Teenager mauled in savage dog attack

A LAKE Macquarie woman is recovering from a savage dog attack that left her with injuries to her ear, neck and arms that required 19 stitches.

Natalie Southam, 19, of Mirrabooka, said two American Staffordshire terriers that lived next door jumped two two-metre fences into her property and attacked her.

Lake Macquarie City Council confirmed the owner of the dogs involved in the attack surrendered them to a council ranger and the RSPCA euthanised them.

Click on the image below for more pictures relating to the incident.

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Council waste environment and rangers manager Keith Stevenson said in a statement the council had completed interviews with people involved and intended to ‘‘prosecute the owner of the dogs for the attack’’.

Animal welfare activists have accused the council of failing to declare the dogs as dangerous, despite 11 complaints over three years about dogs at the property.

The council said rangers had investigated all complaints or referred them to the RSPCA.

‘‘Under the legislation, council has not been presented with sufficient evidence to warrant the issue of a dangerous dog declaration for any dogs on the premises,’’ Mr Stevenson said.

‘‘Council has not received any report that any of the dogs has previously attacked a person or other animal.’’

But a letter that the council rangers’ department sent to councillors last December said the council had received 11 ‘‘service requests’’ about dogs at the property from March 2009 to November 2011. They included allegations about dogs escaping, dogs fighting, dogs killing puppies for food, dogs causing noise and distress to neighbours and dogs killing goats.

A council official said last night there had been insufficient evidence to support the allegations.

Ms Southam said the two dogs bit her thigh, arm and ear, before pulling her to the ground during the attack last Friday.

‘‘One of the dogs grabbed me around my neck and I felt her tooth against my skull,’’ Ms Southam said. ‘‘I blacked out at that stage.’’

She said her partner, Lee Smith, saved her life when he swung a rake at one dog’s head: ‘‘If it was a few more seconds I wouldn’t be here.’’

Mr Smith, 35, said the dogs’ owner jumped two fences and pulled the other dog off Ms Southam.

Mr Smith said one of the dogs had bitten him on the leg a year ago.

Society of Companion Animal Rescuers spokeswoman Callie Redman said she witnessed and took photographs of dogs mauling each other on the property in October last year.

‘‘I warned the council about this six months ago,’’ said Ms Redman, explaining that she gave the photos, along with residents’ accounts of the dogs acting dangerously, to the council, RSPCA and police.

She allegedly witnessed a dozen dogs on the property.

The rangers’ department letter that was passed on to councillors said council received a complaint of 17 dogs on the property.

Ms Redman questioned whether it was an unauthorised breeding operation.

The council letter said previous legal and planning advice about similar allegations indicated ‘‘the occupier has to derive the majority of his or her income from the business of breeding and selling animals before approval is required’’.

Ms Redman alleged she had photographic evidence to show dogs on the property were covered in mange, scars and open wounds.

Ms Redman said she made five complaints to the RSPCA.

RSPCA chief inspector David O’Shannessy said his organisation did investigate, but was unable to prove offences had occurred beyond a reasonable doubt.

Mr Smith said the owner, who was his friend, looked after the animals as best he could and took them to the vet when needed.

Ms Southam said the owner was a ‘‘good friend to me’’ and she could see how much the attack on her had hurt him.

The Newcastle Herald left messages for the owner, but he did not return calls.

IN HER OWN WORDS

How Natalie Southam described the attack

TWO pedigree American Staffordshire terriers jumped two two-metre fences, allowing them access to our backyard.

I have looked after these dogs so much in the past.

Honey [one of the dogs] lunged forward and bit my right inner thigh. Bubba [the other dog] jumped over Honey and grabbed my right wrist before she even touched the ground. They started pulling me downwards.

Honey bit down over my left ear and it felt wet and gummy. She then let go and bit down on my neck and I felt her tooth on my skull. The owner got Honey off my neck as Lee [her partner] hit Bubba on the head with a rake. I passed out for a few seconds.

When I woke up Lee had his singlet top over my ear to stop the bleeding. I remember feeling like my ear wasn't there any more. Lee kept me awake and kept talking to me.

I told him my neck was hurting really badly. I remember the look on [the owner's] face. I understood how bad he was feeling. He is a good friend to me and I could see how much this was hurting him.

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