Eli Barnard (7), pictured here with his father, Marius, wounds may have healed but he is still traumatized over the attack which took place two years ago. PHOTO: Supplied
A bull terrier bit his four-year-old son Eli in the face, a matter which is currently being settled in court.
If the court finds the dog’s owner, Nico Ras (43) is found liable for the incident he will possibly have to pay R322 000 to cover amongst other things, Eli’s (now 7) medical expenses, trauma counselling as well as future medical expenses like plastic surgery.
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Louw Erasmus, Nico’s attorney, told YOU that the question which the court is determining is simple: Did the four-year-old boy tease the dog with a chicken bone thereby leading the dog to attack him, as was maintained, or not?
Three days last week were set aside for the parties respective legal teams to get witnesses on record and prepare their cases for the Pretoria high court. Judge Johan Louw reserved his judgement, which means that it can be a few months before a verdict is reached.
Eli shortly after the attack. PHOTO: Supplied
Marius says that back then they lived on a farm in Montana, Pretoria. He and his son, whose mother passed away when he was one, rented the house from Nico. They lived on one side of the massive home, which was divided into two, and Nico lived on the other side.
Marius alleges that Nico was almost never at home because he slept over a friend’s house and his two bull terriers were kept in a large kennel on the property. He says that Marius went to feed the dogs a few times a week.
Little Eli and his nanny, Johanna Baloyi, sat and ate chicken for lunch on their stoep on 16 May 2014, while Marius who uses a wheelchair due to a muscle disease was inside the house in the lounge.
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“Johanna was like a mother to Eli after his mother died. She always made sure that he was well fed. He was busy eating when the dog appeared out of nowhere.”
The defense, relying on communication with Johanna just after the incident, believes that Eli teased the dog with a chicken bone which provoked the dog to bite him in his face.
Marius says that is “absurd” and insists that his child never teased the dog. “My child had nothing to do with the dog. He was sitting and eating peacefully.”
The gate out of which the dog allegedly escaped. PHOTO: Supplied
Marius believes that Nico knew his dogs were dangerous. On a previous occasion one of the dogs escaped from their enclosure and bit Johanna on the heel causing her to bleed. Nico says that he was never made aware of this incident. When the dog attacked Eli Johanna managed to pull the dog off the little boy.
In the meantime Marius came out of the house in his wheelchair and immediately rushed his son to hospital. He still can walk but it is very painful and he is faster and more independent when using a wheelchair.
He called and made Nico aware of what had happened as he was not present at the house at the time. “Look, I’m not blaming the dog. He was apparently hungry, that is his animal instinct. They are not used to people and children especially. I blame the owner because he didn’t take the necessary precautionary measures and knew the dogs were a threat,” says Marius.
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Eli needed to be immediately stabilized in the Montana hospital and because there was no surgeon available to operate on the “deep wounds” on his lips, nose and cheeks he was transferred to Eugène Marais Hospital, where a there was a surgeon available.
“I’ve had him at psychologists and occupational therapists up until two months ago, but there is still a long road ahead. He will need more plastic surgery later and he may need to repeat a year at school, which can cause a loss of income later in his life.”
The father tells that due to the scars on his face curious friends are always asking him what happened, so he has a daily reminder of the trauma. When asked, Louw Erasmus called the incident a “crying shame”.
“My client immediately offered to pay for all medical expenses incurred, it’s not as if he stood back unfeeling towards what had happened, but that wasn’t enough,” says Louw of the case which has been dragging on in the high court for two years now. He says claims that Nico was never home and that his dogs were hungry are nonsense.
“In court we used a tracking device to check Nico’s cars movements. He happened to check in at home every day and sometimes even more than once.”
Louw says that they are also relying on the fact that Eli’s nanny told Nico after the incident that the child had waved the chicken bone in the dog’s face, even though she denies it now.
“Eli played with the dogs regularly. They were not dangerous, but loving animals which also played with my clients children (who now live with their mother) when they lived on the property. What happened is no more than a freak accident,” says Louw.