A seven-stone police dog was in âprey driveâ when it repeatedly bit a 73-year-old woman during a search for a suspect, his handler told an inquest.
Irene Collins, who had cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, stumbled after Pc Mark Baines told police dog Dano to initially release her from his jaws.
The officer told the hearing at Teesside Magistratesâ Court that her falling forwards caused the dog to think his handler, or he, was being attacked so bit her on the arm again.
He told the inquest: âDano sees that as a threat unfortunately, so he has re-engaged the bite.
âMrs Collins has stumbled onto the floor, she knocked the lead out of my hand and it ended up underneath Mrs Collins.â
The officer said he got the dog to release his grip of Mrs Collins with a command of âDano out!â
The pensioner was by now on the kitchen floor, and Pc Baines pulled the dog away with a âcheck chainâ around the dogâs neck with just a finger through a small link in the collar.
Pc Baines got the dog away into the hallway as another officer, Sergeant Neil Yates, came in to give first aid.
Coroner Karin Welsh asked if the dog was still agitated, barking and pulling in the hallway.
Pc Baines said: âHe was still in prey drive at that point.â
Explaining the phrase to the coroner he said it meant âstill in fight modeâ.
Dano slipped the check chain as Pc Baines tried to get his whole hand under it between the collar and the dogâs neck by backing out of it and got back into the kitchen to bite Mrs Collins again on the leg.
Ms Welsh asked why the trained police dog did not stop once he had been pulled away from Mrs Collins.
Pc Baines said Sgt Yates, who had come into the kitchen to help and was speaking loudly on the radio, had added to the dogâs excitement.
âThe thing with raised voices in the room will heighten his state,â he said.
Pc Baines said a police dog can be taken out of prey drive by getting them away from the scene and calming them down with a âlittle playâ.
But he only got him away as far as the hallway to start with as he was not sure who else was in the house, and he was concerned about going through the front door with the dog as there were up to 60 people outside in the street.
The inquest has heard the dog, who lived with his handler but was not treated as a family pet, was brought in to search Mrs Collinsâs garden in Penrith Road, Middlesbrough, in July 2014.
A large police operation was under way to find a suspect who had run off from a car where ÂŁ100,000 of heroin and cash had been found.
The dog had done a sweep of her garden after being released from his lead and got into her kitchen.
When Pc Baines followed Dano in, he found the dog had grabbed her arm.
The officer did not see but had found from subsequent investigations she may have tried to shoo the dog away.
The inquest has heard Mrs Collins gave permission for police to search her garden but she was not aware that a dog would be involved.
After she was bitten first aid was given, an ambulance was called and she was taken to the James Cook University Hospital where she died four days later.
A Home Office pathologist initially reported she would not have died, despite her medical problems, had she not been bitten.
Pc Baines said he would expect the dog to bark at a suspect when he located one, unless the person made a move to flee or attack.
The dog was assigned to him after coming from a different force and had been under his control since January 2013.
Dano was about five years old, came from Thames Valley and Hampshire Police and had been assessed as a tracking dog with exceptional ability, the inquest heard.
Pc Baines described him as âexcellentâ.
Pc Baines said his German Shepherd was destroyed after the incident.
The inquest, which started on Monday, continues.