A SIX-year-old search and rescue dog, has been reprieved after injuring a toddler who had been encouraged to pat her.
Magistrates in Prestatyn imposed a contingency destruction order on border collie Mist, which means that if she injures anyone else she will be put down.
In the meantime, however, Mist and her owner, former policeman Paul Shorrock, can continue their work with the North East Wales Search and Rescue Association.
And after hearing that he would not allow the dog to be placed in the same stressful situation again the bench also agreed that she need not be kept on a lead or muzzled.
The court heard that on June 9 last year two-year-old Rose Anderson, her father David, and her brother and sister went for a walk on Graig Fawr, a rocky hillside at Meliden, where Shorrock often took Mist for training purposes.
Rose approached Mist and Shorrock held the dog’s collar as the toddler patted her on the head.
What exactly happened next was disputed but Rose suffered two sets of puncture marks to her face and head, one requiring six stitches and the other 12.
She underwent surgery at Glan Clwyd Hospital.
Shorrock claimed that the dog had merely “gone into barking mode” and not actually bitten the child, a version accepted by the prosecution in return for his guilty plea to a charge of being in charge of a dangerous dog which was out of control and causing injury.
Shorrock, aged 62, of Bron Haul, Dyserth, who served in the Cumbria Force, said he had had Mist for more than three years and started training her as a search and rescue dog 13 months before the incident.
She had made huge progress and never caused any problems, he said.
But since the incident, he said, he had learned that Mist would have been under stress by being restrained close to children when her normal instinct would have been to move away.
That was confirmed by dog behaviour expert David Ryan.
Shorrock, who said he and his wife Chris took Mist out training virtually every day, said they had since introduced control measures to ensure that the same situation did not arise in future.
Mr Anderson, of The Grove, Prestatyn, told the court that Rose could have a permanent scar below her eye.
David Jones, defending, said that civil proceedings were being taken and as there was an admission compensation would be awarded.
Shorrock was fined £900 and ordered to pay Rose £1,500 in compensation.
He must also pay court costs of £440.