Police dog 'in fight mode' was being held with one finger before it fatally mauled grandmother

Andy Wells
Freelance Writer
Irene Collins was repeatedly bit by a seven-stone police dog in ‘prey drive’, an inquest has heard (PA)

A seven-stone police dog who repeatedly bit a 73-year-old woman during a search for a suspect was in ‘fight mode’, according to his handler.

Irene Collins, who had cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, stumbled after Pc Mark Baines told police dog Dano to initially release her from his jaws at her home in Penrith Road, Middlesborough, in July 2014.

The officer told the inquest at Teesside Magistrates’ Court that her falling forwards caused the dog to think his handler, or he, was being attacked so bit her on the arm again.

He told the inquest: ‘Dano sees that as a threat unfortunately, so he has re-engaged the bite.

‘Mrs Collins has stumbled onto the floor, she knocked the lead out of my hand and it ended up underneath Mrs Collins.’

The officer said he got the dog to release his grip of Mrs Collins with a command of ‘Dano out!’

The pensioner was by now on the kitchen floor, and Pc Baines pulled the dog away with a ‘check chain’ around the dog’s neck with just a finger through a small link in the collar.

The dog was brought in to search Mrs Collins’s garden in Penrith Road, Middlesbrough in July 2014 (Google)

Pc Baines got the dog away into the hallway as another officer, Sergeant Neil Yates, came in to give first aid.

Coroner Karin Welsh asked if the dog was still agitated, barking and pulling in the hallway.

Pc Baines said: ‘He was still in prey drive at that point.’

Explaining the phrase to the coroner he said it meant ‘still in fight mode’.


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Dano slipped the check chain as Pc Baines tried to get his whole hand under it between the collar and the dog’s neck by backing out of it and got back into the kitchen to bite Mrs Collins again on the leg.

Ms Welsh asked why the trained police dog did not stop once he had been pulled away from Mrs Collins.

Pc Baines said Sgt Yates, who had come into the kitchen to help and was speaking loudly on the radio, had added to the dog’s excitement.

‘The thing with raised voices in the room will heighten his state,’ he said.

Teesside Magistrates’ Court heard how the dog thought his handler was being attacked (Google)

Pc Baines said a police dog can be taken out of prey drive by getting them away from the scene and calming them down with a ‘little play’.

But he only got him away as far as the hallway to start with as he was not sure who else was in the house, and he was concerned about going through the front door with the dog as there were up to 60 people outside in the street.

The inquest has heard the dog, who lived with his handler but was not treated as a family pet, was brought in to search Mrs Collins’s garden.

A large police operation was under way to find a suspect who had run off from a car where £100,000 of heroin and cash had been found.

The dog had done a sweep of her garden after being released from his lead and got into her kitchen.

When Pc Baines followed Dano in, he found the dog had grabbed her arm.

The officer did not see but had found from subsequent investigations she may have tried to shoo the dog away.

The inquest has heard Mrs Collins gave permission for police to search her garden but she was not aware that a dog would be involved.

The German Shepherd police dog was destroyed following the incident (Pixabay/stock photo)

After she was bitten first aid was given, an ambulance was called and she was taken to the James Cook University Hospital where she died four days later.

A Home Office pathologist initially reported she would not have died, despite her medical problems, had she not been bitten.

Pc Baines said he would expect the dog to bark at a suspect when he located one, unless the person made a move to flee or attack.

The dog was assigned to him after coming from a different force and had been under his control since January 2013.

Dano was about five years old, came from Thames Valley and Hampshire Police and had been assessed as a tracking dog with exceptional ability, the inquest heard.

Pc Baines said his German Shepherd was destroyed after the incident.

The inquest, which started on Monday, continues.