Bulldog breeder who lost an arm after being savaged jailed by judge ‘to deter others’

Stephen Potts.
Stephen Potts.
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A bulldog breeder who lost an arm after being savaged by his own dogs has been jailed to act as an example, after his animals attacked a 63-year-old man.

Stephen Potts, 48, from Low Pittington, had only left hospital a few weeks after losing his arm before the incident with dog walker Lindsay Edwards.

In the first attack, two of Potts’s dogs savaged him, after being spooked by a firework, resulting in one being shot by a police marksman and the other put down by a vet.

Durham Crown Court heard his right arm was eventually amputated above the elbow and he only kept his left arm after substantial skin grafts.

Not long afterwards, he took seven of them for a walk with a friend when six of them set upon Mr Edwards and his dog, leaving him with injuries that included a cut to his head that exposed his skull.

Judge Christopher Prince, describing it as “about as bad a case as one can get”, said: “You were quite willing to place members of the public at risk of equal or more severe injuries you had suffered yourself just four weeks earlier.”

This must have been a genuinely terrifying experience for the victim and I would hope that this prosecution sends out a clear message to dog owners that with the ownership of such animals comes responsibility.

John Dilworth, Deputy Chief Crown Prosecutor for CPS North East

Jailing him for three months and banning him from owning dogs for life, the judge said: “I do not want someone to say if only Judge Prince had sentenced that man to prison, that man whose dog attacked my child might have kept it under control.”

Paul Newcombe, prosecuting, said Mr Edwards had been walking his dog Zumo in October along an old railway line when he came across Potts in an adjacent field.

The pack of bulldogs, which were off their leads, began to run towards him so he picked up his dog and wedged his foot against the gate to keep them on the other side of the fence.

But he was bitten through the fence on his calf and the dogs - named Bessie, Blue, Buster, Frosty, Gypsy and Tara - pushed their way through before they began to attack them both.

Mr Edwards, who described it like “a pack of hounds” setting upon a fox, suffered a wound so deep that his skull was exposed and a cut to his calf that went down to the muscle.

The court heard that as this was taking place, Potts had been on the phone and was recorded saying “we will have to lie about this”.

Judge Prince said: “It almost beggars belief that you ran over to the scene where Mr Edwards was suffering injuries from your animals and you said we will have to lie about this.

“Your first thought was not even for Mr Edwards, your first thought was I know I have done wrong, I wonder what I can do to pervert the course of justice and escape culpability for my actions.”

Stephen Potts.

Stephen Potts.

He said: “You knew that these dogs were capable of aggressive behaviour leading to serious injuries. Not only did you know it but who could have known that better than you?

“The man who had been attacked a month earlier and had had his right arm amputated above the elbow and his left arm left with serious injuries.”

Tony Davis, defending, argued that Potts was not an irresponsible dog owner and described him as “an uncomplicated man with very complicated problems”.

Mr Davis said the suicide of his son had led him to “channel all his energies and efforts into his dogs at the expense of all else” and “he adored his dogs”.

The death of his son had caused him to lead an isolated existence, said Mr Davis, and that “the dogs have been a source of support and he prides himself on the condition of his dogs and they have become drivers for his own ellbeing”.

He said Potts had gone as far to say he saw no reason to function in life without them.

But Judge Prince rejected these arguments and, as well as jailing him, ordered the destruction of the six dogs.

The court heard that the cost of housing all of his dogs since the attack had reached £38,000.

John Dilworth, Deputy Chief Crown Prosecutor for CPS North East, said: “Given the life-changing injuries he sustained during an attack by two American bull-dogs only weeks prior, it is astonishing that Mr Potts felt that he would be able to control six dogs of the same breed while still recovering.

“This must have been a genuinely terrifying experience for the victim and I would hope that this prosecution sends out a clear message to dog owners that with the ownership of such animals comes responsibility.

“Anyone who is unable to keep such dogs under control will be held accountable and prosecuted accordingly.”