A couple whose dog mauled their three-month-old daughter to death in a “tragic” case have been spared jail.
Vince King and Karen Alcock’s Siberian husky, named Blizzard, killed baby Kyra King in woodland on March 6 2022.
Lincoln Crown Court heard that the animal, one of 19 kept by the pair, jumped out of their and fatally mauled Kyra after the family had been racing the dogs in Lincolnshire.
The dog, which will be put down, left Kyra with multiple head and neck injuries, and her parents performed CPR in an attempt to revive her.
Handing the pair suspended sentences on Monday, Judge Sjolin Knight said the incident resulted from a “tragic conjunction of circumstances”.
She said: “This is a tragic case, and I have no doubt that both of you wish every day you could wind the clock back so that incident never happened.
“There was nothing to trigger [Blizzard’s] attack on Kyra, but on this occasion she was dangerously out of control.
“Dog ownership is a privilege and for many a pleasure, but it comes with a heavy burden under the Dangerous Dogs Act.
“[Blizzard] did an awful thing which neither of you expected and will weigh heavily upon you for the rest of your lives.
“I don’t believe that this incident was reasonably foreseeable but believe it was a momentary lapse of an otherwise good system.
“It is appropriate to suspend both sentences.”
Prosecutor Jeremy Janes told the court that the defendants were experienced dog owners and regularly raced the animals, which were used for sport in sledging teams, rather than being domestic pets.
King, 55, had raced dogs for 20 years after working in the military and also bred huskies, and on the day of the incident had taken his dogs out for a practice run on a well-known route about three miles long.
Alcock, a 41-year-old veterinary nurse, had been with King since 2019 and accompanied him on the racing runs, with the pair working “as a team”.
Kyra had been taken along for the runs from just five days old and was described by the judge as a “very much wanted and loved baby”.
After racing seven dogs in Ostler’s Plantation, an area of woodland near Woodhall Spa, King returned to his van to swap the sledging teams over, with Blizzard leading the first team.
The dogs were transported in a van, the rear of which had been modified to contain lockable cages, and after her practice run, Blizzard was put inside the van to drink.
While the rear and sliding side doors of the van were closed, Blizzard leapt over the partition separating the cages from the van’s front seats, ran out of the open passenger door and attacked Kyra as she slept in her pram.
Despite the efforts of King and Alcock, Kyra was pronounced dead at the scene and the pair were arrested.
Blizzard had been bought by King six years earlier, had been racing for three years and was pregnant at the time, Mr Janes said.
Alcock later said the dog had escaped two weeks before the incident and called her an “escape artist”, while King described her as “very energetic and eager to run, but not aggressive”.
Mr Janes said Kyra suffered “horrific” injuries, adding that the incident “could have been reasonably foreseen” and “should have been on the defendants’ minds”.
He said: “The risks of what occurred were obvious.
“Leaving a door open for a dog – an excitable one, by their own admission – compounded by their recent experiences of what Blizzard had done, and immediately after Blizzard’s senses and instincts had been heightened by the recent exercise, leaving a door open for her to exit through was clearly something that should have been protected against.”
King pleaded guilty to being in charge of a dog dangerously out of control, causing injury resulting in death, on the first day of his trial on June 1 and has no relevant previous convictions.
Alcock admitted the same charge on December 23 last year and has a previous police caution for being in charge of a dog dangerously out of control, when a spaniel bit a child’s trousers after it had been sat on.
Siward James-Moore, mitigating for King, said the incident was “abhorrent” and there had been a “momentary lapse” in the system used by the pair.
He said: “The events of that day for Mr King, and doubtless Miss Alcock, will have a profound, lifelong sense of loss for both of them.
“No punishment that this court can impose will equal that which they have already endured.
“The previous experience of Mr King and Miss Alcock was such that there was no concern that there would be any form of incident.”
The pair, of Castle Dyke Bank, New York, Lincolnshire, covered their faces as they arrived at court individually, having separated since the incident.
King was given a 10-month sentence, suspended for two years, and was ordered to complete 100 hours of unpaid work.
Alcock was given an eight-month sentence, also suspended for two years, and was ordered to complete 80 hours of unpaid work.
Judge Knight stopped short of banning the pair from owning dogs.