Should SA ban dangerous dogs?

By Helen Bamford Time of article published Nov 10, 2007

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Renewed calls have been made for a ban on dangerous breeds of dogs following a spate of savage attacks around the country.

The most recent was in Somerset West, where a bull terrier attacked a domestic worker in the garden of her employer's property.

A neighbour, hearing her scream, grabbed his gun and jumped over the wall to help.

He said the woman was being mauled by the "wildly frenzied" dog. There was blood everywhere.

When he tried to intervene, the dog leapt up and bit him several times.

He shot the dog in the head, but it survived. It had to be put down by its owner later.

Christine Kuch, spokesperson for the National Council of SPCAs, said courts considered owners accountable for the behaviour of their dogs.

"The courts have been awarding massive damages in these kinds of cases."

But, Kuch said, following the example of countries that had introduced laws about dangerous dogs was not necessarily the way to go.

"In the US, they banned pit bulls and people rushed to get Rottweilers. Then, when they banned Rottweilers, people got German shepherds."

Another disadvantage of banning such dogs was that the breed went "underground".

But June Woodman, chairperson of the Animal Welfare Society of SA, said: "It's all very well to say it will push it underground, but not doing anything is not going to help, either. We need stricter controls."

She was in favour of a ban on these breeds, saying there was a proliferation of youngsters with pit bulls.

The society had investigated several cases where youngsters set their dogs on other animals.

Allan Perrins, chief executive officer of the Cape of Good Hope SPCA, said he doubted dog legislation would work in South Africa.

"If one were to ban the breed, breeders would simply cross the breed with something else, resulting in something even more terrifying than a pure-bred pit bull."

These breeds had "hyena-like bone-crushing bites" and were capable of amputating a limb, or even killing animals and people.

Perrins said the emphasis should be on the basics, such as ensuring such dogs were walked on leashes and muzzled if necessary.

"There is no denying the increase in the number of incidents involving pit bulls, and we hold the owners responsible and accountable, not the dogs. But these dogs should be sold with a written warning."

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