The Crowborough-based had her left arm amputated after being attacked by a 15-month-old bulldog named Kiwi, which clamped its jaws on her limb. The incident occurred in September 2021, and Joanna Harris, at the time, had to go to her garden to seek help from a neighbor, who then called the emergency services for assistance.
Kiwi, an American bulldog, allegedly continued to attack Harris and even attempted to bite her neck while pulling and shaking her arm.
The 49-year-old waited 20 minutes before officers were able to separate her from the dog using a Taser. And in addition to losing her left arm, Harris also sustained injuries to her right arm, hand, and leg. ‘It’s almost difficult to put into words what happened to me and the impact it’s had.” “I’ve always loved and grown up around dogs and really wanted to give a dog a home and a new life,” she said.
Harris added, ‘What happened that day and how I was attacked in my own home is something that will stay with me forever.” It was absolutely terrifying. Even when the police arrived Kiwi didn’t want to let go.’
According to documents submitted to the High Court, Harris alleges that the RSPCA permitted her to foster the bulldog, which was destroyed, despite knowing it was unsafe and had previously attacked two other women.She further said of the attack and its impact, ‘The pain I was in was excruciating, and I knew I was in a bad way. However, nothing prepared me for the news that I had to have my arm amputated.’
Harris continued, ‘At that moment, my life changed. I lost a lot of confidence and independence. I became a lot more reliant on friends and family, even for things such as getting dressed and food shopping, things many people take for granted.’
‘I try to remain as positive as I can and want to focus on my recovery, but I feel I deserve answers to the concerns I have.’ Due to the attack, Harris had to take a significant amount of time off from her role as a product owner leads in the financial services industry. Her legal representatives at Irwin Mitchell reported that she now requires support from her partner, neighbors, and family members to assist her in her daily care.
The law firm added that Harris has enlisted their serious injury lawyers to assist her in obtaining specialized support, rehabilitation, and therapies.
In court documents, Irwin Mitchell further argued that the RSPCA is responsible for several breaches, including failing to recognize the aggressive behavior of the dog, which had already displayed such behavior in the past. Furthermore, the RSPCA allegedly failed to take appropriate action when Harris reported that the dog had attempted to bite her on August 26, 2021, which occurred a week before the incident that resulted in her injuries.
Chani Dhaliwal, who is representing Harris, said: ‘Joanna has faced an incredibly difficult time coming to terms with the physical and psychological impact of the incident which has changed her life forever.’
‘Her case vividly highlights the devastating effect such incidents can have on people. Understandably, she has a number of concerns about what happened and whether more could have been done to prevent her horrific injuries. While nothing can make up for what she’s been through we’re determined to support Joanna to provide her with not only the answers she deserves but also the specialist support and therapies she requires to regain more of her independence.’
Dhaliwal added: ‘Sadly, we’re seeing more incidents where people have been seriously injured in dog bite attacks. This has been particularly the case since lockdown when dog ownership increased.’
An RSPCA spokesman also said: ‘This was a distressing incident, and our thoughts go out to Ms. Harris. We assess the health and behavioral needs of animals before rehoming, and where necessary, we provide a full behavioral plan. Our branches and centers are available to support them or take an animal back into our care if the new owner does not feel happy or safe. We cannot say any more at this time because of ongoing legal proceedings, which the RSPCA is defending.’