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Dobermann mauled two people at pet crematorium as its owner buried her dead guinea pig

An out-of-control dog attacked two people at a pet crematorium while its owner laid her pet guinea pig to rest, a court has heard.

The female Dobermann, named Harlow, left onlookers “paralysed with fear” during the horror incident.

Michelle Hiscoke outside Winchester Crown Court
Dignity Pet Crematorium in Hook, Hants

The court heard the grieving Michelle Hiscoke, 57, lost control of the two and a half foot tall dog during a ceremony for her dead guinea pig.

She had slipped and fallen over when Harlow, who she only owned for two weeks, bit the crematorium owner and a visitor.

In September Hiscoke – who was previously in the Royal Navy – was convicted of two counts of having a dog dangerously out of control.

But now she has won her fight to keep Harlow alive after a judge ruled it does not pose enough of a risk to warrant its destruction.

The attack took place in September last year when Hiscoke was at Dignity Pet Crematorium in Hook, Hants.

The family-owned establishment, which is a finalist for Pet Crematorium of the Year 2023, is run by Kevin Spurgeon.

Hiscoke, from Gosport, Hants, allowed her new dog out of her car and took its muzzle off because she was worried it was suffering in the heat.

But she slipped and fell and the dog managed to get free before starting to bark at her lying on the ground leaving onlookers “paralysed with fear”.

Crematorium owner Mr Spurgeon came to check on her but Harlow – who was suffering from “separation and anxiety issues” – “circled” him and bit his hand.

The court heard that when distraught Hiscoke managed to put the Dobermann bitch back in her car and went to apologise, confessing that she was struggling with dog which had bitten through the fabric cage in the vehicle.

When crematorium visitor Bethany Lambert came to see the dog, Hiscoke opened the car door and Harlow bit Ms Lambert on the thigh.

The court heard this has entrenched a fear of large dogs in Ms Lambert.

Ms Hiscoke admitted the offences at Winchester Crown Court, Hants, and was given a six-month community order, a two-month curfew of 9pm to 6am and an order to pay Ms Lambert £200 and Mr Spurgeon £100 in compensation.

In court, Ms Hiscoke’s defending barrister Samuel March said she is ‘single’ and a ‘recluse’ and that her animals are her ‘family’.

The new hearing to determine Harlow’s fate was told that Debbie Connolly, dog behaviourist, prepared a comprehensive report on Harlow and advised the court the animal does not need putting down.

Mr March said: “There have been no issues, the expert’s view is that with conditions in place this dog does not present a risk to public safety.”

Judge Adam Feest KC ruled Harlow does not need to be destroyed but imposed five conditions.

The first is that Harlow must be spayed.

The second states Harlow must wear a ‘basket style muzzle in public’, and the third says Harlow must be kept on a head collar and double ended lead.

The final two state the dog is not to be walked or in the sole custody of anyone under 18 and that Harlow must be ‘placed behind a secure barrier when opening the door’ at home.

Judge Feest KC said: “The fact is it was 14 months ago and there’s been no repetition or difficulties in the care of Ms Hiscoke.

“This is not a case that requires a destruction order but requires a contingent destruction order.

“What that means is there’s a number of conditions placed on her care of Harlow and if they are broken that is very likely to result in a destruction order.”

Hiscoke urged the court not to have Harlow spayed.

Mr March said Ms Hiscoke has had two Dobermanns previously – one deteriorated and died after being spayed and the other died following treatment for cancer.

Mr March said: “Very real is her belief and fear that Dobermanns are particularly susceptible to [injuries as a result of] operations and she’s committed to not putting any Dobermann through an operation unless it’s life or death.”

Such is her opposition to having Harlow spayed, Ms Hiscoke was willing to accept conditions that stipulated the pet would be confined to her house and garden as long as it meant it didn’t have to be neutered.

However, Judge Feest KC dismissed the argument.

Judge Feest KC said: “I can fully understand the defendant’s concerns, nevertheless this is a life or death case.

“The package [of five conditions] is designed to protect the public and the alternative is destruction.

“I sympathise with Ms Hiscoke’s concerns about spaying but bearing in mind the offence and the management of the risk to the public, the conditions stay in place for a lifetime order.”

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