Renewed warnings about pit bulls after another child is killed

  • There has been a renewed warning for people looking to own a pit bull as a pet.
  • The warning comes after a 10-year-old boy was killed by the family’s pit bulls.
  • The dogs are known to be bred for fighting, and people are cautioned against adoption without knowing the dog’s lineage. 

The latest shock killing of a child by pit bull dogs has again raised concerns about the breed.

Ten-year-old Storm Nuku was mauled to death by the family’s two pit bulls at his home in Anita Drive in Gqeberha on Wednesday.

Last year, a pit bull killed a 3-year-old girl in Gqeberha, while two pit bulls mauled a 66-year-old Durbanville man to death.

In other recent incidents, a 3-year-old mute boy in Cape Town was killed by a pit bull, while two pit bull terriers mauled a 5-year-old girl to death in Mpumalanga in 2019.

Earlier this year a Potchefstroom woman’s ears, lips and nose were ripped off her face by her employer’s pit bulls, while another woman in Durban suffered horrific injuries from a pit bull mauling.

Wendy Wilson, former manager of the special investigations unit at the National Council of SPCAs, said the American pit bull terrier was specifically bred to fight.

READ | ‘Dog-fighting has no place in modern society’ – SPCA rescues 7 dogs in Cape Town

“It was bred to have many traits specifically for its job in the illegal fighting pits, such as an unmatched tenacity and willingness to fight on, even past the point of its own injury and pain,” she said.

Wilson said there were factors pit bull owners needed to be aware of when owning these kinds of dogs.

“These dogs are often an ‘ego buy’ for people who want the tough guy status but are oblivious of the responsibility required to own this breed of dog, and the time and training needed to ensure that it is a safe and well-adjusted part of the family and wider community.

“People who decide to own any power breed dog or who encourage aggression in their dogs must be aware that the law is now clearer than ever that the owner is responsible for the actions of their dog. If the animal causes injury or death to another person there are legal consequences,” she added.

“It is not only the pit bull breeds that are responsible for the maulings. Many different breeds have mauled and killed people. The massive rise in people owning dogs, and pit bull breeds in particular, has contributed to the increased statistical likelihood of pit bull maulings.

“This, combined with rampant backyard breeding of dogs not selected for good behaviour traits and sound temperament, paired with the irresponsible and unskilled ownership of a working power breed dog such as an American Pitbull terrier, is a recipe for disaster,” she added.

The Pit Bull Federation of South Africa (PBFSA) also warned people against buying a pit bull without any knowledge of its lineage and temperament.

PBFSA spokesperson Lins Rautenbach said:

Backyard mass breeding of these dogs is a problem. Pit bulls are aggressive dogs and we’ve seen a lot of attacks on young and old where pit bulls show [aggression to humans]. It must be noted that the pit bull is never supposed to be [aggressive towards humans]. A dog with a poor temperament is a dog with a poor temperament and there is no way it can be rehabilitated.

She added that to get the right kind of pit bull through the right channels may “take years”.

“We’ve been warning people about these kinds of dogs for over 20 years. It’s very easy for us as an organisation with a registered data base to say it’s only backyard breeders who are causing these problems, but it’s not.”

Rautenbach said some registered pit bull breeders were aware that they’re selling “man-eater” dogs.

“The mauling of people and children by these dogs is of major concern. We cannot keep allowing this to become normal. Pit bulls kill, and if nothing gets done to prevent this then we’ll be sitting with a major crisis on our hands,” added Rautenbach.

Wilson said communities should be made aware of their own powers in terms of the laws pertaining to dangerous animals being kept in their areas or causing injury to people or damage to property.

“Law enforcement agencies such as police, metro and SPCAs should be enforcing these laws, taking action to remove dangerous animals (for the animal’s own safety as well), and supporting individuals who are victims of aggressive dogs to pursue legal recourse,” she said.

READ | SPCA offers R5 000 reward for information after busting illegal dogfighting in Cape Town

Meanwhile, Cape of Goodhope SPCA spokesperson Marisol Gutierrez said calling for a ban on the breed was not the answer.

Gutierrez said:

It is the irresponsible breeding of animals in general that is the true challenge and source of multiple problems – from both a behaviour and welfare perspective. More constructive would be lobbying for tighter controls around indiscriminate breeding, regardless of the type of dog. In addition to being illegal, dog fighting is a sociopathic, sordid abuse of animals and does not only exploit pit bulls. Other dogs and ‘bait’ animals, including cats and rabbits, are also victims.

Asked if they advised pet owners to steer clear of the pit bull bread, the SPCA said “we do not single out any specific breed”.

“We do advise people to avoid breeders and visit their local SPCA if they are wanting to adopt a pet. Our only interest is the wellbeing of the animals and the families they go to. Our staff is qualified to advise people on the best choice for their own circumstances and remain available for guidance long after the adoption. That’s true commitment to the welfare of both animals and the people they share their lives with,” added Gutierrez.