THE owner of a dog that bit three people in Settle has escaped an immediate prison sentence.

Melissa Thorp, 49, was given an 18-month sentence, suspended for 18 months, and disqualified from having a dog for ten years when she appeared at York Crown Court on Friday for sentencing. She will also have to pay compensation of £820.

The court ordered that the dog, a Belgian Malinois bitch, called Blu, be destroyed.

Thorp, of Mill Close, Settle, appeared at Skipton Magistrates' Court in January when she pleaded guilty to two charges of being the owner of a dog dangerously out of control causing injury, and one charge of being in charge of a dog dangerously out of control, with no injury.

Magistrates adjourned sentencing to Harrogate Magistrates' Court for reports, with magistrates there sending sentencing to the higher, York Crown Court.

At the January hearing in Skipton, the court heard how the dog, Blu, had bit one man while he was walking through Riverside Park, Settle, and a ticket collector on the Settle to Skipton train, both times breaking the skin.

The dog also bit a woman as she was walking towards Booth's supermarket, but on that occasion, there was no injury. Thorp had also received a caution in August 2022, by police and advised to muzzle the dog when out after it had bitten a child.

The court heard that a man was walking in the riverside park off Langcliffe Road on June 1, 2023, when Blu ran up to him barking and growling.

The dog 'lunged' up at the man, biting his right thigh and piercing the skin. The man went to the hospital and was given antibiotics. He later saw Thorp who apologised to him.

On September 10, 2023, Thorp was on the Skipton to Settle train when Blu, who was under a table, bit a rail worker on the shin as he asked to see Thorp's ticket. The court heard how the man had felt a sharp pain on his shin, and again, Thorp apologised.

A third incident happened on December 7, 2023, when Blu lunged towards a woman as she was walking towards Booth's Supermarket; but no injury was caused.

Mitigating at the time, Julian White said Thorp's main concern was for the dog, which she had had for three years. He said following the police caution in 2022, she had muzzled the dog, it was always on a lead and she also had a large harness bearing the warning 'do not touch'.

Mr White described Thorp as a 'vulnerable lady who had had a torrid life with all sorts of difficulties'.

He said she brought the dog because she lived alone, but it was regularly in the company of small children.

The order for the dog to be destroyed will be carried out unless there is a successful appeal within 21 days of Friday's hearing.