For those who know me well, you will also know my little partner in crime – Stitch, my jack russell terrier. A dog with a big personality! This year, we decided to have a ‘staycation’ and have our holiday in Devon and take Stitch with us for his first ever holiday.
On our way down to Devon, we decided to call into Cheddar Gorge in Somerset for lunch and stretch our legs. Plus, Chedder Gorge is a dog friendly tourist attraction so no need to leave Stitch in the car. We went around the caves, had a look in the cave man museum, Stitch met some other dogs – all went well until we headed back to our car.
Without any warning, a St Bernard dog (same dog as seen in the Beethoven films) went for Stitch’s rear and bit and shook him on the rear left leg. The owner had given his dog to his teenage daughter to hold, she wasn’t strong enough to control the dog and he broke loose when he saw Stitch.
It was an unprovoked attack – no barking or growling – the St Bernard dog just broke loose and went for Stitch. I had to grab the St Bernard’s scruff of the neck and shake him in order to let Stitch go. By this time, the owner eventually appeared and took the St Bernard away from me so I could get to Stitch.
Stitch sustained two skin keep cuts to his rear left leg with a few puncture holes on his bum and legs. The St Bernard got a beating from his owner.
At this point, shock took over and we quickly went to the car, examined Stitch and cleaned his wounds. I didn’t know what to do – I just wanted to find a vet to get Stitch stitched up. The car park attendant at Cheddar Gorge helped us to get to the local emergency vets while my boyfriend spoke to the dog owner and get his contact details. The dog owner offered to pay for the vets bill.
We found the local emergency vets (Axe Valley, Blackford, Somerset) and Stitch had to go under anesthetic to get properly examined and get two 3in long cuts stitched up. The bill came just under £300 but it would have been significantly more if he needed xrays or sustained injuries to his neck, chest and stomach.
We attempted to get hold of the dog owner but he hasn’t responded to any answer phone messages or refuses to answer his phone. We suspect that his dog has done something similar before so he knows to either to give false contact details or ignore any phonecalls.
Stupidly, we only got a telephone number and a first name from the dog owner and didn’t think to get his home address or take note of his car numberplate. Also, there was no CCTV at Cheddar Gorge car park and the car park attendants didn’t take a note of his number plate.
So, a lesson learned here hence why I’m writing this blog post. One thing I’m glad is that I have pet insurance on Stitch otherwise it would have been an expensive holiday.
If your dog gets attacked, this is what you should do:
1. Get the dog owner’s contact details – telephone number, address, Twitter account, car number plate anything so you can contact him/her. The dog owner should have pet insurance on his/her dog and you should be able to claim for any vets bills on this policy.
2. CCTV footage or witnesses – if you can get it!
3. Photograph the wound, before and after. It might be the last thing you want to do at the time but try collect as much evidence as possible. Photograph your dogs wounds before visiting the vet, after getting operated / stitched up, and the days after the incident. Your pet insurance might want to this as well.
4. If you are unsure of the dog’s breed, try get a photograph of it or ask the dog’s owner.
5. If in doubt, or scared of the dog, don’t approach it. You can see what damage a dog can do and it could do the same to your arm or face.
I was confident to approach this dog as I’ve been around dogs of all sizes since I could remember and strong enough to grab his scruff to choke him. But I was also foolish too as this dog could have easily gone for me and bit my arm or go for my face. I was very lucky in this case but I wouldn’t recommend this action.
5. Report the incident to the local Dog Warden. The local Dog Warden might know the owner and it’s dog only if he/she lives locally. You can find out who the local Dog Warden is by calling the local authority.
Should I contact the local police?
I phoned the Somerset & Avon Police Force non-emergeny line for advice and this is what I was told:
Yes – if the dog has attacked or bitten you and the wound requires medical attention such as stitches, treatment, antibiotics etc. A dog attackeing a human is a criminal act as the dog owner has lost all control of the animal. This is the case if the dog is a known dangerous breed or not.
Yes – if the dog has attacked your dog and the dog is a known dangerous breed. The dog owner should not take the dangerous dog out in public or should have a muzzle/restraining harness such a sa muzzle.
No – if the dog attacks your dog. You’ll just be wasting the local police force time. This is not a criminal act therefore vets bills (if there are any) should be settelled by the dog owner that attacked your dog. However, you should report the incident to the local Dog Warden.
1. Get pet insurance for your dog – I pay £10 a month for Stitch with Direct Line and it’s a small cost per month compared to a £300 vets bill! Majority of pet insurance policies cover treatment for attacks from other dogs.
2. Carry an old towel, pet friendly antibaterial wipes and water in the car for your dog. I always do this as Stitch likes to get dirty when we go for walks and I like to give him a quick rub down before he jumps into the car. Luckily for this occasion, I was able to keep Stitch warm, protect the car from any blood stains, and clean is wound within minutes of the attack.
3. If you go on holiday with your dog, find out where the local vets with 24 hours emergency services are from your accomodation. We were lucky in this instance because the staff at Cheddar Gorge had contact details of a local emergency vets and Stitch was seen to within an hour of the incident.
How is Stitch now?
It was a horrible start to the holiday but in 48 hours after the ordeal and he was back to his usual self. I took him out for a walk in the field next to our accomodation and he ran off and rubbed himself in fox poo! Plus he enjoyed the morning walkinga round the Donkey Sanctury in Sidmouth.
He had a week’s worth of pain killers and antibiotics to take but he got extra special attention from myself (smoked salmon and icecream) and lot of support from locals and other tourists in Devon. He got the all clear from the vets the following week and got his stitches out 14 days after the attack.