Durban — Victims of pit bull attacks have been urged to sue the government for not doing enough to protect them despite being aware of the dangers posed by the dogs.
The Sizwe Kupelo Foundation, which launched a nationwide petition last year calling on the government to ban people from keeping pit bulls as pets, said the state was slow to act.
“We cannot wait any longer when people continue to die,” said community activist Sizwe Kupelo.
His petition, which garnered 139 000 signatures, was handed to the government. He said he knew of a number of law firms that had been inundated with requests for legal representation after pit bull attacks.
“These dogs don’t only kill; those who survive are left with deep scars psychologically and physically. In fact, some are unable to contribute to the economy of this country and take care of their own families,” Kupelo said.
He urged the government to have an awareness campaign about the dangers of the dogs and take up its responsibility to save lives.
“Our issue is not only with pit bulls. As an owner of a power breed myself, a boerboel, we also need to be regulated because we are like people in possession of loaded guns. The same regulation imposed on gun owners needs to be imposed on us.”
The Pit Bull Federation of South Africa, which promotes American pit bull terriers, said that for more than 100 years the dogs had been bred to fight other animals and not to guard or protect humans.
“So now you sit with a dog that has the potential to kill and you teach it to be aggressive towards humans. People are using our dogs for the wrong purposes. This is a stunning family dog if you have a properly bred dog that comes from the correct gene pool and from a respected breeder,” said the organisation’s Lehanda Rheeder.
Rheeder said if a pit bull was reared under the proper conditions, with enough socialisation, exercise and stimulation, it would be the best animal companion and one which would be willing to take a bullet for its family.
At least three pit bull attacks have been reported in Durban in the past month and others were reported elsewhere in the country.
An employee from Gordon Road Girls’ School in Windermere was mauled by two pit bulls charging towards a pupil and a teacher’s assistant when he stepped in to help them.
Reports of other pit bull attacks in Durban include a toddler who was bitten by the family pit bull as well as a three-year-old from the Bluff.
eThekwini Municipality told the Independent on Saturday it did not have regulations specific to pit bulls and they were treated like any other breed.
Municipal spokesperson Gugu Sisilana said all vicious dogs must be reported to the police, metro police and the SPCA.
“It is always the responsibility of the dog owner to ensure that their dog is kept on their property and that the property is secured, so the dog won’t be able to go outside the premises and attack innocent people on the street,” she said.
The Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries said this week that genome testing was under way to determine the reasons for pit bull aggression. That had been one of the measures taken after last year’s public outcry when several people were killed in attacks.
“The intention of this testing is not to prevent dog attacks, but to assist to implement necessary processes to deal with dog behaviours, including determination on the root causes and the specific breed of dog that is causing damage,” said the department’s Reggie Ngcobo.
He said several other measures were in place, among them the Canine Behavioural Assessment and Research Questionnaire to understand dogs’ behaviour and their target for aggression.
Independent on Saturday