A FARMER whose two large dogs savaged a young couple's "cherished" pet dog to death - despite five previous warnings - has walked free from court.

The dogs belonging to Douglas Jones had attacked other dogs on three previous occasions and jumped up at passers-by frightening them on two different days.

Despite being warned by Wirral Council following those incidents, on April 21 this year Buttons, a Jack Russell-toy poodle cross, was attacked by Jones' German Shepherd and a Mastiff cross as he was innocently walking past with his owners.

He suffered three broken ribs and multiple lacerations and despite vet treatment costing £8,000 he did not survive the injuries and died a week later.

Liverpool Crown Court heard today that in an impact statement his heartbroken owner, Paul Storey, told of the emotional distress the incident caused and how he has since been diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder.

Jones, 70, of Manor Farm in Frankby, pleaded guilty to two offences of being in charge of a dog dangerously out of control which caused injury.

He has no previous convictions.

Sentencing him to 12 months imprisonment suspended for 18 months and fining him £2,000, Judge Robert Trevor-Jones told him that it had been "an aberration" as far as his character was concerned.

But he pointed out: "It is quite clear that you failed to respond to warnings or concern expressed by others, at least to a suitable degree, and the lack of safety or control measures and that was still the case which allowed this incident to happen."

The judge said that while Jones had reacted to some extent to advice after the earlier incidents, "I do not consider it was followed enough and I think far greater focus could have been made by you towards dogs' safety on your premises, which joins the road from the gateway."

Charles Lander, prosecuting, told how Mr Storey and wife Helene were walking past the farm with their seven-month-old child in a pram along with Buttons.

Mr Storey, who was slightly ahead, noticed a German Shepherd, Rosie, in the farm yard and "the next thing Buttons was attacked by Rosie, who had Buttons in her jaws."

He managed to get his pet off the dog but was then knocked off his feet by a large brown dog, a Mastiff cross called Lulu, and the attack on Buttons continued, said Mr Lander.

Mr Storey sustained injuries in the incident and Button suffered injuries which proved fatal.

When interviewed by police on May 15 Jones told how the dogs were allowed to roam free and eventually agreed that he needed to put up an internal gate to keep the dogs in.

Asked about the attack, he said, "that's what dogs will do" and when challenged accepted they were out of control.

Mr Lander told the court that Jones has no previous convictions but there had been five previous incidents beginning in July 2010 when the Mastiff attacked another dog.

In May 2013, his dogs jumped up at a member of the public and in September the following year his two dogs jumped the boundary fence and were aggressive to a member of the public.

After each occasion he received a letter of advice from the council but on March 21, 2016 the police logged that Rosie had attacked and injured a passing Beagle, resulting in a £146 vet's bill.

The fifth incident took place on August 4 last year when she caused serious injury to another dog and Jones was told by the council to put up warring signs. When a council official visited and no signs were up he was sent a warning letter.

Mr Lander said that while in police kennels Lulu was found to have a liver tumour and was put to sleep and Rosie had been destroyed at Mr Jones' own volition.

Anna Price, defending, said that he had taken steps to address the previous issues and was prepared to take further steps where necessary.

She said that the warning signs advised by the council arrived the same day as the warning letter and were there on the day of this latest incident.

She said that Mr Jones witnessed the incident and tried to intervene. Both he and his wife, who sat in the public gallery today, were "extremely sorry about what happened. They are both dog lovers."

She explained that Mr Jones ran an arable farm, where he had lived all his life, and his son runs a livery yard there with about 60 horses.

There is now a padlock on the gate with a code for anyone entering and unsupervised children are not allowed.

The couple still have three dogs, a one-year-old Mastiff - St Bernard cross, an eight-year-old Great Dane cross and Bichon Frise puppy and his son has two Chihauhuas.

Miss Price said that there is on on-going civil claim in which Jones has admitted liability so Mr Storey's vet’s bill is covered but there is still an issue about the amount for personal injury.

She pointed out that they only found out that Lulu had a tumour and been put to sleep when the police told them and they had not been given a chance to pay for medical investigations.

"This was a bolt out of the blue."

Miss Price said that a dog behavioural expert has visited the farm and they have taken on board her advice and she believes he is a fit and proper person to own a dog.

Judge Trevor-Jones decided not to ban him from keeping dogs and ordered him to pay the fine at £200 a week.

He said he accepted he had been upset at the loss of Lulu but pointed out how much Mr Storey had been affected by the loss of his "cherished companion.

"The grief that has followed from the incident was made much worse because it happened right in front of his very eyes as he desperately tried to stop his dog being savaged by your two dogs."

He said that the events of that day "could have been foretold given the nature of the previous incidents."