Owner of pit bull that bit neighbour not negligent

Owner of pit bull that bit neighbour not negligent. Picture: File

Owner of pit bull that bit neighbour not negligent. Picture: File

Published Dec 11, 2023


A resident of Gqeberha in the Eastern Cape claimed R2,4 million in damages after he alleged that a neighbour’s pit bull, named Gustav, attacked him.

Gideon Gerber told the high court in this city that he was severely injured following the attack. He claimed that a neighbour – Evril Adams-August – was the owner of the dog and that the dog had escaped from her yard due to her negligence.

Adams-August, on the other hand, said Gustav belonged to her son and the dog only stayed with her while her son was seeking employment in Gauteng. She also told the court that she had done everything in her power to ensure that Gustav could not escape from her property.

She said that on the day of the attack she was at work and that Gustav was securely tied up in the backyard.

Gerber, meanwhile, told the court that on October 21, 2016, he was standing in his driveway when, without warning, a large brown dog, he described as being a pit bull, came into his property out of the blue and attacked him.

Adams-August said that prior to the events, Gustav had indeed jumped across the lower portion of the wall into the property of another next-door neighbour.

He had reported the incident to her and threatened to shoot the dog should it ever enter his yard again. This prompted Adams-August to reinforce a portion of the boundary wall by erecting a barbed wire barrier at the same height as the higher portion of the wall.

Adams-August said she was sure that Gustav was unable to escape thereafter.

But about a week before the attack on Gerber, a Johnny Rossouw, who lived in the same street, said he was attacked by Gustav.

Adams-August explained that her daughter had been home on that particular day when her father had come to visit her. Gustav had been enclosed behind the house and both the front door and the front gate had been open as her husband was arriving.

At this stage, the daughter had briefly opened the back door, thus, accidentally permitting Gustav to rush past her, through the house and out of the front gate. When Mrs Adams-August learnt of the attack on Rossouw, she immediately purchased a leash and chain, and she said that Gustav remained tied up to a pole in the backyard to avoid the repetition of such an event.

On the morning of the Gerber attack, she said that she had been at work and Gustav was firmly tied up in the backyard and he could not escape. When she returned from work in the late afternoon, she found the house as she had left it and Gustav tied up in the backyard.

Thus, she denied that it had been Gustav that had attacked Gerber.

But Gerber maintained that he was attacked by a vicious brown pit bull terrier whilst he and a friend were standing in the driveway of his property. After he had managed to free himself and closed the gates of his driveway, he explained that the dog continued to endeavour to obtain entry by biting at the gates.

Thereafter, it ran down the hill to the house of another neighbour where the dog attempted to gain entry to that property. Gustav then returned to Adam-August's home where he jumped over the wall.

Some of the neighbours, meanwhile, said when they checked the Adam-August home, they saw the daughter there. An official from the SPCA, who was contacted, confirmed this.

The court said the uncontradicted evidence of Adams-August in respect of the enclosure of her property, the restriction of Gustav and her securing her house upon her departure that morning must be accepted.

Judge Jannie Eksteen said the conclusion to be drawn is that the daughter had returned home during the morning, after the departure of Adams-August, and that she had freed Gustav from his leash and that Gustav had once again escaped through the front door of the house.

He explained that both in Roman Law and that of Holland, the responsibility for damage done by one’s animal is founded on ownership. Possession and control over the animal is insufficient to prove the claim in this case.

In turning down the claim, the judge said Gerber had accordingly not established negligence on the part of Adams-August, which may have contributed to the escape of Gustav.

Pretoria News

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