Woman pleads guilty after dog attack injured four people - including her

A Hebburn woman will be sentenced at crown court after her dog attacked four people – including herself – months after the family pet was deemed safe.

A pit bull terrier type dog, called Hugo, was shot three times by armed police following an out-of-control rampage which saw four people – including his owner and her father – injured in a ‘sustained series of attacks’ in Whickham Road, Hebburn, on October 15, 2019.

Now, Rebecca Porteous, who suffered the most substantial injuries in the attack, has admitted being the owner of a dog dangerously out of control causing injury during a hearing at South Tyneside Magistrates’ Court on Monday, July 13.

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The court heard how just months before the attack, Hugo had been deemed low risk by Northumbria Police and was in the process of being added to the index of exempted dogs.

Rebecca Porteous will appear at crown court for sentencing next monthRebecca Porteous will appear at crown court for sentencing next month
Rebecca Porteous will appear at crown court for sentencing next month

Hugo, who was a prohibited breed, managed to leap over Porteous’ garden fence after being spooked by a firework on the day of the incident.

Oriana Frame, prosecuting, said Hugo charged across the street and latched onto another dog, a shih tzu, who was being walked by a teenage boy.

The court heard how the boy fought to release their family dog and said that he thought “Hugo was going to rip (his dog) to pieces”. In the process, the teenager was bitten through the nail of his finger and required hospital treatment. The shih tzu survived but vet bills cost £600.

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Another woman rushed to their aid and kicked the dog in a bid to distract him.

Hugo had been deemed safe by Northumbria PoliceHugo had been deemed safe by Northumbria Police
Hugo had been deemed safe by Northumbria Police

Hugo then turned on the woman and bit her on the arm causing an injury which she said “appeared as if a shark had bitten her”.

Ms Frame said a ‘large chunk of her arm was clearly missing’ and the woman needed three months off work as she recovered following surgery.

The defendant’s father arrived and Hugo bit him on his right forearm for two to three seconds but he says Hugo let go when he realised who he was.

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It was the 21-year-old defendant, of Whickham Street, who suffered the most extensive injuries and was in hospital for a week after being bitten on the arm, hand and thigh as she tried to stop the attacks.

When police arrived, Hugo was trapped in the front garden but was blocking the pathway to Porteous, who having taken refuge in her home, needed immediate medical attention.

Hugo was then shot by police three times.

The court heard how Northumbria Police were aware of the dog which had been taken away and assessed in July, 2019.

Over a period of almost a week, the police assessor found the dog was ‘happy to be handled’, showed ‘no signs of aggression’ and was deemed to be low risk.

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Hugo had to be castrated and wear a muzzle in public, which the family did abide by.

Magistrates were told that Hugo had belonged to Porteous’s partner who sadly died two months before the incident in August.

The defendant had then struggled to find the money to pay the £90 fee so Hugo could be classed as an exempt dog and was given an extension.

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Val Bell, defending Porteous, said: “She is terribly upset and sorry about what happened. It happened at a particularly difficult time in her life.”

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Adding: “She did everything any responsible dog owner would have done.”

Porteous was in hospital for a week and was unable to walk and care for her young daughter while she recovered.

"Nobody, not even Northumbria Police, had any concerns about the dog’s behaviour,” said Ms Bell.

Sending the case to Newcastle Crown Court for sentencing, chair of the bench, Roseanne Forster said this is a ‘complicated case’.

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Porteous will appear at crown court for sentencing on August 10.

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