Dogs savage woman

2010-02-06 00:00

AN evening jog turned into a nightmare for an Ashburton woman and Witness employee when she was attacked by vicious dogs, one of which was a pit bull terrier.

Janice Whitelaw is in hospital with serious injuries to her left arm from a neighbour’s pit bull that latched on to her for some time before she was rescued by a group of firemen.

She was also bitten in the face and neck by a smaller dog belonging to the same neighbour.

Her doctor is keeping her in hospital and his biggest concern is ensuring that the wounds, which he said are quite deep, don’t turn septic.

Whitelaw said she was on Dely Crescent on Thursday at around 6 pm. The dogs were milling around on the roadside outside the property when suddenly the pit bull looked up, saw her and sprinted at her.

“It was circling around me and I was turning around with it so that I was at least facing it. The thought going through my head was that I just need to stay on my feet. But it was so powerful. It got to me so fast and pulled me to the ground.”

Once on the ground, she said the smaller dog bit her on the face and neck. She concentrated on fighting it off to avoid serious damage to her face and neck before dealing with the pit bull tearing at her arm.

By this time, firemen playing soccer on an open field opposite the dogs’ home heard the commotion, came to her rescue and chased the dog way.

Her husband Clive, an archaeologist with the Natal Museum, said that when his wife was brought to him, there was blood everywhere, which left his children distressed.

“I think she is really lucky to be alive. If the pit bull had gone for her neck it could be a different story. We are lucky there were people around to help her.”

The owner has not been able to produce a rabies certificate, they said. He only found out about the incident when a neighbour called about the certificate.

The Whitelaws said this is not the first time they have had a confrontation with the neighbour’s dogs.

They claim their dog was killed a few years ago by a different collection of pit bulls, which had terrorised and attacked both people and other dogs.

Clive Whitelaw said his dog had been mauled several times by the pit bulls, leaving it so damaged at one time that he had to pay R1 500 in vet bills. He said the pit bulls are always outside and he has seen them jump over the fence with ease.

This was verified by a passer-by who said domestic workers and gardeners who walk to work are fearful. People are apparently walking in groups or taking different routes just to avoid the dogs.

Evo Pillay, the station commander at the fire station near the dogs’ home, said one of the pit bulls attacked a fireman outside the fire station gate a few years ago.

“I have been with the station for seven years and we have received quite a few complaints over the years, especially from domestic workers who walk, and I have seen the dogs jump over the fence once or twice.”

Whitelaw’s doctor, specialist surgeon Dr Todor Pavlov, said that while her injuries are severe, there is no damage to the nerves or the major vessels.

He put Whitelaw under general anesthetic while cleaning out the wounds since the severity of the wounds would have made it too painful to do while she was conscious.

Whitelaw was given anti-rabies vaccine and serum, and is on antibiotic treatment to control infection.

On the advice of the police, the Whitelaws have opened a case against the dog’s owner.

While they said the owner had called to apologise, they believe tougher action needs to be taken as people in their street have children who walk to school.

“I feel those dogs need to be put down. They are vicious and can’t be retrained. There have been complaints to the municipality and people have gone to the owner about his dogs. He obviously can’t manage dangerous dogs and I feel he is being negligent and uncaring,” said Whitelaw.

WHEN the Weekend Witness visited the area, it met up with Keagan Petersen (20) who said the pit bull is his.

Petersen, who is in matric, lives with his father. He claimed to be a pit bull lover and said that keeping them is a hobby and about “making money”.

The paper found the dog chained and a sign on the gate to warn intruders about dangerous dogs on the property. Petersen’s friends, who all own pit bulls, said he spends more time with the dog than them.

“I have never seen Velo show any aggression. He is fat and lazy and I don’t know how he would have got out,” Petersen said. — WWR.

The Weekend Witness understands that you don’t need a license to own a pit-bull in South Africa.

However, the dogs are banned in a number of states in America.

According to Wikipedia, are generally considered liable for unreasonable carelessness in handling or restraining the dog. However, in some states local laws hold the dog owners strictly liable for all damages regardless of carelessness or foreknowledge of hte dog’s tendencies.

Their insurance policies typically provide liability coverage between $R$100,000 to $300,000 for injuries caused by their dogs.

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