Rescue dog owner who lost an arm after the pet bit her is suing RSPCA for £200,000

An American bulldog owner whose left arm had to be amputated after she was viciously attacked by the pet is suing the RSCAP for more than £200,000.

The 15-month-old dog called Kiwi clamped its jaws on Joanna Harris’s arm in Crowborough, East Sussex – and police had to Taser it three times to get it off her.

Ms Harris, 49, was taken to hospital where her arm was amputated after her left bicep had become exposed, she could not move it and the blood supply was lost.

She had fostered Kiwi from the RSPCA but claims she was not told it had attacked two women eight months before turning on her after biting her other dog, Bo.

During the attack in September 2021, Ms Harris could not shake off its grip and went into her garden to ask a neighbour to call 999 for an ambulance and the police.

Kiwi then started to pull and shake on her arm and tried to bite her neck – and by the time police arrived around 20 minutes later, it was still attached to her.

Officers then tried to release the dog, but when they could not they Tasered it three times to subdue it, according to documents submitted to the High Court.

Ms Harris was taken to hospital, where she had to have her left arm amputated and had also suffered injuries to her right arm, hand and leg.

She said: “It’s almost difficult to put into words what happened to me and the impact it’s had. I’ve always loved and grown up around dogs and really wanted to give a dog a home and a new life.

“What happened that day and how I was attacked in my own home is something that will stay with me forever. It was absolutely terrifying. Even when the police arrived Kiwi didn’t want to let go.’

Ms Harris, who had been hoping to adopt Kiwi before the incident, also said it happened days after Kiwi had tried to bite her. The dog was later put down.

Talking about the attack and its impact, she added: ‘The pain I was in was excruciating and I knew I was in a bad way. However, nothing prepared me for the news that I had to have my arm amputated. At that moment my life changed. I lost a lot of confidence and independence.

‘I became a lot more reliant on friends and family, even for things such as getting dressed and food shopping, things many people take for granted.

“I try and remain as positive as I can and want to focus of my recovery, but I feel I deserve answers to the concerns I have.”

Ms Harris had to take a significant time off from her job as a product owner lead in the financial service industry, with her lawyers at Irwin Mitchell saying she is now reliant on her partner, neighbours and family to help care for her.

The law firm said she had instructed its serious injury lawyers at to help her get specialist support, rehabilitation and therapies.

Chani Dhaliwal, the lawyer who is representing her, said: “Joanna has faced an incredibly difficult time coming to terms with the physical and psychological impact of the incident which has changed her life forever. Her case vividly highlights the devastating effect such incidents can have on people.

“Understandably she has a number of concerns about what happened and whether more could have been done to prevent her horrific injuries.

“While nothing can make up for what she’s been through we’re determined to support Joanna to provide her with not only the answers she deserves but also the specialist support and therapies she requires to regain more of her independence.”

In court documents, Irwin Mitchell argue that the RSPCA is liable under the Animals Act.

The alleged breaches include that the RSPCA should have known the aggressive nature of the dog given the behaviour it had previously shown.

It is alleged that the RSPCA allowed Kiwi to be fostered when it was unsafe to do so.

It is also alleged that the RSPCA failed to remove Kiwi from Ms Harris’s house when she reported that he tried to bite her on August 26, 2021 – a week before the incident on September 3 in which she was injured.

Mr Dhaliwal added: “Sadly we’re seeing more incidents where people have been seriously injured in dog bite attacks. This has been particularly the case since lockdown when dog ownership increased.”

An RSPCA spokesperson said: ‘This was a distressing incident and our thoughts go out to Ms Harris. We assess the health and behavioural needs of animals before rehoming and where necessary, we provide a full behavioural plan.

‘Our branches and centres are available to support them or take an animal back into our care if the new owner does not feel happy or safe.

‘We cannot say any more at this time because of ongoing legal proceedings, which the RSPCA is defending.’