Owner orders dog to attack neighbour

DOG BITES: Dave Griffiths suffered flashbacks and nightmares for six weeks after the dog attack.
DOG BITES: Dave Griffiths suffered flashbacks and nightmares for six weeks after the dog attack.

A backyard dispute over lawn mower noise left Dave Griffiths fighting for his life after a savage dog attack.

Griffiths, 53, and wife Dawn were tending their Whangaparaoa garden in North Auckland on April 13 when neighbour Mark Paul Lambert, 35, took exception to the noise at about 11.20am.

Dawn Griffiths had just finished the lawns when Lambert started abusing the pair over their 1.5 metre boundary wooden fence.

The Griffiths were among neighbours who had lodged 39 noise complaints against Lambert during the previous 13 months due to music, power tools and machinery being operated through the night.

"I told him to get lost," Dave Griffiths says. "He was swearing at me and I swore back.

"He disappeared and I thought that was the end of it and next thing I see he's at the fence with his dog."

What happened next was debated in the North Shore District Court last week. Lambert denied accusations he lifted his American bulldog over the fence and said it jumped the fence to protect him and that Griffiths had poked him through the fence with a pole first.

But Griffiths is adamant Lambert put it over the fence to attack him, and Judge Charles Blackie agreed.

Griffiths says he screamed as the dog began chewing his right leg just above the prosthetic leg he wears after losing his limb below the knee in a motorcycle crash 30 years ago.

"It was like being bitten by a shark."

He picked up a claw hammer and started smashing the dog - and Lambert, who had also joined in the fray - with it.

"I was fighting for my life," Griffiths says.

When Griffiths turned on Lambert, the dog took to him again.

All the while Griffiths was shouting to his wife to get in the house, concerned the dog would attack her too. She ran inside and dialled 111.

Griffiths says he fought Lambert off and the dog attacked a third time.

"It started dragging me to the ground and I slid down the wall and ended up sitting on my backside with the dog chewing pieces of flesh off me."

Griffiths began to pass out from loss of blood.

"Just before I passed out, he gave the dog a little tap on the ear and said "come on bully boy" and the dog let me go," he says.

"There were pieces still falling off me when I walked inside," Griffiths says.

"Little bits that looked like pork stirfry."

The pain was excruciating and Griffiths feared he would face further amputation and lose his knee.

He spent 10 days in hospital undergoing three operations to clean the wound and give him deep tissue skin grafts, receiving 125 stitches.

The loss of muscle meant his prosthetic limb had to be replaced as it no longer fit properly.

Lambert was found guilty of wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm and was remanded in custody.

He will be sentenced on December 16 in the Manukau District Court. The maximum penalty is 14 years' jail.

The attack occurred while the Auckland Council was prosecuting Lambert in relation to two attacks on other dogs.

"He was convicted and the court made an order for the destruction of his dog," an Animal Management spokesperson says. "Lambert appealed the conviction and order to the High Court. While the High Court appeal was being organised, Lambert's dog was involved in an incident with the neighbour."

Sunday Star Times