Court Spares Child-Attack Dog Because It Was Drunk

By Will Godfrey 10/24/11

Someone had poured beer down the animal's throat on the day it mauled a 10-year-old boy.

A (sober) Staffordshire Bull Terrier Photo via

The life of a dog that viciously attacked a young child has been spared by a British court—because the animal was drunk at the time of its crime. Ten-year-old Joe Pickering leaned over his garden fence in Colne, Lancashire on the afternoon of July 2 and was "gouged" above the right eye by his neighbor's Staffordshire Bull Terrier, Diesel. The wound was bad enough to require a skin graft; the boy's mom described it as "so deep you could almost see the skull." Police mounted a civil prosecution against the dog's owner, 24-year-old James Holmes—and under Britain's Dangerous Dogs Act Diesel could have been destroyed. But the court heard that Paul Ashworth, the uncle of Holmes' girlfriend, had poured a quantity of Stella Artois lager down the dog's throat prior to the attack, because it was panting in the hot sun. Earlier, he'd taken the animal for a walk without permission, during which it had been bitten by another dog. Holmes pleaded with the court—successfully, it turned out—to be allowed to keep his pet. He has employed a dog psychologist, David Gilman, to work with Diesel since the attack took place. Gilman reported to the court, "I can't recommend the uncle be put down but I'll plead strongly on the dog's behalf." Following the decision—which angered Joe Pickering's family—Gilman added, "I can't underestimate what the effects of giving beer to a dog on a hot day would be... Just like humans drinking outside in the sun it would have had effects on the dog's brain which I believe would lead to this behavior." The case compares to ones in which human drinkers are found not culpable after drinks have been spiked. Stella, a 5% Belgian lager, is widely known by the nickname "Wife-Beater" in the UK, due to the perceived aggression of those who drink it.

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Will Godfrey is the former editor-in-chief of TheFix. He was also the founding editor-in-chief of, and previously co-founded a magazine for prisoners in London. His work has appeared in Salon, Pacific Standard, AlterNet and The Nation among others. He is currently the Executive Director at FILTER. You can find Will on Linkedin and Twitter.