Sandridge dog owner acquitted of dangerous dog charges

Jo Minchin and her dog Cheese who were caught up in a 'tussle' with another dog

Jo Minchin and her dog Cheese who were caught up in a 'tussle' with another dog - Credit: Archant

A man whose dog injured a woman during a clash with another canine was acquitted of a dangerous dog charge on Thursday (10).

Michael Veal, 72, of St Albans Road, Sandridge, was walking with his dog, a black Labrador named Reuben, in Heartwood Forest on October 19 last year when Joanna Minchin and her mother, Margaret Minchin, were walking her dog Cheese, a bull mastiff cross.

Joanna put Cheese on a lead after she saw Mr Veal holding a lead with no dog about, and asked him what type of dog he had from a distance of several metres.

Giving evidence at St Albans Magistrates’ Court, Joanna said: “I know that Cheese gets nervous around uncastrated black male dogs, so I asked what breed of dog he had.”

Mrs Margaret Minchin, who also gave evidence, told the court that Reuben then ‘bolted’ from the grass to where Joanna and Cheese were standing.

The dogs then engaged in what the defendant described as a ‘tussle’, and subsequently Reuben injured Joanna, who sustained bite marks and bruising to the back of her leg.

Following the incident Mr Veal left with Reuben, refusing to hand over his name and address to Joanna.

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After seeing Joanna interviewed for an appeal in the Herts Advertiser, he contacted the police to say he was the man mentioned in the article and was later charged with ‘being an owner in charge of dog dangerously out of control causing injury’.

Mr Veal pleaded not guilty to the charge in January. The court heard on Thursday that he had not handed his details over to Joanna because he had felt intimidated and he did not believe his dog had hurt her.

Joanna admitted she ‘probably’ swore and shouted at Mr Veal because she didn’t think his reaction was appropriate.

She continued: “Mr Veal had his dog about a metre and a half away from me and Cheese. I said that his dog had bitten me and I was probably swearing and shouting.

“He was very calm and said ‘show me, show me’ I was wearing long trousers and I couldn’t.”

Defending, Alan Taylor, said that it was not clear which dog had bitten Joanna.

Independent expert, Dr Duncan Davidson, spent three hours assessing Reuben’s behaviour at home and in the park.

He told the court: “The overall consensus from the assessment is that Reuben is a normal Labrador dog, if anything on the better side of the Labrador temperament.

“His obedience was very good. It was obvious that Mr Veal kept him in separate parts of the house.”

He said that on the trip to the park, Reuben had paid very little attention to other dogs and was far more interested in exploring than interacting with other dogs.

District Judge Annabel Pilling acquitted Mr Veal of the charge as she did not believe that Joanna was injured because the dog was dangerously out of control, but she did think that Reuben was responsible for the bite.

She commended Joanna and Margaret Minchin on their evidence, describing it as ‘very honest and candid’, and that she thought both Mr Veal and Joanna were responsible dog owners.

She said that the incident was ‘over in a matter of seconds’ so it would have been difficult for both parties to know exactly what happened.

Judge Pilling added: “I don’t believe that anybody is lying to me or concealing anything.”