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Villagers feel under threat from 'out of control' dogs in Ackergill


By David G Scott

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A feud has erupted in Ackergill after several residents claim to have been terrorised by pedigree dogs that escape from their owner's garden.

The woman who owns the dogs feels she is being victimised by locals and thinks they are "hugely" exaggerating the issue and "distorting" the truth.

Rick Picken's elderly mother Valerie lives in the village and she told her son about an incident in which a dog allegedly "lunged" at her in October.

Rick Picken with his dog Smokey who he claims was attacked by one of the Labradors. Picture: DGS
Rick Picken with his dog Smokey who he claims was attacked by one of the Labradors. Picture: DGS

"The owner of the dogs isn't aware they go missing," said Mr Picken. "She puts them in the garden and they get out. There's four of them – they're big chunky Labradors. My mum, who is nearly 80, opened her door and this one dog lunged at her. It also happened three months before. She panicked and went back in the house but didn't call the police as she doesn't want any drama."

Mr Picken said he has been keeping a catalogue of various issues related to the dogs and claims they attacked other dogs at Reiss beach and Dunnet forest. "There's a man here who took his dog down to the harbour and his dog was attacked and that was a £200 vet bill. My dog, Smokey, was also attacked. Her dog ran over and got Smokey by the neck."

Mr Picken reeled off a number of names of Ackergill residents who have been affected by the issue including a couple whose dog was attacked and had to be taken to the vet. "People affected avoid the harbour and around where she lives as they're terrified."

An 'bite mark' on the cockapoo whose owner says was viciously attacked by two of the Labradors. Picture: DGS
An 'bite mark' on the cockapoo whose owner says was viciously attacked by two of the Labradors. Picture: DGS

A woman, who asked to remain anonymous, showed pictures of a wound on her dog after an alleged attack by two of the dogs on August 5. "Our dog, a cockapoo, was attacked and thrown about like a rag doll," said the woman. "My husband was with the dog at the time and he had to kick the dogs to get them to drop our dog. He thought our dog was dead and there are people who witnessed this. She was so traumatised and was given antibiotics and painkillers."

The woman says her husband confronted the owner when she appeared and she allegedly told him that her dogs are "kennel club registered and not aggressive in the slightest". She said that the dogs were witnessed surrounding a father with a child in a pushchair and acting in "a vicious manner". She also claims to have tried contacting the Highland Council's dog warden for the area at least six times but received no responses.

John Wright contacted police about the issue. Picture: DGS
John Wright contacted police about the issue. Picture: DGS

John Wright, who has lived in Ackergill for 17 years, contacted Police Scotland about the issue and was told to speak to the local dog warden. "She never got back in touch and it was the same with other people too – seems like somebody ain't doing their job," said Mr Wright. "There's children in this village and all it needs is for one of them dogs to attack one of them and there'd be something done about it.

"I've seen them out in the field around livestock too. She just said to me that they're 'Crufts dogs' and were not a problem."

Highland Council was contacted but would provide no information on the matter other than a website link about dog control.

The dogs seemed friendly when we visited but a couple of them did manage to get through a fence to run into the village later. Picture: DGS
The dogs seemed friendly when we visited but a couple of them did manage to get through a fence to run into the village later. Picture: DGS

The woman who owns the dogs at the centre of the allegations claims that she was attacked by a man wielding a stick on the afternoon of Thursday, October 19. A Police Scotland spokesperson added: "Officers attended and there were no reports of any injuries. Enquiries are ongoing."

The woman says that high winds can sometimes blow down fencing boards around her property and the dogs have then escaped. She talked of "hugely exaggerated, distorted and often just completely untrue allegations about my dogs".

"I always fight lies with the truth and so far I have always won. In life, like in business you will always have people who are jealous or resentful or just bored and looking to make trouble and feel important. I came to Scotland to retire in peace and quiet with my beautiful girls and instead I have found neighbours who have made me 'something to talk about'."

She claims to have been assaulted on a previous occasion by one of the disgruntled residents and says she has many positive reviews as a dog breeder and has Kennel Club accreditation.

Some of the fencing designed to keep the dogs in the garden. Boards have come loose in stormy weather and the dogs escape.
Some of the fencing designed to keep the dogs in the garden. Boards have come loose in stormy weather and the dogs escape.
Roz Fleming was wild swimming at the harbour when we visited. She says the dogs need to be kept under better control and had alarmed members of her swimming group by running towards them when they were exiting the water. Picture: DGS
Roz Fleming was wild swimming at the harbour when we visited. She says the dogs need to be kept under better control and had alarmed members of her swimming group by running towards them when they were exiting the water. Picture: DGS

One of the dogs called Ruby was seen to escape from her property, when we visited, to the alarm of a young person walking close by. The owner later said: "The wind last night took down three boards from my fence that I failed to notice this morning, which is how Ruby got out just as you were leaving."

She said it was "all bark and no bite" and that one of the dogs at the centre of the allegations was born the week after lockdown and "therefore a Covid puppy and poorly socialised through no fault of my own".




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