A court has ordered the police to press charges against a dog owner whose pet permanently disfigured a shop attendant one year ago.

Sliema resident Lindsey Vella had ended up with a 5 per cent disability after she was bitten by the dog while stacking shelves at a convenience store at Gżira.

The dog owner had handed her a treat to give the animal, which was on a short leash at the time. It attacked her and tore at her lip, leaving her bleeding and in pain. The owner subsequently hurried out of the shop.

Ms Vella’s brother had gone public in an attempt to track down the dog owner.

"He just asked her if she was OK and then walked out of the shop," he had told Times of Malta.

Police subsequently identified the dog owner as Peter Attard, but did not press charges against him.

Watch: 'A dog bit my sister in the face... help me find its owner'

That prompted Ms Vella’s lawyer to file a judicial challenge in which she called on the police commissioner to institute criminal proceedings against Mr Attard.

In a reply to the judicial challenge, the police commissioner had argued that Mr Attard had asked for permission to bring his pet into the shop and kept the animal on a short leash to retain “absolute control.”

Mr Attard, the commissioner argued, could not anticipate the animal’s instinct and had been acting in a friendly manner before it bit Ms Vella as she bent over to kiss the dog.

The victim’s lawyer, Stefano Filletti, had countered that a short leash was not the sole criterion for responsible pitbull ownership, arguing that the owner had to be responsible for the actions of his dog rather than invite people to play with it whilst providing treats or allowing them to approach the animal.

On Monday, magistrate Aaron Bugeja upheld Ms Vella’s challenge.

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