Durban man mauled by pit bulls may never see again

Lazarus Appalsamy.

Lazarus Appalsamy.

Published Jan 20, 2023


Durban - Lazarus Appalsamy may never be able to see again after he was mauled by his neighbour's two pit bulls in Trenance Park, Verulam, on Sunday morning.

Appalsamy, 44, who was self-employed, is in a critical condition at the Dr Pixley Ka Isaka Seme Memorial Hospital.

The pit bulls, Sam, 5, and Laeila, 3, were put down at the SPCA on Monday.

The attack comes at a time of growing calls to ban pit bulls following several attacks in the country.

It is alleged that while Appalsamy was walking to his home, the dogs somehow got out of their property, pounced on him and began biting him on the face, body and legs.

Stanley Subbiah, 57, another neighbour, heard his cries for help and tried to help but was also bitten.

Subbiah said: "While I was outside, I saw Lazarus. We greeted each other and seconds later I heard him scream. I thought he was being robbed.

“I saw him on the ground. The pit bulls were on top of him and were biting at his flesh. It looked like they were eating him. I tried to push the dogs away but they would not let go of the grip they had on him."

He ran back home and grabbed a broom to try and get the dogs off Appalsamy.

"I hit one of the dogs with the broom but it turned on me. It grabbed my left arm with its mouth and its sharp teeth sank into my flesh. I managed to stand firm and tried to shove the dog with my left elbow but it did not work. It locked its jaw onto my arm."

Subbiah said a passing motorist hooted in an attempt to scare the dogs.

"The dog that was attacking me left me and ran back to Lazarus. They continued to bite his body. I threw a boulder at them but the same dog that attacked me ran toward me.

"Despite being weak and bleeding, I ran and tried to climb a tree to escape. I eventually hid near a wall. The dog gave up and went back to Lazarus. A neighbour called Reaction Unit South Africa (Rusa) and by the time they arrived, the dogs' owners arrived and got them away from Lazarus."

Subbiah said Appalsamy was in a critical condition.

"Lazarus's face, body and legs were covered in blood. His eye was out of his socket. I have never seen dogs behave like this. They tore into him. They were ruthless. I pray Lazarus pulls through. I used to earn a living by doing maintenance jobs. Now I cannot support my family."

Mary Naidoo, Appalsamy's sister, said she heard Subbiah shouting and went outside to see what had happened.

"My brother was on the ground and the dogs were on top of him, biting at his body. Every time I tried to run to him, the dogs darted toward me. While I was running away, I fell and hurt my knee. I managed however to get to safety.

“One of the dog's owners arrived and could not even control them. My brother kept pleading for him to get his dogs off him but it took a while for that to happen. I was only able to help Lazarus when the dogs were out of sight."

She said Rusa took her brother to the hospital.

Appalsamy was taken to Osindisweni Hospital before being transferred to Dr Pixley Ka Isaka Seme Memorial Hospital in KwaMashu for further treatment.

"My brother's flesh was ripped off his arms, legs and body. His left iris was bitten off. He might lose his arm and his sight. At the moment, his arteries and veins are severely damaged in his right arm. The doctors are trying to save it.”

She said justice needed to be served.

“The dogs often escaped from their yard and many of the neighbours were afraid to walk past."

Naidoo said her brother was out on parole for a murder he committed 20 years ago.

"The comments by people on social media regarding his criminal record are a double blow to the family. Some said he deserved what happened. This is wrong.

“My brother was found guilty. He paid for the crime and served his sentence. The parents of the person he killed forgave Lazarus in a written note at the time and then my brother was released. This incident has nothing to do with what happened 20 years ago.”

Naidoo said police have opened a case of 'keeping ferocious dogs' against their neighbour. “We are not content with that charge. This was attempted murder."

She said in November 2022, the dogs had also allegedly bitten her 73-year-old mother Rosaline on the leg. She has opened a case at the Verulam SAPS.

"There has been no progress on that case. My brother would not be fighting for his life if something was done back then."

In 2021, Selvan Naidoo, was also allegedly attacked by the same pit bulls.

Cookie Naidoo, his wife, said at that time three pit bulls attacked him.

"The dogs pushed the gates open and started biting my husband. He was able to fight them off and escape. We opened a case at the Verulam Police Station and we are still waiting for the outcome."

Michelle Mahomed, the owner of the dogs, said she put the dogs down on Monday at the SPCA.

"It was an emotional and painful experience. We got Sam and Laeila about six years ago for protection. We live in an area that is riddled with crime and drug abuse. Many of our neighbours slept well at night knowing my dogs were on guard."

She said the dogs got on well with her family.

"I have five little grandchildren and they were never aggressive. Community members would sit under a tree outside our home and our dogs never interfered with them."

Mahomed said the attack was out of character.

"The community needs to be honest. I have lived in the area for 30 years and they know the type of family we are. We don't disturb the peace and we keep to ourselves. My heart goes out to the family of the victim."

She said they did not know how the dogs got out of the property because they have a gate and a high fence.

"We also don't know what provoked the attack. The human side will always have the story told. We will never know the dog's side of the story. I hope the community is at peace knowing that I have put Sam and Laeila to rest."

Jeanette Erasmus from the Pitbull Association of South Africa, said pit bulls were never bred to be aggressive towards humans.

She said it was not in their genetics.

"The owners need to take responsibility for the attacks. They need to be prosecuted."

Colonel Robert Netshiunda, the provincial police spokesperson, said Verulam police were investigating a case of keeping a ferocious dog regarding Appalsamy's case.

Netshiunda said Rosaline's matter was still under investigation and the docket was taken to a senior public prosecutor for decision. He was unable to provide comment on Selvan's case.

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