The residents of Katlehong in Ekurhuleni are demanding that the owner of a Pitbull Terrier, responsible for the death of a 3-year-old child, be prosecuted for murder. However, an animal rights organisation argues that there is no provision in the law to hold pet owners accountable for such charges.

By Gugulethu Masilela

Residents of Katlehong in Ekurhuleni took to the streets two weeks ago, demanding that the owner of a Pitbull dog, which mauled a three-year-old boy to death, be charged with murder.

Melokuhle Mahamo was terribly injured by a neighbour’s Pitbull Terrier and subsequently died from his injuries at a nearby clinic.

The community is demanding the arrest and prosecution of the dog owner for murder. However, they insist that he must first get rid of his dog. Some individuals expressed confusion as to why the man owns a Pitbull in the first place, considering “the widely known dangerous nature of these animals”.

However, the animal welfare organisation, the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA), believes that their demand for a murder charge is unlikely to be successful.

According to Marlien De Klerk, the manager of SPCA in Vereeniging and Vanderbijlpark, individuals who have been attacked by dogs can only seek compensation for their medical costs and any other damages incurred.

“If a dog attacks a person, the victim can file a case at the local police station under the Animal Matters Amendment Act no 42 of 1993 in order to claim medical costs and damages, as well as to request the Magistrate to issue an order regarding the dog in question.

“If an animal is attacked by someone else’s dog, the owner can file a charge of property damage at the local police station under the Criminal Procedure Act No 51 of 1977 and could be paid, as well as requesting that veterinary costs, damages, and a decision be made by the court,” De Klerk explained.

She went further, “Most assaults occur when dogs are unsocial because they are confined in cages or on chains.”

She recommended that if someone suspects they have a dog capable of such deadly behaviour, they should surrender it to the closest SPCA.

But the enraged community will have none of it.

“As a community of Katlehong, we cannot keep quiet after the tragedy of a child bitten by a Pitbull here in Ndlanzi. We cannot wait for justice while the owners of these animals were told to remove their dogs from the community. These dogs are dangerous. We cannot let that family live freely as if nothing happened. If we do so, more children will die,” Lesile Sebata, an angry neighbour told The Telegram.

The owner of the dog has expressed sadness and has apologised to the family of the young boy. During an interview with the local radio station, Kasi FM, the owner mentioned that he was not at home when his dog attacked Mahamo and he deeply regrets the incident. He further explained that he visited the family of the deceased to apologise and offer his condolences.

Siya Mkhonza, a neighbour, stated that although this was the first time the dog had killed a child, it had a habit of attacking people. In fact, it had previously attacked Mahamo and he was still recovering from the injuries.

“The little child was on medication because of the first attack. I was with the young child when he was attacked for the second time, and I recall that Melokuhle’s mother heavily wrapped him with towels to stop the bleeding after the incident because the boy was bleeding heavily. When we got to the Ramokunupi clinic, he succumbed to his wounds. I drove him there,” she said.

When questioned, the owner declined to verify whether his dog had previously harmed a child. The Mahamo family reportedly accepted the apology, but the community is demanding the removal of the dogs and seeking justice for the young boy.

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