South Africa - Like the U.S. and many other countries, South Africa continues to have serious and fatal pit bull attacks. The pit bull problem has become a looming social issue along with dogfighting and the intrinsic violence tied to it. Last month, The Herald Online wrote a follow up article about a grizzly attack that occurred in October. Irwin Gesels, a 34-year old farm worker in the town of Hankey, was attacked by two Staffordshire terriers and a mongrel. The dogs chewed off both of his arms.
"On October 18, while walking through the orchards, Gesels stopped to pick an orange when the dogs, two Staffordshire terriers and a mongrel, attacked him. He "lay still and pretended to be dead." Gesels was taken to the Humansdorp hospital after a relative called an ambulance, but was transferred to Port Elizabeth‘s Provincial Hospital and then Livingstone where doctors had to amputate his arms. After a hospital stay of about two months, Gesels is now fully dependent on his family at their Jansenville home."
Following this attack was the deadly attack of 74-year old Grace Page. A witness said the dog ripped her eyes out their sockets. Shortly thereafter, animal behaviorist John Faul called for pit bulls to be banned in South Africa. The language Faul uses to describe pit bulls is noteworthy. One doesn't run across the term, "hair-trigger" attack too often. Faul also points out that mankind bred the "self-preservation" instincts out of a pit bull (as does Randall Lockwood), which greatly amplifies the danger they pose.
- He said the pit bull was bred to be absolutely fearless and had a "hair-trigger" attack response.
- "The cardinal rule is that these dogs are not pets," he said. "The only way to keep them is in a working environment."
- "The Irish, to our very great shame, created this dog in Cork," he said. "We created it for the reason that it must be absolutely fearless."
- He said all dogs were good at conflict avoidance, because of their sense of self-preservation. "In the pit bull terrier we took that out and replaced it with a hair-trigger response."
- Faul did not accept the claim that pit bulls were aggressive only towards other dogs and not humans.
Unfortunately, the pit bull lobby is alive and well in South Africa, just as it is here. Jeanette Erasmus, president of the Pit Bull Federation, said, "People are taking the dogs and making them aggressive and they are not." In the same breath she adds, "Pit bulls were bred to fight bears, bulls and other dogs." It can't be both ways. The dogs were selectively bred for aggression or they were not, and no one disagrees that they were. Furthermore, "man biting" fighting dogs have been around for a long time.
A quick click around another South African publication, The Independent Online, reveals many headlines that mirror our own. Pit bulls and their mixes have been maiming and killing people across the globe for years. This is why many countries ban the importation of new pit bulls and place regulations on existing pit bulls. It does not appear that South Africa has followed this path yet. But the county appears to be heading in this direction. One can only hope that Faul's voice is earnestly heard.
(2009) Pit Bull Rips Off 4-Year Old's Scalp
06/22/09 - Xander van Zyl had parts of his scalp ripped off, his ear nearly torn off, and his left arm broken after being attacked by a neighbor's pit bull. While the owners of the dog stood by and watched, Fanie van Rensburg, another neighbor, managed to save the child. Rensburg said, "The dog was dragging the boy back and forth, picking him up and letting go over and over. Each time the little boy reached out for me to pick him up, the dog would take hold again. "
(2006) Gardner Mauled by Dogs Still in ICU
12/08/06 - The Hartbeespoort gardener who was mauled by two Staffordshire bull terriers earlier this week during an epileptic fit remains in the intensive care unit of the George Mukhari Hospital. Hospital spokesperson Nolo Bashe said the condition of 60-year old Dampie Tladi had not changed. He has a damaged eye, nose and lip. His scalp was also torn in the attack. "He will need skin grafts but there is no indication of when that will be," Bashe said.
(2005) Ban These Vicious Killers
07/02/05 - The Animal Welfare Society of South Africa wants pit bull-terriers banned after a spate of vicious attacks on people and other dogs. The dogs are bred to fight to the death and some are owned by gangsters and other criminals who use them as a form of intimidation. In the latest attack, in Cape Town on Wednesday, a cross-bred dog was practically ripped apart in Hanover Park by a pit bull-terrier that had been wandering, unleashed, in a street.
(2005) 7-Year Old Child Mauled to Death by Pit Bulls
06/14/05 - Three pit bull terriers, owned by a police officer, mauled a seven-year-old boy to death. The boy's grandfather was also injured in the attack; he was lucky to escape with his life, said spokesperson Captain Cherelle Ehlers. Police are "baffled" as to why the dogs pounced on young Austin Pieters, and how they had managed to get out of their yard. "The dogs got out of their yard and walked 3km by the time they came across the boy," Ehlers said.
(2005) Traumatized Widow Tells of Pit Bull Horror
01/13/05 - Vivien Goldsack, 82, was returning home from walking her dog, a 3-year-old dachshund called Jasper, which was on a lead, when two pit bull terriers, without warning or provocation, ran from the garage of an unfenced property and attacked her dog. She said, "My dog lay on its back in submission, but the pit bulls continued ripping him apart." Clint Nickols, the owner of the pit bulls, said his dogs were not vicious...
(2004) Daughter's Pit Bulls Kill Father in Pretoria
07/22/04 - Pit bull terriers mauled an elderly Pretoria man to death when they turned on him after he tried to separate them while they were fighting. Inspector Percy Morokane said Daniel Jacobus Van Vuuren, 79, was going about the routine feeding of his daughter's seven dogs (six of which were pit bulls) at her home when he was attacked. He was bitten all over his body. Van Vuuren's wife sat helpless in a car nearby, hearing her husband screaming.
(2003) Pit Bull Terriers Maul Owner
11/07/03 - Charles Murray, 48, sustained serious injuries to his neck, stomach, arms and legs as well as broken ribs and bones. His left leg had to be amputated. Murray was working on his car in the garden of his Margate home when the vehicle, which was suspended on supports, suddenly toppled and fell on to him. His son, Charles Murray Jr., who formerly bred pit bulls, said: "When the car fell on him he screamed for help and the dogs attacked him.
(2003) Savage Dog Ripped My Ear Off
11/07/03 - A dog mauled a 56-year-old man in such a savage frenzy it had to be beaten to death. Daniel Abrahams of Scottsdene has more than 20 stitches on his face and body, a badly injured arm and no left ear. The dog attacked him on the premises of a paper recycling factory where he had worked for seven years. According to Abrahams's niece, Millisen Asia, another worker used an iron rod to kill the dog, which had locked his jaws and would not let go.
News reports of violent pit bull attacks span the world. The reports of "sudden attacks" leaving victims maimed and killed are sadly interchangeable.
11/19/08: Pit Bull Kills Grandmother, 74, in Johannesburg
10/24/08: Spain Jails Pit Bull Owner for 1 Year After Fatal Attack
09/22/08: Elderly Greek Woman Mauled to Death by a Pit Bull