A CORK woman was hospitalised for 11 days after a savage attack by two Rottweilers who she feared would kill her, near her home in Donoughmore.
May Rea, 57, of Gurrane South, Donoughmore, had damages in her High Court case assessed at over €179,000 this week against neighbours Michael and Mary Daly whose two Rottweilers escaped from their pen on the day.
‘I was having flashbacks and nightmares of the dog holding my left wrist in his mouth. I thought I was going to die or lose my hand in his mouth,’ Ms Rea testified.
She had nightmares every night for a long time after the attack on the road outside her neighbour’s at Ballycriheen, Donoughmore on July 15th 2012, and still has nightmares four or five times a month.
Describing the nightmares to her lawyers Dr John O’Mahony SC and Siobhán Lankford SC, Ms Rea said: ‘I see the dogs most nights. I see his black eyes when he had my wrist in his mouth. I thought I was going to die. That is what wakes me. That is what upsets me.’
Ms Justice Deirdre Murphy said it was a truly horrific attack by two Rottweilers on the plaintiff. Before even considering the nature of the physical or psychological injuries the judge referred to a single piece of physical evidence from the day of the incident – the mobile phone that was in the pocket of Ms Rea’s jacket. She said the phone had been partly dismantled by the power of the bite and there were puncture marks where one of the dogs had bitten through the screen.
Referring to the plaintiff’s fear of possibly losing her hand, or even her life on the day, the judge concluded: ‘One or other outcome might have occurred.’
Fortunately, another neighbour arrived on the scene and rescued Ms Rea, who was hospitalised for 11 days afterwards with bite marks to her face, shoulder, arms and legs. The most significant physical injury was to her left hand.
Ms Justice Murphy said that what caused the greatest concern was how the injuries themselves were inflicted and not what they were in physical terms.
Michael and Mary Daly represented themselves in the case which was before the court only to assess the amount of damages as liability was admitted.
Mrs Daly said they were not at home that morning and they got a phone call to the effect that the dogs had broken out of their pen. The dogs were later put down by the vet. Mrs Daly said the dogs were never out on the road and must have broken out of their pen. Mrs Daly said they called to Ms Rea afterwards. They did not challenge any of her evidence.
Commenting on the owners of the dogs, Ms Justice Murphy said: ‘Mr and Mrs Daly strike me as decent, honourable people. If one chooses to have Rottweilers, one also has to ensure they don’t pose a danger to members of the public. But I do want to observe they strike me as decent, honourable people.’
Ms Rea said that, if anything, she felt closer to her own dog now since the day of the attack on her and her dog by the Rottweilers. She brought her own dog to a dog-handler afterwards who confirmed that the dog was fine with people and being in a public park. The expert advised Ms Rea that some of her fear might have been transmitting to her dog.
The plaintiff said she had been active in walking and running and had worked hard to get her life back afterwards. She does not call her feelings ‘panic attacks’ but sees them as a sense of being overwhelmed. She fears it could happen again. The worst part is the feeling that she is not the person she was and not having the freedom that she had before it happened.