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Minister's dog attacked elderly woman in 'distressing' Ullapool incident, Highland court hears

By Ali Morrison

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A dog attacked a 75-year-old woman when she paid a visit to its owner, her local minister in a Wester Ross village.

The incident happened on January 14, 2021 at Royal Park, Ullapool – the home of 47-year-old Rev Heidi Hercus after churchgoer Cathabel Rettie went to deliver a parcel.

Inverness Sheriff Court heard that Faith, the Sarplaninac dog - a rescue dog from abroad - was inside the house in the living room as Rev Hercus and the victim made small talk.

Fiscal depute Sharon Ralph told Sheriff Eilidh Macdonald that Ms Rettie described the animal as "wolf-like".

"The dog then pushed its way past Heidi Hercus and she tried to grab it. But it knocked the complainer to the ground. She put her hand up to stop it because she thought it was going for her head. Then the dog bit her on the chest.

"She said the dog had a good grip, would not let go and felt it tighten its grip. Then the dog ran off."

Mrs Hercus ran after it and retrieved the dog, the court heard.

Ms Rettie suffered several puncture wounds to her armpit area and chest. She required a tetanus injection and a course of antibiotics.

Sheriff Eilidh Macdonald.
Sheriff Eilidh Macdonald.
"You have responded correctly but this was a difficult situation for the lady - a distressing incident which caused injury." - Sheriff Eilidh Macdonald

Mrs Ralph said that Mrs Hercus told police after the incident that she was looking to rehome it and then informed officers that the dog had been rehomed in Yorkshire.

Rev. Hercus represented herself and pleaded guilty to the offence under the Dangerous Dogs Act of not keeping her dog under control.

She told the sheriff that she had got the dog in September, 2020, some five to six months before the attack.

"We were aware that she would need behavioural training but due to Covid, we couldn't get it. The dog was fine with people and dogs outside, but was protective of me and my child indoors.

"This was an awful incident as she thought she was protecting her mama. It broke our hearts to move her on. She was sent to a training assessment centre and was then rehomed."

The minister added that she had paid around £500 to support the dog until new owners were found.

Ordering Rev Hercus to pay £250 in compensation to Ms Rettie, the Sheriff said: "You have responded correctly but this was a difficult situation for the lady - a distressing incident which caused injury."

View our fact sheet on court reporting here

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