Pretoria - The owner of three Rottweilers that bit a pupil when she picked up one of their puppies while visiting her friend at their Centurion home is liable for the damages she suffered.
The incident occurred in 2014 when Vakeshka Rautenbach, now in her teens, visited her friend Michelle Grundlingh after school.
The Gauteng High Court, Pretoria heard that Vakeshka often visited her friend after school but never entered the backyard where Michelle’s father, a dog breeder, kept his three Rottweilers.
The court heard that the front and the back of the yard were separated with fencing and gates to keep the dogs in the back.
On the day of the incident, Vakeshka and her friend were having lunch when Michelle’s father, Zybrandt Grundlingh, phoned his daughter. Her friend told her that they had to take the puppies out from the backyard as prospective buyers were coming to view them.
She said her friend told her it was safe to go to the backyard, and she followed.
Vakeshka said that while her friend was feeding the bigger dogs, she picked up one of the smaller puppies. One of the dogs jumped on her and then the other two attacked and bit her.
She ran into the house and sat on a bench inside. However, her friend told her not to sit there as she would smear blood on the bench, Vakeshka said.
She then went to sit outside. A neighbour came and covered her wounds with a towel until her mother arrived to take her to hospital.
Michelle testified that after she received the call from her father, she went outside to the dogs, and her friend followed her. She said she never invited her to follow her outside and nor did her father say Vakeshka should assist her with the puppies.
Michelle said one of the dogs did jump on her friend, but she told her to remain calm as the dog was only playing. Vakeshka, however, screamed and the other dogs then attacked her.
It was argued on behalf of the dog’s owner that Vakeshka had provoked the pets by going outside despite knowing that the dogs were dangerous.
Acting Judge Kganki Phahlamohlaka, however, accepted her evidence that she was told by her friend to follow her outside to assist with the puppies. The judge said Michelle and her father were negligent in allowing the guest to face the Rottweilers.
The judge said under the law, the owner of a dog that attacked someone who was lawfully at the place where they were attacked and injured, and who did not provoke the dogs, was liable for damages the person suffered.
A plaintiff must, however, prove that the owner of the dogs was negligent, which had led to the attack.
In this case, the judge said, the dog breeder was negligent. He said the dog breeder was 100% liable for the damages which Vakeshka could prove that she had suffered as a result of being bitten.
The amount of damages will be determined at a later stage.