Savage dog attack leaves family devastated
RECALLING the moment their little dog was literally torn apart before her eyes is almost too much to bear for Jane Walker.
And as the horrific images replay in her mind she is being tormented by a nagging sense of guilt.
"It was my job to protect Bella, I feel like I failed her," Jane said.
Fighting back tears she has shared her story in the hope it might raise awareness about the growing problem of dog attacks along our beaches.
Jane and her husband Barry were walking along Murray's Beach at north Sawtell with little Bella, a 13-year-old silky cross foxie.
Bella was their daughter Leila's primary school companion and was well known on the beach.
"We've walked along that beach a couple of times a week for 13 years now, and never had a problem."
But on Sunday June 9 at around 3pm a large black German Shepherd ran up to them and Bella didn't stand a chance and Jane, a nurse at Bellingen Hospital, knew it.
Her husband bravely crash tackled the savage dog and choked it, so it would let go but it was too late.
"The dog could have easily turned and attacked Barry," Jane said.
"The lady kept saying 'she will be alright, she will be alright,' but her lungs were hanging out, that's how bad it was.
"I'm not sure if it was on a lead but the woman was fumbling around with a lead by the time I realised what was going on."
With a spate of attacks in the region in recent months Jane had just been reading advice shared on social media about what to do and something inside her snapped into action.
"I was just reading about two small dogs that were attacked and had to be put down, and there was advice about what to do," she said.
"I don't know how I managed to think clearly to do it but I took a photo of the dog and the lady with it, and asked her for id and she was shaking her head but other people were there supporting me so she eventually showed me her licence and I took a photo."
Her husband wrapped Bella up in a blanket and they took her to the closest vet where she had to be put down.
"I was screaming hysterically but I was also very angry. I remembered reading that you should take photos of the injuries so I did that."
That afternoon they took all the details to the police and by the next afternoon officers had called Jane to say the German Shepherd had been surrendered and put down.
The woman walking the dog at the time was from Dubbo visiting her daughter who was the owner of the shepherd.
The family offered to pay the vet bills.
Barry travelled to Newcastle where their daughter Leila lives and works as a nurse at John Hunter Hospital to tell her of the tragedy.
"It's not the kind of news you want to hear on the phone and we knew she was on her own that day."
Dogs are allowed on leads at Murray's Beach, but as Coffs Harbour City Council's dogs in public places policy clearly states they need to be under the 'effective control of a competent person'.
Kyra Ensbey from Bright Bessy Dog Training has noticed an increase in attacks along the Coffs Coast over the past two years.
"I've seen the effects of dog attacks not only on the dogs that are lucky enough to survive but also on their owners.
"Seeing an attack causes a form of post traumatic stress disorder and can impact the owner or, for that matter, witnesses for a long time. I help dogs that have been attacked recover and learn to trust again by using specific training methods.
"Over the past two years I've seen a dramatic increase in the number of dog attacks in this region which has alarmed me."
She is working with council and fellow dog owners to set up the Let's End Attacks by Dogs (LEAD) initiative.
The Advocate will bring you details of the program as it rolls out.