Dog shaman’s open letter

James Lech with 'D' in July.

James Lech with 'D' in July.

Published Feb 6, 2012



Staff Writer

CAPE Town’s self-styled dog shaman, James Lech, has broken his silence on the aftermath of his Rottweiler’s attack on a two-year-old girl on Clifton’s First Beach last month.

Today, a spokeswoman for Lech said she had spoken to Chanell Riley, the mother of Meeka Riley who was injured when Lech’s dog, which was not on a leash, dragged her along the beach.

The dog bit Meeka 11 times and she had to have surgery.

The Cape Argus reported last week that the dog, “D”, had been put down at a private vet chosen by Lech.

Lech runs a dog training and rehabilitation centre in Camps Bay and styles himself as a “dog shaman” and “dog whisperer”.

Lech’s spokeswoman said: “I spoke personally to all doctors, to all involved (on behalf of Lech).

“Her recovery has been far more than they expected. If she will be left with any scar, it will be small – but they don’t think there will be any scars.

“There was never any infection. In time, the doctors have told us that the scars will go.”

Regarding the child’s emotional state, the spokeswoman said: “Every child might be scared of a dog, but they (the doctors) said they don’t expect there will be any psychological trauma. The condition of the child is better than anyone could have expected.

“I spoke to the mother, and it seems as if she has accepted this. Nobody is alleging negligence. Mr Lech had the correct certificates for the dog that he needed.”

A family member of Meeka, who did not wish to be named, told the Cape Argus today: “At the moment, she (Meeka’s mother) has been told by her lawyer that she’s not allowed to give out any information. All she (the mother) can say is that she’s fine at the moment, she’s stable, she’s strong.

“She is no longer in hospital. She’s going for counselling.”

On February 2, Lech, on his The Dog Shaman’s Blog, in a “letter to the community”, wrote: “The accident which transpired on 11 January 2012 was a most tragic occurrence.

“As a compassionate member of the community, I can state with the heaviest of hearts that I am labouring under severe personal anguish. I understand the pain of the little girl, her family and everyone who is directly involved or in otherwise supporting roles. I am only human, but I am humble and caring and request that you find it in yourself to understand my pain as well.

“ ‘D’ has been registered as a Service Dog and had accompanied me on many excursions. I do not have an explanation for what happened. Following the stress of the prior incident (July 2011), which has affected me greatly, I have spent hours on the beach or in the reserves with my dog(s), in order to mend our wounds and work on ‘D’s’ temperament.

“Never would I have imagined that this incident could come to pass. Perhaps it could be said that I put too much trust into this animal, being unable to read his mind or question him directly, but I am wholeheartedly prepared to proceed responsibly.

“The dog, ‘D’, is insured and therefore, where the little girl is concerned, disadvantages such as emotional and physical therapy will be covered. My approach is founded on integrity and a strict code of ethics, and we extend our support to the family and the community in every way.”

Lech’s spokeswoman said: “The insurance had been informed, they had a full report. They spoke to all the doctors. At this point there is no need (for any claims), but if there is ever any need, then the insurance will be there.

“I must say again that we are very sorry, we are all human. An accident can happen to anyone…

“Mr Lech has done everything possible to say how sorry he is.

“We are all emotionally finished. We are incredibly sorry about what happened.”

She said an inspector for the City of Cape Town had approached them last week and assured them their case was not an isolated one, and that the city received widespread reports of dog attacks. This was confirmed by a city official.

The city’s Kylie Hatton explained that any animal owner was given 10 days in which to make representations after an incident. She said the Lech family had chosen to have the dog put down themselves, after being informed that the city was about to take this action.

Lech has been charged with violating the Animal Protection Act.

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