Dogs in SA are more likely to attack than anywhere else in the world as SA has the highest incidence of dog attacks on humans. Image: Pixabay
Dogs in SA are more likely to attack than anywhere else in the world as SA has the highest incidence of dog attacks on humans. Image: Pixabay

Dogs in SA more likely to attack

By Okuhle Hlati Time of article published Aug 23, 2017

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Cape Town - Man's best friend is more likely to turn on him in South Africa than anywhere else in the world.

According to law firm DSC Attorneys, the country has the highest incidence of dog attacks on humans than any other in the world. The firm is advising people on their rights and possible claims stemming from dog attacks.

Kirstie Haslam, a partner in the firm, said dog bites account for tens of millions of injuries annually, and in South Africa dogs account for 76% to 94% of animal bite injuries, and dog bite fatalities are higher because of lack of post-exposure treatment and appropriate access to health care. In the US, the figure is 3% to 18% and also lower in Australia, Canada and France.

“There were nine dog attack fatalities in 2016, more than the total number in the nine years from 2006-2015, and so far in 2017, reported dog attack fatalities and injuries are a daily occurrence. With high crime rate, large breeds of dogs are popular and many dogs are trained to be aggressive for security purposes.

"The number of dog bite is growing alarmingly every year and compounding the problem is the increasing prevalence of the breeding of large dogs to participate in dog fights as a blood sport,” Haslam said.
 
"Although determining the validity of a dog bite claim is a complex matter, you can claim general damages for pain and suffering and any lost income suffered or likely to be suffered in the future.When claiming, you will also need to prove the extent of the injuries and any long-lasting disfigurement or other injury-related difficulties.”
 
Haslam pointed out that the majority of attacks occur on private property. 

“DSC is acting on behalf of a 32-year-old man from Calvinia. who was viciously attacked by a boerboel when he was invited onto a neighbour’s property. He also sustained significant injuries to his lower leg, which has inter alia resulted in serious foot neuropathy, (chronic daily pain caused due to nerve damage) which may possibly result in him having to undergo a below-knee amputation.”
 
Cape of Good Hope SPCA spokesperson, Belinda Abraham said: "Law Enforcement have admitted 167 dogs to us this year so far. 51 Of these dogs were impounded after either attacking other people or dogs.  We are however aware of a number of dog attack incidents  at least 2 of which were fatalities.”

She said if SA has the highest incidence of dog attack deaths or injuries compared to other countries, one of the reasons for that could be because pet ownership in South Africa is not as strictly monitored as it is elsewhere in the world. 

“Sadly this also says a lot about the way we as a nation view and treat our animals. These statistics may well result in less families opening their hearts and homes to dogs but we should never lose sight of the absolute joy responsible pet ownership can bring to a household, the lessons animals can teach us and our children and the value of the unconditional love they offer."

The City's by-laws states dogs may not be in public streets or public places unless on a leash and under control – unless in a designated free-running area. According to the Animal By-law of 2010, the Council may designate public places with appropriate signage as one or more of free-running, on-leash or off-limits and the designation may vary according to time of day and season.

DSC revealed that internationally, 24 countries have banned the breeding and keeping of Pit Bulls and other dog breeds that are considered dangerous. In South Africa, where two thirds of attacks have been by Pit Bulls, there is no Dangerous Dog Act or legislation in effect, or steps being taken to bring about greater legislative control over breeders.

With the increasing number of attacks, the challenge is having sufficient resources to investigate and prosecute syndicates and individuals.

Mayoral committee member for safety and security JP Smith said: "The Animal By-law of 2010 outlines all conditions related to keeping animals. An authorised officer is empowered to seize and impound dog/s in terms of the Animal By-law of 2010 if certain provisions of the by-law are contravened. The dogs are kept at the City’s pound in Atlantis or at an Animal Welfare organisation such as the SPCA when owner has been careless.”

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Cape Argus

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