A Richards Bay toddler whose face was ripped by his family’s “gentle” American pit bull, lost two teeth and received more than a 100 stitches after the brutal encounter.
The toddler’s father had to stab the dog with a penknife before it would loosen its grip. It died of its injuries.
While 14-month-old Sebastian Strecker is on the mend after the attack at his home on Saturday, his parents are still traumatised.
Sebastian was rushed to the Bay Hospital, where he spent two hours in theatre after sustaining serious injuries to his face. The left side of his face had a deep gash from his jawline to his eye socket.
He received 64 stitches on the inside of his face and another 64 on the outside, as well as six in the gum.
Two of Sebastian’s teeth were ripped out in the attack. He was placed in a temperature-controlled room to prevent infection and spent five days in ICU.
“It has been a very traumatic week for all of us, but he is now at home and is the same baby we love. He is walking around and doing the things he loves,” said his mother, Karien Strecker.
“My husband is still struggling to get the picture of Sebastian looking so lifeless out of his mind.”
Dwayne Strecker had been sitting on the porch with his son when he turned away “for a second” to answer his phone.
When he heard the boy’s cries, he turned around and could not believe his eyes.
“My husband answered his phone and within seconds our American pit bull, Max, jumped on to him (Sebastian) and attacked him,” said Karien.
Dwayne tried to get Max off the child immediately. “Sebastian had passed out by the time my husband got Max off him. He then picked him up and brought him into the house, but Max continued to try to attack Sebastian so that is when my husband tried to stop (him).
“But he became more aggressive,” she said. “Dwayne used his Leatherman knife to stab Max.
“It was the only way we could get him to stop.”
At the time of the attack, Karien had been resting after being discharged from hospital the day before after having a knee operation.
“Max was a part of the family, he was always very gentle with our children – our two daughters – and with Sebastian. He often lay next to Sebastian as if to protect him.
“We had him for three years and not once was he aggressive to any of us. I believe he could have become jealous of my husband’s relationship with Sebastian and saw an opportunity to set the record straight.”
Kathy Clayton, chairwoman of the Animal Behaviour Consultants of South Africa, said pit bulls where genetically bred to attack and be vicious.
“I believe that in this case, the dog probably saw the child as another dog and wanted to let him know that he was the boss.
“Pit bulls can be fantastic dogs, but it’s always a question of maybe... Every dog has the potential to attack, but that chance is greater with pit bulls because that’s just how they are. Their behaviour can be very good and very caring towards people, but they only become attached to one person and do not like it when any other dog or person moves in on their territory.”
Caroline Smith, marketing manager at the Durban and Coast SPCA, said they did not find new homes for pit bulls left in their care.
“When we get pit bulls we do not re-home them because we consider them risky,” she said.