The family of a 52-year-old who was attacked and killed by a mongrel bull terrier said his death was like a “light being turned out in their lives”, as the dog’s owner was jailed for 10 years.
David Ellam was killed when father-of-three Aaron Joseph’s mongrel bull terrier attacked him on his doorstep in Huddersfield in August 2016, Leeds Crown Court heard.
Joseph, 30, showed “arrogant and stubborn disregard for the welfare and safety of others”, according to judge Sally Cahill QC.
A jury was told how witnesses were powerless to stop the attack on Mr Ellam, as the dog, called Alex, bit him multiple times as he lay screaming on the floor, shaking him and dragging him along the ground.
Mr Ellam, a former lollipop man, was just setting out to walk his Yorkshire terrier, Rollo, when he was set upon by Alex - a five-year-old female with a history of attacking people.
When a police officer eventually managed to use a fire extinguisher to force the dog to release Mr Ellam, Alex then grabbed Rollo, shaking him from side to side in her mouth.
Joseph, a courier and semi-professional footballer of Riddings Road, Huddersfield, was found guilty of being the owner of a dog which caused death while it was dangerously out of control.
A jury took just half-an-hour to deliberate their verdict.
In a tribute after the hearing, Mr Ellam’s family said: “Dave had the biggest heart and would do anything for anyone.
“Dave, despite pretending to come across as a tough man, was in fact a great big softie shown unfortunately in his undeniable love to protect Rollo.”
The court heard how Alex had only been handed back to Joseph by police a week before the attack.
Officers had seized the dog after Mr Ellam had complained it may be a banned pit bull.
But Alex was returned to Joseph - who normally kept her chained in a pen outside - because it was determined she was not a dangerous breed, as defined by the law.
Prosecutors told the week-long trial that a court granted a dog control order against Joseph, who lived in a flat above Mr Ellam, in 2012, but Joseph ignored the conditions.
Five days before the fatal attack, a dog warden visited Joseph and gave him 21 days to comply with the conditions of the order made four years before.
Jailing Joseph, Judge Cahill told him: “All this leads to a conclusion that you bear substantial if not complete responsibility for the events that morning.
“This attack happened because of your arrogant and stubborn disregard for the welfare and safety of others in the community.”
Judge Cahill said: “The circumstance of this case are nothing short of horrendous.”
Mr Ellam’s partner Claire Josling described how her partner missed out on his lifelong dream of seeing his beloved Huddersfield Town promoted to the Premier League.
She came to court with some of his family and friends in personalised Huddersfield Town shirts.
Giving evidence in court during the trial, Ms Josling was asked about the police bringing Alex back to the flats in August, and she said: “He was very angry about the dog being returned.”
Asked whether Mr Ellam felt “let down” by the council and police, Ms Josling said: “He didn’t feel they had done enough.”
Joseph, who had previous convictions for drugs offences, blew a kiss towards the public gallery as he was led from the dock.