In a worrying trend, pitbulls have been identified as the leading breed in fatal dog attacks, responsible for 65.6% of such incidents in the US, according to Dogsbite.org.
Kirstie Haslam, a partner at DSC Attorneys, notes a disturbing rise in dog bite-related personal injury claims, with her firm handling 67 queries this year alone.
An estimated 85% of these incidents involved pitbulls, highlighting the breed's disproportionate involvement in serious attacks.
Recent tragic incidents in South Africa include:
– The death of a five-year-old boy, Zibele Liyakhanya Mthi, mauled by two pitbulls in Dyamala village, Eastern Cape.
– An 88-year-old woman, Olga Grill, killed by a neighbour’s pitbulls in Cape Town.
– A three-year-old boy, Keketso Saule, fatally attacked in Phomolong, Free State.
– A 15-month-old toddler and an eight-year-old boy, Olebogeng Mosime, succumbing to injuries from pitbull attacks in separate incidents.
These incidents have fuelled demands for stricter regulations or an outright ban on pitbulls as pets in South Africa.
In April 2023, a petition with over 139,000 signatures was submitted to Minister Minister of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development ,Thoko Didiza, calling for a ban on pitbulls as domestic pets.
Legal issues around dog attacks are becoming increasingly prominent.
According to Haslam, victims of pitbull attacks have the right to seek compensation, with claims covering medical costs, loss of earnings, and damages for pain and suffering.
The legal framework in South Africa holds dog owners liable for injuries caused by their pets, with potential for criminal prosecution under the Animal Matters Amendment Act.
The Pit Bull Association of South Africa advocates for responsible ownership, including sterilization, and opposes dog fighting and unregistered breeding.
Haslam advises victims to consult with experienced personal injury lawyers to evaluate the merit of their claims, and suggests gathering of all relevant evidence, including witness statements and medical reports, for legal proceedings to take place.