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Pit bulls do not just attack: SPCA

Cape Town. 120909. Four-year-old Tupac (owner Angus Rigney of Kuilsrivier) at the Pitbull Federation of South Africa's first show that was held at the Parow High School. Picture Ian Landsberg. Reporter Natasha Prince.

Cape Town. 120909. Four-year-old Tupac (owner Angus Rigney of Kuilsrivier) at the Pitbull Federation of South Africa's first show that was held at the Parow High School. Picture Ian Landsberg. Reporter Natasha Prince.

Published May 29, 2021

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Cape Town - Several stories have come out of the Western Cape where children some younger than five are mauled by pit bulls. The latest reported incident occurred in Khayelitsha where a five-year-old had her neighbour’s pit bull sunk its teeth into her head.

The dog broke free from its chain and ran to the front yard of Milani Guzi’s Khayelitsha home and bit her as she was preparing for school. The child’s heroic mom jumped on the dog and pulled its jaws from her skull. The child was left with scars on the head and traumatised.

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In January this year, a five-year-old boy was mauled to death by two pit bulls when he went looking for his ball in a neighbour’s yard. The attack took place in Gugulethu NY50. All the pit bulls involved in these incidents were taken away by Law Enforcement’s dog unit.

Opinions are split on whether pit bulls should be domesticated and whether owners should be held liable for the dogs should anything happen to people around them.

The spokesperson for SPCA Belinda Abraham explained what a pit bull is.

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“The term “pit bull” refers to mixed breed dogs with certain physical traits, such as a muscular body and broad head and applies in much the same way as “hound” applies to Greyhound or Afghan Hound, so contrary to popular belief, pit bull is a dog type and not a specific breed. They are domesticated.”

She explained that all dogs bite but power breed owners need to accept that their dog is powerful, and historically, has a genetic predisposition to grow physiologically very quickly to extreme levels and has a propensity for animal aggression.

“For this reason, owners must take responsibility for their animal to live safely in society. Triggers for this aggression may not be clear and may manifest unexpectedly, regardless of how docile and loving they are towards you.”

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She added that it is expected that pups of certain breeds should be exposed to over 100 different people from 3 – 12 weeks of age.

“The contact has to be positive, gentle with good impressions. Aggression starts in puppyhood, with the failure to develop tolerance towards children, adults, elderly people, both sexes, various races, able-bodied or disabled, calm or raucous etc. If pups do not obtain good imprinting during their impressionable period from 3-20 weeks of age, then all may be lost.”

It is also believed that many people do not spend enough quality time with their dogs. Some chain dogs for a long period of time, creating frustration.

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“Dogs on chains live their entire lives being deprived of having their most basic of needs met, namely access to fresh water, food, social interaction, exercise and veterinary care. Behaviourally speaking, there is a multitude of issues that arise from keeping a dog chained, as the deprivation this causes will take its toll on their welfare," said the SPCA's on-site animal behaviourist, Nicole Nel.

In short, chaining a dog is never an option. The lack of stimulation breaks their spirit and leads to unwanted behavioural issues including aggression born of frustration.

Abraham strongly believes that pit bulls are made dangerous via irresponsible breeding, a lack of training and neglect or abuse. “If there is any vilification to assign, it must be directed towards irresponsible owners. There is no such thing as ’the dog attacked for no reason’ there is always a reason.”

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