PICTURED: 'Beautiful little girl' mauled to death in own home by dog

PICTURED: ‘Beautiful’ toddler mauled to death by ‘Staffie or pit bull’ dog family bought just a WEEK ago as police destroy animal and try to trace previous owner

  • Bella-Rae Birch, 17 months old, was attacked by the family dog at home in St Helens, Merseyside yesterday 
  • Emergency services took the baby girl to hospital, where she sadly died from her injuries 
  • Neighbours described her ‘devastated’ mother Treysharn Bates ‘crying hysterically’ outside the house 
  • Merseyside Police said that officers destroyed the dog and are investigating whether the animal was illegal 

The ‘beautiful’ baby girl who was tragically mauled to death at home in Merseyside by a dog bought by her parents just a week ago has been pictured.

Bella-Rae Birch, just 17 months old, was attacked by the family pet on Monday afternoon at home on Bidston Avenue in Blackbrook, St Helens at around 3.50pm on Monday. Emergency services took her to hospital, where she sadly died from her injuries.

Neighbours today described her ‘devastated’ mother Treysharn Bates ‘crying hysterically’ outside the house moments after yesterday’s horror attack, while heartbroken loved ones were pictured leaving flowers on the street this morning.

Merseyside Police said that officers destroyed the dog and are currently investigating whether the animal was an illegal breed under the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991. Locals claimed that the dog was either a Staffordshire bull terrier or pit bull. 

In a Facebook post from October last year marking Bella-Rae’s 1st birthday, her father Ryan Birch said: ‘Happy birthday to my little princess, big 1 today, first ever birthday!! My Bella boo, have the best day gorgeous, we love you too much’.   

Bella-Rae Birch, just 17 months old, was attacked by the family dog on Monday afternoon at home on Bidston Avenue in Blackbrook, St Helens at around 3.50pm on Monday 

Emergency services took her to hospital, where she sadly died from her injuries

In a Facebook post from October last year marking Bella-Rae’s 1st birthday, her father Ryan Birch said: ‘Happy birthday to my little princess, big 1 today, first ever birthday!! My Bella boo, have the best day gorgeous, we love you too much’


Neighbours today described her ‘devastated’ mother Treysharn Bates ‘crying hysterically’ outside the house

A woman lays flowers at a house in St Helens after a 17-month-old girl died after being attacked by a dog

Merseyside Police said officers received a report that a child had been attacked by a dog at an address on Bidston Avenue

Paying tribute to Bella-Rae, neighbour Joanne Matthews, 53, said: ‘She was such a beautiful little girl, toddling about. I’d see the family in passing, just to say hello, and they were always very pleasant.’ 

Describing the scene of yesterday’s attack, she said: ‘I saw them bring the dog out. I couldn’t tell what breed it was but from the back it looked like a Staffordshire bull terrier or pit bull.’

Another neighbour, who did not want to be named, said she got home from the shops at about 4.30pm, when the area was busy with police.

She said: ‘The mum was on the field at the front of the house crying. She was hysterical. It is usually very quiet here and safe for children, but when you hear something like this has happened it is so distressing.’

Detective Inspector Lisa Milligan said: ‘This is a tragic incident and our thoughts are with the child’s family at this devastating time. The little girl’s parents and wider family are absolutely devastated and our specialist Family Liaison Officers are providing them with support at this horrendous time. 

Police at the house where a baby girl was mauled to death by a dog, Bidston Avenue

A police car (bottom centre) outside a house in St Helens after a 17-month-old girl died

Officers received a report that a child had been attacked by a dog on Bidston Avenue in Blackbrook, St Helens, Merseyside on Monday afternoon

Officers remained at scene on Bidston Avenue this morning and extensive CCTV, witness and house-to-house enquiries are being carried out

‘Whilst we are in the very early stages of the investigation into this extremely tragic incident we can confirm that the dog was only bought by the family a week ago and officers are working to identify the previous owners of the dog concerned and establish its history.

‘Our officers will remain on Bidston Avenue this evening and in the coming days to provide reassurance to the local community and we will work tirelessly to establish the full circumstances.

‘If you were in the Bidston Avenue area this afternoon and witnessed anything, or have any information about the dog in question then please come forward speak to one of our officers.

‘Our officers take the issue of dangerous dogs very seriously. Over the past years we have worked proactively with the five local authorities in Merseyside to ensure prohibited dogs are taken off the streets.’

Anyone with any information is asked to contact us via our social media desk @MerPolCC or Merseyside Police Contact Centre on Facebook, with reference 22000196837.

Alternatively, you can call the independent charity @CrimestoppersUK anonymously, on 0800 555 111. You can also use their online form at: https://crimestoppers-uk.org/give-information/give-information.

What’s the Dangerous Dogs Act? Which dogs are banned? And why is it controversial? 

WHAT IS THE DANGEROUS DOGS ACT?

The Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 bans or restricts certain types of dogs and makes it an offence to allow a dog of any breed to be dangerously out of control.

It was introduced 30 years ago by Home Secretary Kenneth Baker ‘to rid the country of the menace of these fighting dogs’ after a string of attacks.

WHICH DOGS ARE BANNED IN THE UK?

It is illegal to own four breeds of dogs without an exemption from a court. They are:

  • American pitbull terriers;
  • Japanese tosas
  • Dogo Argentinos;
  • Fila Brazileiro  

The law also criminalises cross-breeds of the above four types of dog – meaning that whether a dog is prohibited will depend on a judgement about its physical characteristics, and whether they match the description of a prohibited ‘type’.

WHAT HAPPENS IF THERE’S A DOG ATTACK?

You can get an unlimited fine or be sent to prison for up to six months if your dog is dangerously out of control. 

You may not be allowed to own a dog in the future and your dog may be destroyed.

If you let your dog injure someone you can be sent to prison for up to five years or fined. If you deliberately use your dog to injure someone you could be charged with ‘malicious wounding’.

And if you allow your dog to kill someone you can be sent to prison for up to 14 years or get an unlimited fine. 

WHY IS THE ACT CONTROVERSIAL? 

Both the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the British Veterinary Association have protested against the ban, insisting there is no scientific evidence that all individuals of a breed are dangerous.

However, Met Police data suggests that in incidents involving ‘dangerously out of control dogs’, banned breeds account for about a fifth of offences.

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