Mother and daughter owners of two dangerous dogs which savaged a young girl have walked free from court.
Little Ellie May Hall, six, was playing on her scooter when the previously placid American Pit Bull terriers, owned by Elizabeth Mitchell and Stacey Mielnik, set upon her.
One of the animals started biting her round the head and neck while the other sank its teeth into her torso and legs.
Ellie suffered multiple injuries in the attack and part of her ear was bitten off, which medics were unable to reattatch.
She was also left with a hole in her arm and bite marks to her thighs, and needed a two-and-a-half hour operation, skin grafts and 11 stitches in her head.
Newcastle Crown Court heard Mitchell and Mielnik had left their back gate in Ashington, Northumberland, unsecured, allowing the Pit Bulls to escape.
And the sickening attack on Ellie was only brought to a halt when a nneighbour chased the snarling dogs away with a crowbar.
Elizabeth Mitchell (left) and Stacey Mielnik at Bedlington Magistrates Elizabeth Mitchell (left) and Stacey Mielnik at Bedlington Magistrates Court
The court heard Mitchell and Mielnik have suffered threats in their local community and have had their windows smashed and been forced to move as a result of the incident.
Now the pair, never in trouble before, have been given suspended prison sentences after they admitted being the owners of dogs which caused injury while dangerously out of control in a public place.
Prosecutor Emma Dowling said the attack continues to cause Ellie and her parents ongoing problems physically and mentally.
Miss Dowling said: “She has suffered significant psychological effects and struggles to sleep.
“She is now extremely frightened of dogs and her family have had to get rid of their own dog because Ellie was petrified at what might happen.
“She struggles to visit her grandparents because they have neighbours with dogs either side so phone calls have to be made before they visit to make sure the dogs are in the house.
“Her parents have also been affected significantly and are worried about the effect this has had on Ellie. This has had a lasting effect on the family as a whole.”
Ellie was playing in her back yard around 3pm on May 4 when the two American Pit Bulls appeared, behind Katherine Street, Ashington.
Ellie had seen them before and believed they were friendly when they came up to the yard and started sniffing, after smelling the scent of Ellie’s dog.
Then, for no known reason, the dogs suddenly started savaging the youngster.
Jason Charlton witnessed a young girl being attacked by two dogs on Katherine Street, Ashington. Jason Charlton witnessed a young girl being attacked by two dogs on Katherine Street, Ashington.
Jason Charlton was working on his motorbike nearby and heard the commotion.
Miss Dowling said: “He thought it was a dog fight then he heard a child screaming and crying.
“He opened his back gate and could see a small child on her knees facing into the rear gate. She had her hands on her head to protect herself and both dogs were attacking her, one towards the neck and head and the other on her torso.
“He had a crowbar in his hand and chased the dogs away but he said the dogs returned.”
Mr Charlton, helped by two other men, said he was worried for his own safety because both dogs appeared extremely vicious.
He said in a statement to the court: “It was a horrific and terrifying incident. I’m positive if I did not come out when I did the dogs would have continued to attack Ellie.
“It was clear she had sustained substantial injuries.”
The court heard both dogs were at the home of Mitchell when Mielnik arrived at the house, coming in through the back gate.
Miss Dowling said: “That gate does have bolts but they are not used by the family routinely.
“On this day they must have been left closed but not bolted or not closed properly because both dogs escaped from the rear yard into the rear lane.”
Mitchell, 43, formerly of Milburn Road, Ashington and Mielnik, 20, formerly of of Chestnut Street, Ashington, consented to the dogs being destroyed after the attack.
They both pleaded guilty to owning a dog which caused injury while dangerously out of control and were given three-month suspended prison sentences.
A judge said he took into account the hostile reaction the pair have received in the community and called for calm.
Recorder Anton Lodge QC said: “The community should realise the punishment for what you have done is reserved to the courts, which are publicly seen and overlooked.
“I hope the community will not continue to behave in an unpleasant way towards either of you.”
Mark Styles, for Mitchell, said: “She has been a dog owner for 30 years and is devastated and truly horrified at what happened to Ellie, it has turned her life upside down.
“She is a new mother and has been subjected to harassment in the local area and has been forced to move home twice and her windows have been put out.”
Richard Bloomfield, for Mielnik, said: “The dogs had given no prior indication of behaving in this way, it was an attack out of the blue.
“What she did wrong is to fail to take proper precautions to make sure the gate was secure, not realising the gravity of the consequences that afternoon when they got loose.
“She is distraught and deeply remorseful.
“She lives alone with her daughter and has suffered abuse from the local community.”