Animal handler’s life changes after savage mauling
PET handler Stevie Jane played dead in an attempt to stay alive as an american staffordshire terrier named Sooka mauled her leg.
Ms Jane's knowledge of dogs helped her survive a vicious attack that left her with more than 200 stitches in her hip and legs and changed her outlook on the animals she loves.
THE dog's owner, Jacob Lee Halden, made arrangements for Sooka and two other terriers to be checked in at The Sunshine Coast Pet Resort on May 26 while he went to work in Far North Queensland.
Ms Jane, who was operations manager at the Meridan Plains resort, was tasked with caring for the dogs.
She had just cleaned out Sooka's holding pen on June 8 and was trying to coax him back in when he attacked.
"He came to run back in and then stopped and looked at me and his pupils dilated and his face changed," Ms Jane said.
She said it reminded her of someone on speed or steroids.
"You can see it in the face when they get angry and it was terrifying."
She tried to fend Sooka off as he jumped at her, sustaining a bite to her right hand.
Sooka then bit her on the left hip and upper thigh, above her femoral artery.
"I just laid on the ground and played dead and let him throw me into the fences."
He got a hold of her right thigh and Ms Jane protected her throat until co-workers arrived and used a hose to get the dog off.
"I remember thinking I'm going to die, he's going to tear my throat out and let's hope it will be quick."
She was in hospital for a week, requiring two operations on her badly mauled right thigh.
Sunshine Coast Council officers were called to investigate two days after the incident. Sooka was declared a dangerous dog and ordered to be put down.
But his owner Mr Halden has fought the decision, initially through an internal review by the council, which in July upheld the decision to have Sooka declared dangerous.
Mr Halden then took the matter the Queensland Civil Administration Tribunal, which also upheld the council's decision.
His submissions to the tribunal were critical of the care his dogs received at the pet resort.
He said they were underfed, Sooka had not been handled in accordance with specific instructions and Sooka might have been given amphetamines.
The tribunal found no evidence of mistreatment.
"On any objective assessment, that attack was sudden, unexpected, and completely unprovoked," it found
"The genesis of that attack must therefore most probably lie within the temperament and propensities of Sooka."
The possibility that Mr Halden could continue ownership of Sooka if the dog was castrated was raised during the tribunal hearing.
"In response thereto Mr Halden indicated, in very clear terms, that he was not interested in owning Sooka if Sooka were to be castrated."
Sooka has remained in the care of the council since he was impounded on June 10.
Councillor Jenny McKay said Sooka would remain in care at one of the council's facilities while the potential for more appeals remained.
Meanwhile, Ms Jane has relearned how to walk as her scars healed over.
She said she felt strongly about the destruction of Sooka but was saddened by it.
"Basically, I'm just pretty luck to still be here."
Anyone experiencing or witnessing dogs acting aggressively towards people or animals can contact council on 5475 7272.