Extensive medical attention, hours of surgery and months of recuperation lie ahead for a Garsfontein domestic worker who was attacked by a pack of dogs last week, leaving her with broken tendons, bones and extensive injuries to various parts of her body.
The 32-year-old woman was rushed to Steve Biko Academic Hospital after what has been described as a frenzied attack by four Rottweilers. She was taken straight to theatre where her left leg was amputated below the knee.
“We are keeping her heavily sedated in the Intensive Care Unit,” the hospital’s head of nursing, Dr Kobie Marais, said.
The woman had stabilised slightly from when she had arrived, picking up slightly after a visit to the theatre on Thursday, she said.
The domestic worker was tending the garden last Tuesday afternoon when the Rottweilers attacked her, biting chunks of flesh from her body as she tried to fight them off with a hose pipe.
Her cries for help were heard by a security guard who managed to free her from the dogs.
Paramedics resuscitated her and rushed her to hospital.
Marais said amputation had been the only option because the leg had been too badly damaged.
The attack had been so savage, said the hospital, that her arms and legs were covered in wounds. The skin and flesh on the back of her head were torn off.
“Her face was somehow spared the worst of the attack,” said Marais.
The hospital’s deputy chief executive Dr Mathobo Mathebula said a team of maxo-facial, orthopaedic and plastic surgeons would monitor her closely.
“She is unable to breathe on her own so she’s on a ventilator. She was in a very, very bad state when she arrived,” she said.
Marais said the woman’s condition had picked up a little bit by yesterday and she would be returning to theatre to ensure that her wounds remained clean because any infection would be detrimental to her recovery.
The Pretoria News contacted the family but they declined to comment on the woman’s condition. It is understood the family will be undergoing counselling to help them deal with the trauma of what happened.
A Rottweiler breeder said any slight provocation – perceived or real – of one of the four dogs could have been enough to trigger the frenzied attack.
Rottweiler breeder, obedience and socialistic trainer Mike Dennatt said the dogs had exhibited pack behaviour. “If one of them picked up that she was afraid of them and either barked or attacked her, then they would all join in,” he said.
Four dogs running together were difficult to control, he said, even with training and socialising. “When they decide to become dogs, when they decide to attack… there is not much you can do,” he said.
Dennatt said Rottweilers had the strongest bite in doghood, but were low down on the list of random biters.
Dogs, and in particular those with high energy levels, needed a lot of stimulation, he said.
“Putting them down is not the solution because they could have genuinely felt threatened so splitting them up would be the way to go,” he said.
The issue of vicious dogs also poses problems for emergency personnel and security guards responding to emergencies.
Private security company ADT said that private security companies report incidents every month where reaction officers have been bitten by dogs and, in some cases, ended up in ICU.
Clive Humphrey, managing director of ADT northern region, said their dog policy was for officers not to enter premises where vicious dogs were present.
The NSPCA, according to its website, believes that dog attacks are not limited to the type or breed of dog involved.
If dog bites are to be prevented, the NSPCA believes that a two-pronged approach must be followed which involves educating to avoid dog bites and educating to ensure responsible ownership.
The organisation said the number of dog attacks would also be reduced if there was a government moratorium on breeding and on the informal sale of animals – plus a firm sterilisation policy.
In many instances, said the NSPCA, the animal is placed “in the yard”.
It is given food and water but lacks human attention or interaction. It is not surprising that the dog is unable to distinguish between its owner(s) with whom it should have bonded and intruders or threatening people.
TSHWANE MUNICIPAL BY-LAWS ON VICIOUS DOGS:
(1) No person may permit any dog, particularly –
(a) a dog that is wild or vicious;
(b) a dog that has acquired the habit of running after vehicles, animals, poultry, pigeons or persons outside any premises where such a dog is kept;
(c) a dog that causes injury to persons or damage to property; or
(d) a bitch on heat; to be in a public place.
(2) No person may bring a dog contemplated in subsection (1) to a public place.
(3) Any authorised officer may impound a dog referred to in subsection (1) or (2) or have such dog impounded.