Man whose dog killed a woman avoids jail

A Neopolitan Mastiff similar to 'DBO' who was assassinated by police at the scene of the crime pic: Kenjonbro

A Croydon man whose pet dog mauled a woman to death has avoided a jail sentence.

Alex Blackburn-Smith’s Neapolitan Mastiff, named DB0, attacked and killed his house mate Barbara Williams, 52, at their home in Demesne Road, Wallington, on December 23rd 2010.

Today at Croydon Crown Court Blackburn-Smith, now residing at Davidson Road, Croydon, was sentenced to 150 hours community service and ordered to pay costs amounting to £3,340.

Williams, who had been doing her washing up with another house mate, suffered a severe haemorrhage to the head and neck during the attack and died at the scene.

DB0 was shot dead by police after attempts to restrain him using riot shields failed.

The attack came after the dog broke free from a small cage. Former army paratrooper Blackburn-Smith has previously pleaded guilty to failing to ensure the dog’s welfare by keeping the 1.24m dog in a 106cm cage.

Prosecutor Angela Williams today said that it appeared that the cage was forced open by the dog standing up, but District Judge Robert Hunter concluded that while the conditions “may have allowed and contributed to the dog getting out” it was not certain they were the cause of the attack.

Defence lawyer Richard Jeffries said that the dog was usually kept in the garden, but had been kept in a cage at the request of a vet as it recovered from a leg injury.

He added that the RSPCA and a police community support officer had visited the address prior to the attack in response to a noise complaint, but that no complaint was made about the treatment or welfare of the dogs at the time.

Blackburn-Smith had previously pleaded guilty to owning a pitbull terrier, DB0’s daughter, who due to her breed was illegal under the Dangerous Dogs Act. The dog was subsequently put down.

Mastiffs are not amongst the breeds covered by the act, so police and council authorities can only act to remove them once the dog has attacked or appeared threatening. The proposed Dog Control Bill currently being debated in Parliament would lift these breed-specific restrictions, instead cracking down on irresponsible owners.

Breeds known as ‘status dogs’, often trained to fight or appear aggressive, are a continuing issue in south and east London, prompting charities such as Dog’s Trust to take measures to teach people about the importance of responsible dog ownership.

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