A man whose pregnant partner was killed by their two pit bull-type dogs in a “truly shocking, tragic and disturbing episode” has walked free from court after he was given a community order and told to do 280 hours of unpaid work.
Mother-of-four Emma Bennett, 27, died after she was attacked by dogs called Dollar and Bella at her home in Leeds last December.
Lee Horner, 34, was sentenced today at Leeds Magistrates Court after admitted owning dogs prohibited by the Dangerous Dogs Act last month.
Deputy District Judge Tim Spruce told Horner the case “crossed the custody threshold” but said he felt it was not appropriate to jail him given the personal loss he had suffered with the death of his partner.
When Horner appeared before magistrates last month, prosecutors described how Horner was out when police arrived at the house he shared with Miss Bennett in Dawlish Avenue after being alerted by neighbours who heard a noise they first thought was an argument.
Miss Bennett was heard to shout: “No, no, no.”
The two officers went inside after getting no response and found the two dogs acting excitably with blood on their snouts.
They tried to resuscitate Miss Bennett, who had suffered severe injuries to her face and head, but she did not survive.
Prosecutor Vincent O’Malley told the court how two women social workers visited the house in July last year and Horner told one of them: “Shut it or I’ll set the dog on you.”
He said that Horner told the other social worker, who was eight months pregnant at the time: “What you looking at? Wait until I get the dog and see if you continue looking at me like that.”
Sentencing today, Mr Spruce said the legislation was designed to protect the public from certain breeds “because these animals are inclined to be unpredictable in nature and often with devastating consequences”.
The district judge said: “That unpredictability, those consequences could not be more solemnly illustrated than in the unique and tragic circumstances of the case before the court today.
“Two dogs with no previous recorded history of difficulty, danger or harm have set up their owner in circumstances which may never be entirely clear.”
Mr Spruce said: “This was a truly shocking, tragic and disturbing episode.”
He told Horner: “No sentence this court can impose could possibly compensate or make good or recompense for the loss of a beloved granddaughter, sister, daughter and mother.”
The district judge said he was satisfied the defendant did not know the dogs were banned but also that he made no effort to find out.
He said he was “ambivalent” to the possibility of the risk they posed.
“Those risks are now catastrophically obvious,” Mr Spruce said.
He told Horner: “The devastating consequences of your decision making, Mr Horner, are something you will have to live with for the rest of your life.”
Mr Spruce banned Horner from keeping dogs for life.
He ordered him to pay £500 towards the destruction of the two dogs and their housing since the incident.
He will also have to pay £240 in prosecution costs and a £60 victim surcharge.
Horner left court without comment, referring all questions to his solicitor.