A Derry mother has described her horror at witnessing a dog maul her three-year-old son’s arm through a fence.
Little James Dalzell had been playing near his home at Rossnagalliagh Park and was sitting beside the fence when the attack occurred.
His mother Majella has described how neighbours and relatives rushed to her son’s aid and tried to pry the dog off him.
Mrs Dalzell, who is heavily pregnant, collapsed after seeing her son’s shocking injuries once he was eventually freed.
The attack happened several weeks ago but has only now come to light as little James continues to get specialist treatment for the injuries sustained to his arm and hand.
His mother said she was with a number of her husband’s relatives in her own front garden when someone spotted James’ hand going in and out of the fence opposite.
They asked a child who had been playing with James why his hand was going in and out, and were told because the dog- believed to have been a Rottweiler/ Terrier cross- had got him.
The group of women dashed over and tried desperately to free the little boy, but the dog had locked tight on his arm.
Mrs Dalzell said: “A man came over with a big shovel and threw it at the dog. Another man hit him with a hurley bat and the dog let go but then grabbed him on down his arm. I was sitting holding him. The dog was pulling at him like he was a wee tiny baby.
“They got the dog off him and then I lifted him and ran across there and collapsed.
“I collapsed and thought my waters had broke. One of the men there used to work for the ambulance and he lifted the wain off me and was shouting ‘get me bandages, scissor’.
“He put him on my knee but I could barely look at him. I thought he was going to die in my arms.
“When the ambulance came they rushed him straight away to the hospital.
“The whole street was brilliant.”
A few days later when the former ambulance worker who had been at the scene returned and told the family that James had come very close to having the main artery in his wrist damaged.
“The dog missed everything, but another ten seconds and his arm would have been completely off,” Majella said.
“I never thought a dog could do that. It was like something you would see in a nightmare.
“There was no lower arm, it was just bone.
“You hear about dog attacks in England but I never heard it here before.”
James was scheduled to get a skin graft at Dundonald Hospital following the attack but in the end he never needed it, Majella said, because surgeons were able to stretch the skin and flesh from his upper arm. He has been left with dozens of stitches and scar marks to his arm and hand.
“I was up in Dundonald that night after it happened crying my eyes out,” his mother said. “I couldn’t stop thinking about it.”
James now has to attend regular appointments at the Royal Hospital in Belfast to have his injuries assessed.
The dog in question, which had been inside a fenced off garden, has since been destroyed, but Majella said she wanted to highlight the dangers dogs can pose to children, especially as many people in Derry still allow their dogs to roam the streets.
Majella said her son now keeps waking in his sleep, and may be having nightmares as a result of the traumatic episode. Over recent days in particular he also seems to have developed a fear of dogs.
“I myself just never want to see another dog in my life,” Mrs Dalzell said. “If I see a dog in the street now I bring my wains in.
“From now on if I see a dog out in the street I will be phoning the dog warden.
“I have now gotten rid of my own dog after what happened, but I would never have had my dog in the street anyway. I don’t think any dog should be in the street.”