An out-of-control dog clamped its jaws around a toddler’s face in a horrific attack.
Stephen Miller’s seven-year-old Patterdale terrier suddenly attacked the 14-month-old boy while he was crawling on the grass at a public space in Ryhope on April 21.
In a horrific chain of events, the child’s grandmother fought to prise the bleeding boy from the dog’s jaws as he screamed in pain, Sunderland magistrates heard.
Prosecutor Paul Doney said the grandmother had visited Miller, 50, and they had been sitting on the grassed area behind his home in Wilkinson Terrace, when the incident happened.
He said the black pet, called Ty, had been tethered to a long length of rope, allowing him to roam freely.
Mr Doney said the grandmother, in a statement to police, said: “My grandson began to crawl around the grass towards the gate.
I put my hands on the dog’s jaws and tried to pull open the dog’s mouth, which was still latched onto his faceGrandmother
“I followed him and a few times I had to pick him up and turn him around so he could crawl back towards where we were sitting.
“The dog was lying down on the grass.”
She said the youngster dropped a juice bottle on the ground and she went to pick it up.
She added: “A split-second later I saw the black dog belonging to Stephen had hold of his face in its jaws and he gave out a scream.
“I put my hands on the dog’s jaws and tried to pull open its mouth, which was still latched on to his face.
“I used my right foot to nudge my grandson out of the way.”
Mr Doney said the right side of the boy’s face had bite marks and was bleeding.
“The whole incident has left me traumatised,” the grandmother added. “I still get flashbacks of him being bitten by the dog.”
The boy was taken by ambulance to hospital, where he was treated for a semi-circular cut on his face, another 3cm gash to his cheek and a 2cm cut next to his eyebrow.
The court heard Miller voluntarily signed the dog over to police and it was destroyed the same day.
He had previously entered a not guilty plea to allowing a dog to cause injury while dangerously out of control.
However, he changed his plea to guilty on the day of trial.
Gerry Armstrong, defending, said the dog had never before shown any signs of aggression in its seven years and had not done anything to give cause for concern.
Mr Armstrong said the dog was laying down shortly before the attack time and may have been startled by the baby and lashed out.
“The dog, in the darkness of the gazebo, didn’t know what it was, it’s been an instant reaction,” Mr Armstrong added. “Mr Miller blames himself for this, he is very upset about what happened.
“The law now says the act of the dog biting means the dog is dangerously out of control.
“He is a full-time carer for his mother and there is nothing I have seen that indicates he’s ever come to the attention of the police before.”
Fining Miller £150, district judge Roger Elsey said: “This was a frightening incident both for the toddler who was injured and also for his grandmother.
“Clearly this has had long-term consequences for her and I have to take that into consideration.
“I have taken account of the dog’s lack of previous aggression, your genuine remorse, and the fact that the dog has been destroyed.”
Miller was also told to pay £200 in compensation, £150 criminal courts charge and £50 costs.