Pet owners warned after guide dog attack sentencing

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The Independent Online

Police warned dog owners to keep their animals under control today after a man was sentenced following a savage attack on a guide dog.

John-Jo Madden, 18, of Gospel Oak, north west London, was banned from keeping dogs for 10 years by magistrates yesterday.

His terrier-type dog badly wounded a blind woman's guide dog when it ran out of control in an underpass at Cricklewood railway station last year.

Detective Constable Gerry Griffin, of British Transport Police (BTP), said the case sends a strong message about the responsibilities of dog ownership.

Speaking today, he said: "The incident clearly illustrates the importance of making sure that dogs are under the control of their owners at all times - particularly in public places such as railway stations."

The 57-year-old blind woman was left deeply shocked when her chocolate-brown Labrador, named Neela, was attacked on Sunday October 4.

The dog needed emergency treatment to puncture wounds to her neck but has since fully recovered.

The woman was walking through the station at lunchtime when her dog was pinned to the ground in a three-minute attack by the unleashed animal.

Madden was traced when investigators released CCTV images of him drinking from a can of beer and loitering in the area.

Police said Madden was jailed for three months, suspended for two years, at Hendon Magistrates' Court, in north London, yesterday.

He was also ordered to undertake 150 hours of unpaid work, and pay £1,200 compensation to the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association and £500 to the owner.

Madden admitted one offence of possessing a dangerous dog in a public place under the Dangerous Dogs Act.

The dog involved has not been found after Madden gave it away. Magistrates issued an order for its destruction.

Neela's owner, who wishes to remain anonymous, said guide dogs like hers are "invaluable".

Describing the attack, she said: "To be unable to see the assault was horrific and terrifying.

"What was to become of Neela, my faithful sighted guide and what of myself and my independence? In seconds both were being snapped away from me.

"She was being attacked and suffering tremendous pain and not knowing why. I felt tremendous guilt that Neela would associate the onslaught with me. It was a period of total isolation and fear."

Chris Dyson, of the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association, said: "We appeal to all pet dog owners: if you think there is any chance that your dog will be aggressive towards other dogs, or humans, please keep it on a lead, and muzzled if necessary."

Mr Griffin added: "This was a very sad case that shocked dog lovers across the country.

"I'm pleased to say that Neela, who displayed no aggression whatsoever during the attack, has fully recovered and is now back to work at her owner's side.

"I would like to thank the public for all of the information that was provided after the appeal, while Neela's owner wishes to thank everyone who has sent messages of support during what has been a very distressing time for her."