run under a hedge he was not aware of.

A crown court judge has now ordered the dog be destroyed to protect the public. Habberfield, who pleaded guilty to being the owner of a dog dangerously out of control, must also pay Mrs Greene £4,500 compensation.

Mrs Greene, from Sherborne, Dorset had cycled to the nearby hamlet of Clifton Maybank to look at the wild garlic in a wood there on Sunday, April 16 last year.

Mrs Greene, who is the rights of way officer on Sherborne council, of which she is an elected member, said when she walked past Clifton Farm on the way to the woodland two dogs suddenly appeared and barked and snarled at her.

‘Two dogs snarling’

She said: “When I came back after my Sunday afternoon walk I went past the farm again and one of the two dogs came up behind me snarling away.

“Then suddenly I was viciously bitten from behind on my lower right leg. I screamed my head off.

“I managed to carry on to my bike and tried to cycle home using only my left foot, I was in excruciating pain.

“My boots were covered in blood. As I got near home somebody saw me and got me to hospital with my bleeding leg wrapped in a plastic shopping bag.

“The doctor who treated me said they had never seen such severe wounds from a dog bite.”

After being released from hospital, Mrs Greene’s daughter moved in with her to look after her.

Used to walk 8 miles daily

The active pensioner, who used to walk up to eight miles a day, said she is still recovering her strength a year on.

Mrs Greene said she was relieved that the judge had made a destruction order on the dog.

Bournemouth Crown Court heard that as well as keeping the dog secure, Habberfield was supposed to have erected signs warning passersby there were dogs on the property and had not done that at the time of the attack.

Verity Quaite, prosecuting, said: “Yogi was under a control order since February 21 last year. There was a prior unrelated biting incident in October 2022. There were various requirements including being required to keep Yogi under control at all times and not allowed to be on the lane outside of the farm alone.

“He was unaware of any gaps in the hedges and thought he had left them secure but accepted Yogi must have got through a gap. He was very apologetic and said he wished to pay compensation for the injuries.”

‘I’d leave daughter, 9, with Yogi’

Richard Tutt, defending, said Habberfield had no previous convictions and had made full admissions from the outset.

Mr Tutt said: “He believed he had secured his garden – the garden perimeter has a chain link fence for parts, double bank hedge, a wall and a gate. He put up a stock fence in addition.

“It’s obviously a very rural location. After the incident in April he discovered there was a badger run he wasn’t previously aware of. After that he has erected further fencing and to the knowledge of him and his family, Yogi has never been able to escape since.

“This isn’t a case where Mr Habberfield ignored what he had been told to do, he believed he had taken necessary steps.”

Mr Tutt said since the incident Yogi had undergone training at some kennels where they train police dogs and there had been no further issues.

His daughter Natalie, who also lives on the farm, along with her nine-year-old daughter, said: “(Yogi’s) very affectionate, he is my daughter’s best friend. People should never trust a dog with their children unattended but I would be able to leave her with Yogi incredibly confidently.

“If I felt Yogi was any sort of danger to the public I would take him to the vets myself and have him put to sleep.”

Very serious injuries

Judge Robert Pawson described the pictures of Mrs Greene’s injuries as “stomach churning”.

He said: “The photographs are not for the faint-hearted. They show three very serious injuries and bruising.

“She must be an extremely robust and phlegmatic character – having been approached from behind by a dog and bitten, she got back on her bike and cycled home, which is really quite surprising when you see the nature of the injuries.”

Judge Pawson sentenced Habberfield to 10 months, suspended for two years. He said he was not convinced that Yogi posed no danger to the public.

He added: “Destruction is not imposed as punishment, it is for public safety. The six-month gap (between bite incidents) does not allay the court’s fears.

“Mr Habberfield believed he had secured the garden. You cannot, with the best will in the world, ensure that there is no further issue with, for example, badgers.

“I have to consider the temperament of Yogi and his past behaviour and the problem is he has a record of biting.

“I’m not satisfied that Yogi wouldn’t pose an ongoing risk to the public. With a heavy heart I am bound to make a destruction order.” Habberfield has 28 days to appeal the order.

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