Jack Lis: Mum of boy mauled to death by dog in Caerphilly slams 'pitiful' sentences

Jack's mother Emma Whitfield tells ITV Wales Correspondent Hannah Thomas - 'We're living in hell'

The mother of a ten-year-old boy who was mauled to death by a dog has told ITV Wales her family have been "living in hell" a year on from his death.

Jack Lis died after being viciously attacked by the animal - an American bully or XL bully dog called 'Beast' - in Penyrheol, Caerphilly, in November last year.

Cardiff Crown Court heard that Jack suffered "catastrophic and unsurvivable injuries" which caused his death.

Brandon Hayden, 19, was jailed for four years and six months in June for having a dog dangerously out of control which caused injury leading to Jack's death - something which Jack's mother described as "pitiful".

Meanwhile, Amy Salter, 29, was sentenced to three years’ imprisonment after allowing Hayden to keep the dog at her home.

In an exclusive interview with ITV Cymru Wales, Emma Whitfield said no sentence would have brought justice, but what they have received is an "insult."

Jack's mother Emma says she doesn't have the words to describe how much she misses him.

Emma said she is calling for harsher sentences for those who own dangerous dogs.

"For them to get as little as they did, that’s nowhere near close to where it should be. Jack was ten, they didn’t even receive half of that and his (Hayden), was even less because of his age. But he knew what he was doing, so how does his age help him get off?

“Everything’s okay for him he’s in prison for maybe a year and a half, two years if he’s released early. He gets to come back out and keep living his life. But mine, I don’t have one anymore."

When asked how emotional she had been following Jack's death, Emma responded by saying: “Emotional…I don’t know if that’s the right word, we’re living in hell.

"No parent needs to go through losing a child and then to go through losing a child at the hands of somebody else for their wrongdoings is something I can’t put into words."

Jack Lis was 10-years-old when he died after being attacked by the dog. Credit: Family photo

Emma does not believe that either Hayden or Salter have any remorse.

"To this day I’ve not received an apology. I’ve not even got the hint that they have any kind of remorse.

"I don’t want an apology from them. But even down to the day they were sentenced and the way he (Brandon Hayden) walked into court with his sleeves rolled up, who’s he trying to impress?

"And in the dock blowing kisses and winking, where's the remorse there? How could he be smiling? While I’m sat watching what he’s done, listening to what he had done and her and they don’t even seem to be in the slightest bit sorry.”

Emma believes much more needs to be done to strengthen dog laws in the UK but ultimately much of it comes down to the owner to control their pets.

“Have a sense of responsibility. I know this case is completely different to any other normal dog owner but if you do have a big and powerful dog, then all dogs should be trained even the tiny dogs should be trained."

Amy Salter and Brandon Hayden pleaded guilty to being in charge of a dog dangerously out of control, causing injury resulting in death. Credit: Police

Since Jack's death, another dog attack has taken place in the area where the boy lived, with an 83 year-old woman fighting for her life in hospital after being attacked.

Three people have been arrested after officers were called to an address in Heol Fawr on on Saturday 3 December. Gwent Police have said they don't believe the dog was related to the one involved in Jack's death.

Emma says there are no words to describe how much she misses Jack and that life will never be the same for her and her family.

“It’s horrendous. I’m in autopilot everyday. I get up, I do the same thing every single day, just because I don’t think about it. I can’t wake him up for school anymore, I can’t wash his clothes anymore and I just don’t know how I keep going.

“I see people everyday, I take my youngest to school and I know they look at me for all the wrong reasons and they’re not in the wrong or anything like that, there’s no words anybody can say, but they know who I am now and that’s hard to deal with on a daily basis.” 

Despite her traumatic ordeal, Emma says she wants Jack to be remembered for “his big smile and his teeth, that’s my Jack.”

She continued: “Jack was mad about cars, I think everyone knows that now. YouTube videos, games of building cars and mechanics, he was very much car focussed.

"And the joy in his face when he would figure something out and tell you, this is why this does that, he could pick apart parts of an engine and tell you what it does and why and the joy he got from that was something else.

"He’d go from that, to giving cuddles and he’d just sit next to you and cuddle you.

“I sit down in the evening, I’ve got photos on my phone of him sitting in the chair and being there with the cats and now I look at that chair and he’s not there with the cats and I don’t think that will be something I’ll ever get my head around.” 

Emma says she wants Jack to be remembered for the happy boy that he was.

In a statement from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs on Jack's death a spokesperson has said:

"This was a deeply tragic incident and our sympathies remain with Jack's family.

"It is a criminal offence under the Dangerous Dogs Act to allow a dog of any breed or type to be dangerously out of control and the police rightly have the powers to seize them in these circumstances.

"We recently launched the Responsible Dog Ownership working group which brings together the police, local authorities and animal welfare groups to see how we can go even further to reduce the number of dog attacks occurring each year."

You can see Hannah Thomas' exclusive interview with the mother of Jack Lis on Wales at Six, Thursday 8 December, 6pm on ITV Cymru Wales.