'facial injuries' | 

Parents bring High Court challenge over refusal to investigate alleged pit bull attack on their boy

Pet alleged to have caused severe facial injuries to boy is still alive

Stock image of a pit bull dog

Tim Healy

The parents of a young boy allegedly attacked by a pit bull dog at a house the child was visiting have brought a High Court challenge over a refusal to investigate the incident because it was on private property.

The court heard the boy suffered severe facial injuries, requiring immediate emergency surgery, in an incident that occurred late last year.

The parents of the injured child made formal complaints to both local gardaí and the local council dog warden. The dog is still alive.

However, they were informed by those parties that the incident could not be investigated because it occurred on private property.

The family taking the action cannot be identified by order of the court.

The dog, it is claimed, was owned by an associate of the boy's father.

The alleged attack occurred when the boy and his father were visiting the dog owner's home.

The parents are unhappy with the authorities' responses and in their High Court action claim that the 1986 Control of Dogs Act is flawed, and unconstitutional.

They claim that the 1986 Act entitles persons attacked by a dog in a public place to certain legal protections and entitlements, including the issuing of fines, penalties and destruction orders by the courts in respect of dogs not kept under control.

However, they claim that the act does not afford those same protections to a person, who is lawfully present as a visitor in a dwelling house, attacked by a dangerous dog belonging to that property's owner.

They claim that from a public and common-good perspective it cannot be the case that the State is prevented from investigating a dog attack that takes place in circumstances like what they say happened to their son.

Where a complaint relates to an attack on a child, they claim that the State must act to ensure such an incident is not repeated.

The boy's parents believe that the incident should be investigated, on the grounds that criminal offences under the Control of Dogs Act and 1997 Non-Fatal Offences Against the Person Act have occurred.

Represented by Derek Shortall SC, instructed by solicitor Ciaran Mulholland, the judicial review proceedings are against the local council, the Garda Commissioner and the State.

They seek various orders and declarations including that sections of the Control of Dogs Act are repugnant to the Constitution, and to the European Convention on Human Rights as they fail to protect the applicants' fundamental rights to bodily integrity, fair procedures and are discriminatory.

They further seek declarations that the gardaí and the local council's refusal to investigate the matter amounts to a breach of their duty to investigate such complaints and a failure to vindicate the applicants' rights.

The matter came before Mr Justice Charles Meenan today.

The judge, on an ex-parte (one side only represented) basis, granted permission to bring the challenge.

The matter will return in October.

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