Paralysed rider sues dog owner for £5m after ‘gentle’ Westie terrier spooked his horse

·2 min read
Lourens Koetsier - Champion News
Lourens Koetsier - Champion News

A paralysed horse rider is suing a dog owner for up to £5 million after a “small, elderly and gentle” Westie terrier spooked his horse, which threw him to the ground.

Lourens Koetsier, 63, suffered a severe spinal cord injury and now requires the use of a wheelchair when outside, the High Court heard.

The financial adviser is suing David Clifford Thomas, the dog’s owner, claiming that he should have had the dog on a lead.

Mr Thomas said there was no reason to blame his “small, elderly and gentle” Westie – named Max, which he has owned since it was a puppy – for the accident.

His lawyer insisted that local bylaws allow pet owners to let their dogs run freely on the beach where the accident took place.

Running off its leash

The court heard that Mr Koetsier and Monique, his wife, were on holiday in Wales in June 2018 when he decided to go on a guide-led canter on a beach in Pembrokeshire.

Max was spotted by the riders running off its leash on the sand while the horses cantered, Mr Koetsier’s lawyer told the court.

He claimed that as the riders began a second canter, the dog began running towards the group from behind, barking as it did.

“Bonfire [Mr Koetsier’s horse] was stationary when the same small white dog went underneath him from behind and behind the claimant,” said Matthew Chapman QC.

Mr Chapman QC claimed that Mr Thomas is liable to pay compensation because the accident would not have happened if the dog had not been running loose or out of control.

‘Aggressive around horses’

“[Mr Thomas] knew that the dog was aggressive around horses and likely to chase the same,” he said.

“The claimant is an experienced rider and had, up until the point when he was thrown, been able to control and manage Bonfire during the course of the ride.”

Andrew Arensten, Mr Thomas’ barrister, denied claims that Max was aggressive and said it had always “been a friendly, gentle and social dog”.

He said that Max had shown initially only a “mild interest” in the horses that day and it ran after them when they cantered a second time.

The case reached court last week for a preparatory hearing ahead of a full trial of the claim at a later date.

Lawyers for Mr Koetsier said that the accident had left him with incomplete tetraplegia. They said they would be seeking a damages payout of up to £5 million.

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