Woman who lost arm in attack sues RSPCA


A WOMAN from Crowborough, who had her arm amputated after a dog attack, is suing the RSPCA for £200,000 because she wasn’t made aware of the animal’s violent history.

Joanna Harris, 49, fostered the American Bulldog from the RSPCA, but it attacked her while at her home in East Sussex in September 2021.

According to High Court documents, Kiwi, the 15-month-old American Bulldog, had shown previous aggression towards RSPCA staff, who had suffered minor injuries,

After struggling to release herself from the dog’s grip, Ms Harris asked a neighbour to call the emergency services.

When the police arrived 20 minutes later, Kiwi was still attached to her arm. Court documents show that they had to taser the dog three times until it finally let go.

She was taken to hospital where the decision was taken to remove Ms Harris’ left arm.

Also suffering injuries to her right arm, hand, and leg, she said: “It’s almost difficult to put into words what happened to me and the impact it’s had. I’ve always loved and grown up around dogs and really wanted to give a dog a home and a new life.

“What happened that day and how I was attacked in my own home is something that will stay with me forever. It was absolutely terrifying.

“However, nothing prepared me for the news that I had to have my arm amputated. At that moment, my life changed. I lost a lot of confidence and independence.

“I try and remain as positive as I can and want to focus on my recovery, but I feel I deserve answers to the concerns I have.”

Since the ordeal, Kiwi has been put down and Ms Harris sought legal help from law firm Irwin Mitchell to help her access specialist support, rehabilitation and therapy.

Irwin Mitchell said in court documents that the RSPCA is liable under the Animals Act, as they allegedly allowed Kiwi to be fostered by Ms Harris when it was unsafe to do so.

The alleged breaches include that the RSPCA failed to remove Kiwi from Ms Harris’ house when she reported that it tried to bite her a week before the incident.

Ms Harris hopes the High Court proceedings against RSPCA will provide her with answers and is claiming damages in excess of £200,000. The RSPCA has denied liability.

A RSPCA spokesperson told the Times: “This was a distressing incident, and our thoughts go out to Ms Harris.

“We assess the health and behavioural needs of animals before rehoming, and where necessary, we provide a full behavioural plan.

“We cannot say any more at this time because of ongoing legal proceedings, which the RSPCA is defending.”

Chani Dhaliwal, the expert serious injury lawyer at Irwin Mitchell representing Ms Harris, said: “Joanna has faced an incredibly difficult time coming to terms with the physical and psychological impact of the incident which has changed her life forever.

“Sadly, we’re seeing more incidents where people have been seriously injured in dog bite attacks. This has been particularly the case since lockdown when dog ownership increased.”

Last year, Kent police recorded 988 instances of dangerous dogs being out of control in public, compared to 916 in 2021, a rise of 7.8 per cent.

Daniel Shaw, Canine Behaviourist from Animal Behaviour Kent told the Times: “We do not currently know exactly why dog bites are on the rise.

“There are lots of factors at play, including breeding practices, the amount of training and socialisation the dog has received, public education about dog behaviour, and public attitudes towards dogs.

The American Bully XL, a breed from the same bull family as Kiwi, has risen in popularity. Four people were killed by the breed last year.

Mr Shaw added: “It is absolutely safe to adopt these breeds, but as with any large breed of dog, a greater size does carry a greater risk, so owners should always ensure they get suitable training support to ensure they have skills to safely handle such a large breed.

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