Gardener mauled by dogs still in ICU

Time of article published Dec 8, 2006

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By Sholain Govender and Janine du Plessis

The Hartbeespoort gardener who was mauled by two Staffordshire bull terriers earlier this week during an epileptic fit remains in the intensive care unit of the George Mukhari Hospital.

Hospital spokesperson Nolo Bashe said Dampie Tladi's condition had not changed. He has a damaged eye, nose and lip. His scalp was also torn in the attack.

"He will need skin grafts but there is no indication of when that will be," Bashe said.

Tladi, 60, was attacked as he arrived for work early on Tuesday morning. It is believed he had a fit as he entered the property. The two dogs then attacked him.

His employer of eight years and owner of the two champion Staffordshire bull terriers, Riette Steyn, was arrested on Wednesday on charges of keeping a vicious animal in a residential area, but was later released pending further investigation.

Asked for comment, Christine Kuch of the National Council of the SPCA said it was a police matter.

"The incident falls under the Animals Matters Amendment Act which is enforced by the police. There was no cruelty to animals - the cruelty was towards the man."

Owners must take responsibility for their pets or suffer the consequences, said Kuch.

"Owners are responsible for their animals. If their dog attacks someone there's no use saying it never happened before or they didn't think it would happen," she said.

A Pretoria veterinarian and accredited animal behavioural consultant (who wanted to remain anonymous) said the Animal Matters Amendment Act states that any damage caused to a human by an animal is the fault of the owner, who would be held legally accountable.

She said certain dogs were more aggressive than others. If people noticed that a puppy was aggressive at around three to four months, then it was possible that that dog had inherent aggression.

Dogs had a latent prey drive that dated back to their wild ancestors and severe, unnatural, movements could trigger this drive, she said.

The gardener is alleged to have suffered an epileptic fit before he was attacked. "Screaming awakes the latent prey drive."

She said the strong jaws of the more aggressive breeds would make any wound more severe. Such breeds included the Japanese Sharpei, Staffordshire bull terriers and pitbulls. Boerboels also had genes which made them more aggressive.

"Bylaws prescribe dogs must be kept on the owner's property, not be allowed to roam, and owners are responsible for the safety of people on their property, including workmen or domestic workers.

No decision had been made on the future of the dogs.

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