Friday, November 18, 2016

South Africa: Owner of bull terrier which mauled little boy, 4, blames the victim

SOUTH AFRICA -- The owner of the dog that mauled a 4-year-old boy has blamed the child for teasing the “well behaved and friendly” bull terrier with a piece of chicken.

Eli Barnard was mauled in the face by a bull terrier who tried to grab a chicken thigh out of his mouth.

His father is now claiming R322 000 in damages from the dog’s owner. Eli is now 6, but he was 4 when he was bitten.

Marius Barnard, who lives on a plot north of Pretoria, told the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria, that Martinus Ras knew that his dog was vicious. He said Ras had a duty to ensure the dog could not escape from his backyard, where it was usually kept.

Ras, on the other hand, said the child teased the dog with the chicken thigh by waving it in front of it. When the dog wanted to grab it, the child placed the meat into his own mouth.

“It was simply an error of judgment on the part of the dog,” Ras told Judge Johan Louw.

According to him, his dog was not vicious at all, but well behaved and friendly. Barnard rented a cottage on Ras’s plot, near the main house, during May 2014. The two properties were divided by a wooden fence.

According to Barnard, the dog escaped by forcing its way under the fence. Rassaid this was impossible as the gap between the fence and the ground was about 10cm - far too small for a big dog to slide under.

Eli’s minder, Johanna Baloyi, testified that on May 16, 2014, she and the child sat on the porch of the cottage, eating chicken. The male dog was in Ras’s backyard at the time.

Baloyi said that when she looked up she saw the dog next to them. According to her, the dog moved to take the child’s chicken out of his hand, but Eli instead placed it into his mouth. The dog tried to grab the chicken out of his mouth and bit him in the process.

Eli’s father, who is wheelchair-bound, was in the house. He said he heard the child and Baloyi scream and he rushed outside. He saw his child’s face covered in blood.

Baloyi managed to pull the dog off the child.

Barnard rushed the child to the Montana Hospital, where he was stabilised before he was taken to the Eugene Marais Hospital.

The bite left him with severe scarring across his nose, eyes and face. Barnard blamed Ras for the incident and said that knowing his dogs were vicious he should have ensured they couldn't escape.

Baloyi claimed she had been bitten by one of Ras's dogs before, but Ras denied this. He said someone must have left the gate between the two premises open on the day of the incident, as he took care ensuring that the dogs remained in the backyard.

He also testified that Baloyi told him the child teased the dog with the chicken thigh by swinging it in front of the animal. “I was totally flabbergasted when I received a summons... suing me. I though the matter was behind us, as he told me he regarded the matter as being closed. He said he had prayed about it and that he had come to terms with it. A year later I suddenly received a summons in which a lot of money is claimed from me.”

Ras, who has meanwhile sold his dogs, said he got rid of them not because they were vicious, but because he had sold his plot.

Barnard claimed that Ras was hardly home while they still lived together on the premises and that he neglected the dogs and did not often feed them. But Ras said he took good care of the dogs.

According to a medical report, Eli is now terrified of big dogs. He also battled to come to terms with the scars on his face and it is extremely difficult for him when his friends asked questions about it. He will later have to undergo reconstructive surgery.

The court reserved judgment on whether Ras could be held responsible for the incident.

(IOL - Nov 5, 2016)

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