Coroner queries American Bulldogs as pets

A coroner today questioned whether American Bulldogs should be kept by families with young children after an 18-month-old girl was mauled to death by her uncle's dog.

Zumer Ahmed sustained horrific injuries after being set upon by the animal, called Game, at her home in Cotton Walk, Broadfield, Crawley, West Sussex, on April 17.

She was in the kitchen when the pet - six times her weight - entered the house from the back garden and started attacking her.

Two workmen nearby were alerted and tried in vain to rescue Zumer from its jaws but her injuries were too severe for her to survive.

Penelope Schofield, coroner of West Sussex, said that very little mention is made of the potential threat such dogs pose to young children.

She accepted she may face criticism from dog lovers and organisations for raising doubts over whether they should be kept in a young family environment.

But she said the case highlighted a "real risk" to young children and that the death had left those close to Zumer "completely and utterly devastated".

"The little girl did not stand a chance," Ms Schofield said at the inquest at Horsham Magistrates' Court.

"The dog was six times her weight and was acting instinctively. The dog, an American Bulldog, does not come under the Dangerous Dogs Act.

"And even today the American and English Bulldog are listed on the internet as suitable for family pets.

"Very little is mentioned, if anything, to the potential threat to children.

"But this case shows that there is a real risk to young children and that this case is not uncommon.

"Many dog lovers and organisations will be critical of me to question whether it is safe for children to live in close proximity to these dogs.

"However, one function of my role is around prevention of future deaths."

Ms Schofield said she could not make any recommendations under the corner's rules as owning such dogs remained a "personal choice".

"However, I'm aware that this case has attracted a lot of publicity and I therefore hope that the press will highlight this case and the danger of keeping such dogs in a family environment with young children," she went on.

The dog was never allowed in the house and always entered or left the garden via a rear gate at the property.

On the day of the her death, Zumer's uncle, Urfan Ahmed, locked the back door before leaving the house via the front door, with Game in the back garden.

Zumer was indoors when other relatives sitting in the lounge heard the kitchen door open. The adults ran to the kitchen where they saw Game attacking Zumer.

The little girl's grandmother, Naseem Ahmed, tried in vain to pull the dog off her by the collar but it was too strong for her.

Then two workmen at the next door property heard the commotion and dashed round to find the dog with Zumer's head in his mouth.

The pair managed to free the little girl out of the kitchen, before closing the door behind them to prevent the dog from following them outside.

However, Zumer had suffered terrible injuries to her head and neck.

Still breathing, she was rushed to East Surrey Hospital in Redhill, Surrey, where doctors tried to save her life but she died in accident and emergency.

Mr Ahmed was arrested on suspicion of manslaughter but there was insufficient evidence to charge him with the offence.

However, he was charged under the Dangerous Dogs Act in respect of a second dog he owned, a Dogo Argentino bitch called Shakira.

He was convicted and banned from keeping dogs for five years. There were no previous reports of any problems to do with the two dogs.

Both have since been destroyed.

Ms Schofield recorded a narrative verdict, stating that Zumer died "as a result of being savaged by an American Bulldog in her own home".