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Last Updated:  Thursday, 13 March, 2003, 13:13 GMT
Toddler mauled by dalmatian
Niamh Smith and Jackie Smith
Niamh Smith and her mother, Jackie
A toddler has been scarred for life after being savaged by her pet dalmatian.

Two-year-old Niamh Smith had more than 40 stitches in her face after her pet dog mauled her.

The toddler had only just been given the dalmatian, called Chelsea, after seeing the popular Disney dalmatian movies.

The attack happened as Niamh and the dog played together at her home in Church Village, near Pontypridd, south Wales.

Niamh had to have a two-hour operation on eye, cheek and throat wounds at Morriston Hospital, Swansea.

It was terrible - her face was ripped open
Jackie Smith

The surgery was a success, but doctors have told Niamh's mother, Jackie, her daughter will have some scarring.

Ms Smith, 20, said: "She was playing ball with Chelsea in the living room when I suddenly heard the dog growling and my daughter screaming.

"I found Niamh covered in blood and grabbed a tea towel to wipe it up.

" Then I saw the full extent of her injuries and I felt sick.

"It was terrible - her face was ripped open."

Niamh spent four days at the specialist facial injuries unit at Morriston Hospital following the attack last Thursday and returned to hospital on Wednesday to have the stitches removed.

Scene from 101 Dalmatians
The dog was bought after the family watched 101 Dalmatians
The six-year-old dalmatian bitch was taken to a council dog pound after the attack and has now been destroyed.

Ms Smith added: "Niamh is back at home and is more herself, now she's had the stitches out.

"She's going to be scarred for life, but not as badly as we first feared.

"We'd had the dog for three weeks and it had shown no indication that it was going to do this - it attacked without warning.

"I definitely won't be getting another dog. If Niamh wants another pet, she can have a goldfish."

The dog had been bought by Niamh's grandparents Anthony and Suzanne Keedwell.

Loveable

Mrs Keedwell said: "Niamh saw all the 101 Dalmatian films and she was desperate to have one of her own.

"We decided to treat our grand-daughter because dalmatians look so lovable.

"But we'd only had Chelsea three weeks when she turned vicious.

"I thought dalmatians were boisterous but placid because of the films.

"I've since heard dalmatian bitches can be dangerous and unpredictable dogs.

"We would never have bought one for Niamh if we had known that."

British Dalmatian Club secretary Shelagh Stevenson said the dogs are normally very docile and such an attack is out of character.

Attack

She added: "It's surprising when something like this happens because dalmatians love human company and are normally brilliant with children.

"But it is never a good idea to leave such a big animal alone with such a small child because no dog is predictable.

"Perhaps this particular dog has a history or isn't used to children, and it should of course be put down if it's likely to attack again."


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