A Carlisle couple have been given suspended jail terms after their dog mauled a child who was left traumatised and scarred.
A judge who punished Ryan Baker, 24, and his 23-year-old fiancée Kelsey Forster at the city's crown court today also imposed a death sentence on their Staffordshire bull terrier cross, Benson, after the horrific attack.
This occurred during a family house gathering on December 16, 2018, at Winlaton, Gateshead. Baker and Forster were present with their dog, as was a four-year-old boy who was lying calmly on the living room floor with his colouring books.
Benson sniffed the child's hand and licked his face before sinking its teeth on to the back of his head, locking on. Blood was seen "streaming" from puncture wounds, and the tip of one finger was severed during an attack which ended as Baker removed the pet, various family members having desperately tried to prise it away.
Daddy, why did it bite me? I was just sat drawing.
The boy underwent surgery with the amputated tip grafted back on to the finger, needed ongoing treatment and had been left permanently scarred.
Although the couple reported no prior issues while owning Benson for a year, they knew it had bitten a toddler and two other dogs while with three previous adoptive owners.
"My son could have been killed," the youngster's shocked dad had said. "The defendants knew their dog was a risk to others, and knowingly exposed my family to that risk."
His son, left traumatised and having regular nightmares, had stated: "Daddy, why did it bite me? I was just sat drawing."
Baker and Forster - both of previous good character - admitted owning a dog which caused injury while dangerously out of control.
My son could have been killed.
Jonathan Harley, defending, said the couple, of Speckled Wood Drive, Carlisle, were left "haunted" by the incident and its impact on the boy and his family, adding: "This was an offence borne out of complacency and naivety rather than overt criminality."
Judge Julie Clemitson suspended 20-month prison sentences for a year, and ordered the pair to each pay £750 compensation and £750 costs. They wept as Judge Clemitson ordered Benson to be destroyed."What happened," she said, "was a salient reminder to all of us as to how vigilant everybody needs to be with dogs and children."