A man has been cleared of responsibility for a dog attack which put his neighbor in hospital for three days.
James Tuttle’s two Maremma guard dogs left his Monmouth property and attacked passer-by Alan Dyche on September 8, 2019, leaving him in need of surgery and an IV hospital drip.
A Cardiff Crown Court jury has found Mr Tuttle not guilty of being the owner of a dog which caused injury while dangerously out of control. The 50-year-old blamed an unknown third party for letting the Maremma sheepdogs out.
Read next:Confrontation at vaccine centre: Police officer under investigation after arresting man
Alan Dyche, a 66-year-old retired engineer, told WalesOnline he was in “fighting for my life mode” during the attack, adding: “I thought I could be killed.”
Mr Tuttle had left the dogs alone and loose in the two-to-three acre “inner sanctum” around his house on his nine-acre farm at The Kymin, while he spent nine hours at a festival in the Forest of Dean. He said the Maremma breed was “not highly trainable” and he had no history of training dogs.
Mr Dyche walked past the property at about 4.45pm on his way home from visiting a friend. He said two dogs jumped at the “waist high”, outward-opening garden gate and came through. The court heard the heavier dog weighed around 60kg.
“I don’t know why it opened, if something broke or it was slightly ajar,” said Mr Dyche. “I just saw these two big dogs coming out. One went in front of me, one behind, and the one behind bit me in the arm.
“It hung on and was pulling at me. The other was trying to get me from the other side, trying to knock me on the ground. I knew if they got me on the ground they could do serious damage. Together they would have weighed more than me
“I managed to free myself. I don’t honestly know how, I guess I wrenched my arm from them. I was in adrenaline mode. I made my way home and I didn’t know I was as badly injured as I was. My wife was a bit traumatized — she could see my eyes probably bulging in fear, blood running down my arm.”
Mr Dyche had suffered a deep bite wound on his lower forearm. He was admitted to Nevill Hall Hospital, where he received five to six stitches the next day.
“I was put on general anesthetic for them to clean out the wound and cut away bits that were damaged and stitch it up,” he added. “For three days I had an intravenous drip with antibiotics in it because of the danger of infection.”
Get the latest court news, plus unique insight into criminal proceedings from one of Wales’ most experienced court reporters, by signing up for our Crime and Punishment newsletter. To subscribe, click here, enter your email address and tick the box for Crime and Punishment. You can also join our Facebook group here.
Mr Dyche believes he could have lost his life in the attack. “I’m relatively fit and stable on my feet. Had I been older or less balanced, they would have knocked me straight over. They could have got me on the ground and got me by the throat.”
Giving evidence in the trial, Mr Dyche estimated the dog which bit his arm hung on for up to three minutes. He was not sure which dog bit him, but he thought it was the smaller one. He was carrying a branch of hazel to beat down nettles which he said he used to try to protect himself.
Another neighbour, Mark Harrison, told the court the garden gate was shut at 4.30pm when he passed by. Mr Tuttle said he arrived home at 5pm and found the garden gate open. He said the latch mechanism had not been forced.
When Derek Barry, defending Mr Tuttle, claimed the victim had not seen the dogs jumping at the gate, Mr Dyche replied he had.
“The gate must have been open when the dogs came out,” Mr Dyche added. “I’m not familiar with the latch mechanism.”
Mr Tuttle told the court he had spent “thousands” on stockproof-fencing his land. The court heard the garden gate — described by the prosecution as “inadequate” — had come from elsewhere on his holding of him.
It had been extended upwards with laths — not, Mr Tuttle said, because he was afraid of the dogs jumping, but “to stop delivery drivers leaning into my property”.
The latch could not be forced open so it must have been opened by a third party, Mr Tuttle said. His gates carried warnings that large dogs were running free. He said he had had trouble with people damaging his locks and letting out his livestock though he was “not pointing any fingers”.
Two days after the attack Mr Tuttle took the bigger dog, an “alpha male” with rheumatism, to be put down. It was “morally the right thing to do as he had bitten someone”, he said, though he admitted he did not know which dog had bitten Mr Dyche.
Mr Tuttle said that if he was going out for the day he would put a pin through the latch mechanism. He was sure he would have done that on the day of the attack “almost out of instinct”.
When he said he could not find the pin later, prosecutor Martha Smith-Higgins asked the jury if they thought the pin had ever existed. Mr Tuttle had never mentioned a pin in his police statement, she said.
Asked his reaction to the verdict, Mr Dyche told Wales Online: “I was disappointed and really surprised. I only reported this to police to protect other members of the public. What I would have liked to ask him is why he didn’t put a padlock on the gate.”
When we put this to Mr Tuttle, he said: “I’ve got 14 gates on my farm. I’ve had padlocks cut from my gates, I had padlocks on certain gates filled with superglue before this incident. I’m entitled to live my life and have my property respected. I should have 14 padlocks on 14 gates, should I? What’s the point if people cut my padlocks off?”
He said he suspected local people to be responsible for this “harassment”, adding: “They don’t like that I’ve done building work.”
Mr Tuttle said it was “extremely painful” for him to put his dog down. “This matter is three years old,” he said. “The police originally wrote to me to say there was not enough evidence and I would not be charged. The matter was dropped.
“A year and a half to two years later, I was told I would be prosecuted. It’s a total waste of taxpayers’ money. I’m truly regretful in terms of what happened to Mr Dyche.”
Want the latest Welsh news sent straight to you? Look no further.