First published with The Courier –

Irene Sinnott has endured every dog owners’ worst nightmare.

She says she will never own a dog again, after her beloved jack russell Rumble was mauled to death on an evening walk in Sebastopol.

The attack has thrown the importance of responsible dog ownership and off-the-leash walking back into the spotlight.

Dog experts have described off-leash dogs in the wrong hands as a ‘loaded shogun’, but for Ms Sinnott it is simply a story she doesn’t want to hear again.

It was becoming dark on April 7 when Ms Sinnott and little Rumble left their Edward Street home about 6.30pm.

She saw three dogs running loose toward her a only few blocks from her home.

Seconds later a dog, City of Ballarat investigators report to be an American staffordshire terrier, charged aggressively and grabbed small Rumble, who she had adopted only six weeks earlier, in his jaws.

The dog mauled Rumble while Ms Sinnott yanked the lead to release him from the dog’s teeth.

Neighbours ran outside and pried Rumble free from the attack.

One neighbour rushed the small dog inside her home and draped a towel over his body as he bled over the carpet.

Rumble lay on Ms Sinnotts’ lap as they travelled to the vet, while her own hands bled from a bite sustained during the commotion.

He died at the vet later that night while Ms Sinnott was being treated at hospital.

She said she has been traumatised by the attack and is sharing her story in the hope no one else goes through the same experience.

“It was a nightmare. You see it on TV but you never think that will happen to me,” she said.

I will never have a dog again.

Ms Sinnott urged pet owners to control their dogs, and check they can’t escape their yards, to prevent other people going through the horror of what she has endured.

City of Ballarat is investigating the incident. Outcomes can include infringement notices, charges laid at court, declarations made under the domestic animals act, a destruction order or no action.

Ballarat Dog Obedience Club coordinator Carol Hodges said no dogs should be off the lead other than in designated off leash areas.

City of Ballarat investigated 116 dog attacks in 2016.

So many people get a dog and it is like giving them a loaded shotgun because they don’t know how to handle them.

Dog trainer Trish Harris from Four Paws K9 Training said dogs even in an off leash area must be under effective control.

“If the dog doesn’t have training the dog does not belong off leash. It is as simple as that,” she said.

Ms Sinnott had adopted Rumble from a young family who could no longer care for him. Her 17-year-old dog Star had died only a few months earlier.

The question she keeps asking herself is why these were dogs on the loose.

Dangerous dogs can be reported to City of Ballarat on the ‘dangerous dog hotline’ on 1300 101 080.