A POLICEWOMAN has been praised by a judge after she was attacked by a Staffordshire bull terrier cross as she shielded paramedics.
PC Katie Whittaker had stepped in front of an ambulance crew after drunken, angry and "out-of-control" Giovanni Ligreci, 52, threatened the crew before releasing the animal and "winding it up".
The officer was bitten on the wrist and thigh by the dog and suffered "unpleasant" injuries.
The defendant, of Birtwistle Street, Great Harwood, was sent to prison for four months after admitting assault causing actual bodily harm, being the owner of a dog dangerously out of control which caused injury and breaching a 12-month conditional discharge, imposed for battery.
Recorder Andrew Nuttall made an order for the dog to be destroyed.
Passing sentence, the judge said PC Whittaker had shown great devotion to duty, putting herself between the dog and the ambulance technicians, and had upheld the good tradition of the police in this country and in particular in Lancashire.
He said it must have been a terrifying experience for the crew and the officer and added: "It's perhaps a mercy she wasn't further injured."
The court heard that Ligreci was an epileptic who knew he shouldn't drink alcohol and this latest incident happened just a couple of weeks after he was before the court for similar allegations.
On the night of the incident in November 2005, an ambulance crew and the officer were called to the defendant's home at about 11pm because it was feared he was having a fit.
The crew could not get any response and the dog prevented them from entering the property. The defendant's girlfriend at the time moved the dog into a different room.
The defendant had been drinking and became aggressive.
The court heard Ligreci refused to accept treatment, threatened the paramedics, saying he would set the dog on them, and let the animal out of the room.
The defendant shook the animal's collar to wind it up and let it go.
PC Whittaker stepped in the way and was attacked.
Rosalind Emsley-Smith, defending, told the court Ligreci had alcohol problems but had in the past co-operated with the probation service.
His partner in 2005 was an alcoholic and he had given in to temptation over drink.
They had had a tempestuous relationship described as a "dysfunctional interdependence" and rowed regularly. They had been arguing before the incident.
Miss Emsley-Smith said the defendant had not offended for 16 months, had virtually eradicated alcohol from his life and was no longer with that partner.
He was desperate to be sober and stable, was motivated and was determined to combat his drink problem.
PC Whittaker, 26, who was working in Great Harwood at the time of the incident, said after the case: "The police were called to force open the door so the paramedics could get inside the house.
"That was really all we needed to do but I heard a commotion inside so I got in the way of the paramedics and at that point I knew the dog had bitten me.
"I then had to concentrate on arresting the offender and stopping the dog biting anyone else.
"When everything had calmed down I sat in the ambulance and noticed that I had been bitten quite badly on the thigh and wrist."
The animal's teeth had punctured the PC's muscle and she had to have a course of antibiotics and a tetanus jab.
She still has scarring but has recovered from her injuries.
She added: "I wasn't scared at the time. Dogs don't usually bother me as a rule. I just didn't want the paramedics to get bitten.
"Receivings praise for what I did is very flattering.
"It's nice to get thanks for doing your job. You don't expect it so it's appreciated when it happens."