Wakefield teenager 'lucky to be alive' after being mauled by XL bully at animal rescue centre

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A Wakefield teenager is "lucky to be alive" after being mauled by a 50kg rescue XL bully while she was at work.

Gilana Milner, 19, was working in an animal rescue centre when dog Hugo lunged at her while she was changing his water bowl.

The huge dog dragged her to the floor - mauling her chest and leg - and staff had to fight him off when he refused to unclamp his jaws.

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And despite being "ragged" for five minutes and needing emergency surgery on her wounds, Gilana does not blame the dog.

Gilana Milner, 19, was working in an animal rescue centre when dog Hugo lunged at her.Gilana Milner, 19, was working in an animal rescue centre when dog Hugo lunged at her.
Gilana Milner, 19, was working in an animal rescue centre when dog Hugo lunged at her. | SWNS

Gilana said: "I'm lucky to be alive. He was just ragging me around and there was nothing I could do - I was just screaming and screaming.

"[But] I don't agree with banning them - if dogs have problems it's because of past trauma or the way they've been treated by humans."

Recalling the attack, she added: "I kept trying to get to the door. They go for the big arteries in your legs. When they've got you down they go for your neck.

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"I just kept thinking about my mum. I knew I was going to die and I didn't want to.

"I kept looking at the dog and thinking it couldn't be real - it was like a nightmare.

"If nobody had been in the yard to hear me screaming, the dog would definitely have killed me.

"I love my job, but I guess the one downside is that you never know if the kennel you're about to walk into will be your last.”

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The dog had been on the streets before being brought to Flushdyke Dog Boarding & Rehoming, where Gilana worked for more than two years.

She was alone cleaning kennels because a colleague went on her break, in the May 2023 attack.

Gilana then went into Hugo's kennel and was leaving with his water bowl to refresh it when he leapt up and bit her chest.

The dog was sprayed with a substance like pepper spray but wouldn't release Gilana and staff had to fight him off and drag her out of the kennel.

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She was treated on site in an ambulance for an hour-and-a-half then taken to Pinderfields Hospital for two hours of surgery on her legs and chest, and then she suffered an infection.

She now has hypersensitivity in parts of her legs so it hurts to be touched, and numbness in other areas.

She's now starting a new job as a patient care assistant with a vet and is waiting for specialist counselling.

But she went back to work a month after the attack, even though she was struggling to walk.

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She said: "I really wanted to be back at work. I've wanted to help dogs since I was five and I still want to be an RSPCA officer.

"I'm getting used to the pain, and the scarring, but I don't think I'll recover fully.

"I still get dreams where the attack is happening a couple of nights a week. It's horrible - I wake up hyperventilating.

"I was in agony. I had to have so much morphine. I could have lost my legs because of the infection.

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"I'm pretty strong but I honestly don't know how I got up during the attack. XL bullies are really really strong."

Despite her ordeal Gilana says she is against the ban on XL bullies.

Since December 31 2023, it has been against the law to sell, give away, abandon or breed from an XL bully.

And since 1 February 2024, it has been a criminal offence to own an XL bully without an exemption certificate.

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Gilana said: "They don't attack more than other dogs, but their attacks are life threatening.

"I think it's enough if they are muzzled and on a lead.

"I agree you should have to have a licence to have an XL bully.

"But the problem with the ban is that they are all getting dumped and we're rescuing them - it's creating a lot more work for us.

"Since the ban they started coming in every day, sometimes three a day."

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A spokesperson from Flushdike dog boarding and rehoming said: "We were all very shaken up by this - all the staff involved were in tears. I can’t imagine the impact it has had on Gilana and we have spent a lot of time trying to help her.

“Even when we have a sufficient number of dogs to require more than one person on shift, all staff work independently, so it is normal for one member of staff to be cleaning a kennel on their own.

“If a dog showed signs of aggression we would have more than one member of staff working with them at any time, but this dog had been with us for over three weeks and showed no signs of aggression: everybody was very fond of him.

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“Anyone on the yard would hear if someone started screaming, and our staff did all they could to get the dog off Gilana.

“All staff carry walkie talkies but Gilana was unable to reach hers because of where the dog was biting her.

“Since this incident, and after consulting with Gilana, all staff carry their walkie talkie, and a can of bite-back spray, in a chest harness.

“We’ve been investigated by environmental health, RIDDOR, and our insurance company following this incident and they found that we did everything we were supposed to.”

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