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Margate dog owner Kevin Byrne avoids jail after Staffordshire bull terrier tore 'nasty chunk' from man's leg

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An “unfit” dog owner whose out-of-control pet tore a “nasty chunk” from a man’s leg inside a park has avoided jail.

Kevin Byrne, 43, is now banned from dog ownership after his Staffordshire bull terrier set upon Ivan Clague in Margate.

Kevin Byrne had been ordered to keep Tyson on a lead
Kevin Byrne had been ordered to keep Tyson on a lead

Mr Clague suffered long-term psychological trauma and nerve damage after being treated in hospital for three days, Canterbury Crown Court heard.

But a judge ruled Tyson behaved “like a normal dog” protecting its owner, his aggression likely “exacerbated because he had received unexplained injuries.”

Tyson sunk his teeth into Mr Byrne in Marine Gardens, just months after he avoided being destroyed for a similar attack, prosecutors explained.

“The victim was on a neighbouring bench, an argument broke out between Mr Byrne and Mr Clague which unfortunately turned somewhat violent," prosecutor Tom Livingston said.

“And Tyson then intervened and got hold of Mr Clague’s leg and took quite a nasty chunk out of it."

Marine Gardens in Margate. Picture: Google Street View
Marine Gardens in Margate. Picture: Google Street View

The security guard was treated in hospital for three nights after the bite “gave staff concern of infection”, he said.

Medics placed Mr Clague under general anaesthetic to clean and seal the wound. They also administered a tetanus shot and course of antibiotics.

Mr Clague told the court he suffered nerve damage and psychological trauma after the attack in November 2020.

“I have been left in great pain and discomfort - now I find myself fearful of any dog I see,” he said.

But he insisted he held no “ill-will” towards Byrne or Tyson, adding: “The dog mistook this for something more serious and attacked.”

However at the time of the attack it was unlawful for Byrne to allow Tyson off the lead in public without a sufficient muzzle.

Magistrates made the contingent destruction order after Tyson bit John Ritches in May 2020, rather than ordering the dog’s death.

But construction worker Byrne would breach the order, allowing Tyson off the lead and fitted with a broken muzzle.

He then roused the animal’s inherent protective tendencies by engaging in a fight with Mr Clague.

Vets later discovered Tyson had suffered a number of “unexplained injuries”, the court heard.

Staffordshire bull terrier. Stock image / Thinkstock Image Library
Staffordshire bull terrier. Stock image / Thinkstock Image Library

Debbie Connolly, a dog behaviour expert who has since worked with Tyson, said the canine is not a public risk.

“I believe his default setting is to avoid issues and offer a certain amount of appeasement," she told the court.

“He does not use aggression as any form of default setting."

Judge Catherine Brown said: “This offence was committed when Tyson was not on a lead, that is plain, we can see it on the CCTV.

“He was free to wander and in public, and although he did have a muzzle on it was not a muzzle that complied with the order - it was broken.

Judge Catherine Brown
Judge Catherine Brown

“You placed members of the public at risk, and you also placed your own dog in jeopardy, it was a suspended death sentence and your actions placed people and the dog at risk.

“I’m quite sure you are not a fit and proper person to have a dog.”

She imposed a conditional destruction order and made it an offence for Byrne to own a dog.

The ruling means Tyson must be owned by Sasha Bennet, who runs a sanctuary in Wales.

In public Tyson must be kept on a lead and fitted with a basket muzzle, as well as face castration.

Meanwhile Byrne, of Empire Terrace, Margate, was handed 18 months' custody, suspended for two years, after pleading guilty to being in charge of a dog dangerously out of control causing injury.

He must complete 150 hours of unpaid work, be subject to a six-month alcohol treatment order, 10 rehabilitation days and pay his victim £1,000 compensation.

Mitigating, Sam March said Byrne, who had been drinking on the day of the attack, had a “realistic prospect of rehabilitation”.

Byrne had been in “no trouble since the incident” and was at “low risk of reoffending”, he added.

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