Woman who lost arm after being mauled by American bulldog sues RSPCA
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A woman who was mauled by a bulldog she was fostering and had to have her arm amputated after an attack is suing the RSPCA.
Joanna Harris, 49, claims that the RSPCA rescue centre where she got the 15-month-old pup from knew that the dog was aggressive.
Joanna was at home with the bulldog, named Kiwi, when he clamped his jaws down on her other pet dog Bo.
After fighting to get Kiwi off Bo, the dog then turned to Joanna, mauling her arm.
When she was unable to release Kiwi's grip, Joanna had to run outside to her garden and called out to her neighbour for help.
Police arrived 20 minutes later, only to find that Kiwi was still latched onto Joanna's arm. And, even then, it took multiple attempts to get the dog to unlatch its grip on her.
Eventually, officers were forced to taser the dog three times.
By the time Joanna was taken to hospital, her arm was destroyed; her left bicep was exposed, and there was no blood supply or mobility in her arm.
The injuries were so severe that her arm couldn't be saved, and surgeons were left with no choice but to amputate.
Meanwhile, Kiwi had to be put down by vets.
“What happened that day and how I was attacked in my own home is something that will stay with me forever," Joanna said.
“It was absolutely terrifying. Even when the police arrived Kiwi didn’t want to let go. The pain I was in was excruciating and I knew I was in a bad way.
“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 became a lot more reliant on friends and family, even for things such as getting dressed and food shopping, things many people take for granted."
Before Joanna took Kiwi in, the bulldog had allegedly been aggressive to staff and inflicted minor injuries.
And just one week before the attack, Kiwi had tried to bite Joanna, she says.
Joanna is now seeking £200,000 in damages from the RSPCA through the High Court.
Her lawyers insist that the RSPCA breached the Animal Act because it should have known the dog was aggressive by its previous behaviour, but still allowed Kiwi to be fostered when it was unsafe.
Irwin Mitchell, representing Joanna, added the RSPCA had apparently failed to remove Kiwi from her house when he first tried to bite her.
The RSPCA has denied liability.
Joanna 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."
Joanna says she's trying her best to remain positive, but feels she 'deserves answers to the concerns she has'.
Chani Dhaliwal, the expert serious injury lawyer at Irwin Mitchell, added: “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.
“Her case vividly highlights the devastating effect such incidents can have on people," Dhaliwal said.
“Understandably she has a number of concerns about what happened and whether more could have been done to prevent her horrific injuries.
“While nothing can make up for what she’s been through we’re determined to support Joanna to provide her with not only the answers she deserves but also the specialist support and therapies she requires to regain more of her independence.
“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.”
An RSPCA spokesperson told Tyla: “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.
"Our branches and centres are available to support them or take an animal back into our care if the new owner does not feel happy or safe.
"We cannot say any more at this time because of ongoing legal proceedings, which the RSPCA is defending.”