By Megan Powers
The sign on the gate says it all. Next to a drawing of a ferocious, salivating dog is the ominous warning: "I can make it to the gate in five seconds - can you?"
On Friday morning, Durban mother Janet Mngadi couldn't.
Instead the unsuspecting 40-year-old domestic worker was savagely mauled by a pair of vicious pitbulls minutes after entering her new employer's Amanzimtoti home. While dragging the terrified woman around the garden, they ripped off her left ear, tore into her legs and devoured the flesh on both her arms.
By the time paramedics arrived and tried to put up a drip, they discovered to their horror that no veins remained on either of the woman's arms. Mngadi's arms were amputated hours later.
"It was terribly gory," said paramedic Chris Botha. "She was in severe shock and had lost a lot of blood. But there was very little we could do on the scene because there was no place left to put in a drip."
Mngadi , is now fighting for her life in the intensive care unit at King Edward VIII Hospital. By late yesterday, she had not yet spoken and was still on a ventilator.
The distressed owner of the dogs, Amanzimtoti policeman Deon de Welzim, had to be sedated on Friday. His dogs, Zeus and Hera, were put down at the local vet the same day.
Mr De Welzim and his girlfriend, Michelle Charlton, live in a granny flat next to his sister Karen's house.
Charlton, the only witness to the attack, shoved her fingers into the mouth of one of the dogs and managed to contain it before it broke loose again and was joined by the other dog.
She was treated for injuries at Kingsway Hospital and was also too upset to speak yesterday.
But Jonathan Thompson, a former employer of Ms Mngadi who got her the part-time job with the De Welzims a few weeks ago and who was at the house yesterday, agreed to speak on his friends' behalf.
"It's tragic what happened to Janet. But we don't know why she came on to the property on her own after we had warned her not to. In the environment we live in today, the dogs were just doing their jobs. It just got out of hand," said Thompson.
The 29-year-old, who used to live with Karen de Welzim, used to own one of the pitbulls but left him with Deon when he moved out. It was he who put the pair down.
"It wasn't easy. These dogs were like kids to Deon and we all loved them. But we agreed we could no longer have them around," said Thompson. "They were both well trained. This would never have happened if Deon had been at home.
"They're beautiful dogs and are regarded as the third most intelligent breed. But they're controversial and this attack will get extra attention because it involves pitbulls," he said.
Chris Jordan, De Welzim's boyfriend, said: "One minute, we're so angry with the dogs. Then we feel angry that Janet didn't wait at the gate. All that really matters now is that Janet pulls through. Imagine having her death on our conscience."
A police spokesman said the matter was still under investigation.