Stock photo: Robin Jonathan Deutsch.

National Inspector offers legal insight into recent dog attack in Riviersonderend

Posted in Rivier Rekord by Anchen Coetzee on 16 December, 2023 at 2:24 p.m.

 This is a developing story.

Update: December 20

On Wednesday, Rivier Rekord conducted a telephone interview with Natalia Brown, the operations manager at SPCA Swellendam, to discuss the current situation regarding these dogs. She said she is familiar with these animals, having cared for them in the past for 28 days, and she stressed that they do not pose a threat to humans. According to her, they are gentle-hearted dogs and displayed no signs of aggression towards staff or showed reactivity to other animals during their time at the SPCA. 

"As long as the dogs receive adequate nourishment, water, and care, they comply with the criteria as set under the Animals Protection Act 71 of 1962," said Brown.

She also highlighted that she is aware that a court date has been set for this matter, underscoring that any significant developments or decisions by the court will be pending until the matter is adjudicated.

Update: December 17

On December 17, Harris received correspondence from the SAPS.

"Suspect was arrested and charged, and the first appearance in court will be on 2024-02-20."
She also received the following in a separate message:
"The Accused was released on warning."


As reported in a 2017 article by IOL, law firm DSC Attorneys has highlighted that South Africa at that time held the unfortunate record for the highest rate of dog attacks on humans worldwide.

In a harrowing incident that unfolded on a quiet evening in Riviersonderend, Samantha Harris, a new resident of De La Vigne Street, found herself in a life-threatening encounter with her neighbour's aggressive dogs. The horrifying incident has exposed a growing safety concern for the local community.

Harris, who had only been residing at her address for seven weeks, recounted the chilling events that transpired on the evening of December 14.

"I had clients over from Camps Bay who came to visit with their well-behaved Cocker Spaniel and their puppy. They were accompanied by their four children," she explained.

The nightmare began when the visitors were about to leave, and the six-year-old girl held the Cocker Spaniel on a leash near the gate at the end of Harris's driveway. Suddenly, without warning, her neighbour's three Boerboels, weighing approximately 85 kilogrammes each, burst through the iron gates with unbridled aggression. 

"I put myself in front of the dogs and the children," Harris said. She described how she had to physically confront the massive dogs, seizing two of the males by their throats and using a swift kick to deter the female that was attempting to harm the Cocker Spaniel and the child.

Her quick actions, borne from her athletic background as a professional swimmer and gymnast, allowed her to temporarily control the situation. However, the ferocity of the two males forced her to the ground, resulting in a head injury as her head collided with the pavement. Despite her injuries, she continued to restrain the dogs until they retreated momentarily.

In the midst of the chaos, the owner of the aggressive dogs made a brief appearance, but his efforts to regain control were futile. "The force of just the two males pushed me to the ground while I still had them in my grip," Harris recounted. Eventually, she was forced to release the dogs to prevent harm to the child and the Spaniel.

Harris's injuries, which included a sprained wrist, ankle, hip, fingers, skin abrasions to her feet, bruised shoulders, and extensive pain in her back, hip, fingers, and neck, underscore the severity of the attack.

This incident has taken a toll on Harris not only physically but also mentally, emotionally, and financially. She expressed, "It is unfair for anyone to be put in this position due to someone else's dogs that they cannot control."

Disturbingly, it has come to light that this is not an isolated incident. Harris disclosed that law enforcement has recorded four open cases related to these dogs.

A court date has been set for February 20.

In her plea for public safety, Harris questioned the response from authorities, stating, "Does someone have to die before law enforcement acts?" She expressed her concerns over the dogs' continued presence on the property, which is currently rented and sublet, with sub-letters often leaving the gates wide open, allowing the dogs to roam freely.

A nominal fine of R1500 was issued, but Harris insists that a fine alone will not resolve the problem, and the safety of the public remains at risk.

In an exclusive interview with Rivier Rekord, Navesh Singh, the National Inspector for the NSPCA, explained how Act 42 of 1993 clearly states the offenses and what happens to individuals whose animals, due to their negligence, cause harm to another person.

Singh explained "The responsibility lies with the owners of such animals to have foresight and mitigate possible attacks on humans and other animals especially if they have power breeds under their possession, charge, custody or control, however, this responsibility lies with owning any animal as it is a civic duty to have one's animals under control at all times,"

"From a legal perspective, and in terms of the Animal Matters Amendment Act 42 of 1993, any person as a result of whose negligence an animal causes injury to another person, shall be guilty of an offence and liable on conviction to a fine or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding two years."

In addition to this, the act also states:

(2) Whenever a person is convicted of an offence in terms of subsection (1), the court convicting him may in addition to any punishment imposed upon him in respect of that offence-

(a) make any order relating to the removal, custody, disposal or destruction of the animal concerned and the recovery of any costs incurred in connection therewith;

(b) declare the person convicted to be unfit, for a specified period, to own a certain kind of animal or an animal of a specific breed or to have it under his control or in his custody.

This alarming incident serves as a stark reminder of the need for prompt and effective measures to address owners of aggressive animals and protect the well-being of the community in Riviersonderend.

Editor: Anchen Coetzee
Subeditor: Ethan Cane 

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