“Never aggressive to me, but killed two other dogs,” says owner
EAST LONDON, South Africa––Fifteen-month-old Reuben le Roux on November 23, 2022 became the third South African child killed by pit bulls in nine days.
The attack whetted public demands for a national pit bull ban and further mobilized pit bull advocates in defense of their “protection” dogs, even as National SPCA spokespersons pleaded for government assistance to help them cope with increasing numbers of owner-surrendered pit bulls.
“Sitting outside enjoying the sun”
Reuben le Roux lived with his father Bennie le Roux, 42, and mother Merieke van der Nescht, 37, at Hallows Farm, an agricultural property tentatively slated for residential development, in Gonubie, just west of East London in Eastern Cape Province.
Pit bull owner Noleen Fourie, 65, was their next door neighbor.
“We were sitting outside enjoying the sun,” Fourie told Rosa-Karoo Loewe of DispatchLIVE.
Van der Nescht, seated in a camp chair, had Reuben le Roux on her lap, “and she was busy feeding him cake and the dogs on the other side [of the road] started to bark,” Fourie said.
“My dog,” named Whisky, “couldn’t see the other dogs but he could hear them,” Fourie continued.
Unable to get at the other dogs, Whisky, believed to be actually a pit/hound mix with pit bull characteristics dominant, abruptly turned, seized Reuben le Roux by the neck, and dragged him about ten feet to the gate.
“I ran there,” Fourie said. “I jumped on Whisky and stuck my fingers up his nose and he let the child go. But Whisky had already bitten the child in the neck.”
Fourie added that Reuben le Roux “had been to her house at least 10 times before and previously when the toddler would approach Whisky, Whisky would move away,” Karoo-Loewe testified. “Fourie said while Whisky had never been aggressive towards people before, Whisky had killed two other dogs after they came onto her property.”
“I’m broken,” van der Nescht said. “Every time I visited Noleen before the dog had never done anything to my baby. The dog was by the washing line,” van der Nescht told Karoo-Loewe, “and I was sitting around the corner on the steps feeding the baby.
“The dog was barking at other dogs and getting angry. Then he sped around the corner and grabbed my baby by the neck. I was screaming the whole time, ‘Help, help!’ and everybody was coming out to see what was happening.
“Noleen took us to the ambulance depot and the depot was taking too long. Reuben was still bleeding, it was taking so long. When my baby was taken to the hospital his heart stopped.”
Father says he cannot forgive victim’s mother
Continued Karoo-Loewe, “The child’s father, Benny le Roux, 42, said he could not forgive Fourie or his wife, whom he blamed for the child’s death.
Fourie said, Karoo Loew reported, that “She had rescued Whisky in 2020. The dog had been confined to a small veranda his whole life.”
Continued Fourie, “I don’t know if I should blame myself for it or if it’s just God’s will that he wanted the baby home.
“Everybody knows you can never trust a dog”
“I feel it is my responsibility,” Fourie acknowledged to News24 reporter Malibongwe Dayimani, “because he killed a child, but I also feel it is not my responsibility because everybody on the farm knows you can never trust a dog. You can’t trust any dog.”
Whisky, Fourie said, had “never been aggressive to me, but he’s already killed two dogs on the farm.”
Noted Dayimani, “Neighbor Martin Williams, 64, who witnessed the attack, said that neighbors had raised safety concerns after Whisky killed two dogs four months ago.”
“He was my child,” owner says of killer dog
Fourie, having told news media earlier that she would have Whisky euthanized, two days later disputed the National SPCA decision to euthanize Whisky in response to a government pathologist’s request that slides of brain tissue be examined to eliminate the possibility that Whisky might have become rabid through fighting with other dogs.
Fourie “claimed the SPCA promised her the dog would not be put down without a court order,” Dayimani reported.
“I am extremely upset about it,” Fourie told Dayimani, “because they said the court would decide whether to put down the dog down, and it would probably happen when the investigation was finalized.
“He was my child,” Fourie said of Whisky. “I would go to the moon and back for him.”
Meanwhile, 450 miles straight north in Hennenman, Free State province, 30-year-old Lebohang Pali on November 23, 2022 appeared in court to face charges of culpable homicide and cruelty to animals in connection with the November 20, 2022 death of three-year-old Keketso Innocent Saule.
Two pit bulls kept by Pali “mauled Saule to death while he was playing with friends in a yard in Phomolong, Hennenman,” reported Kayleen Morgan of Sowetan Live.
“Pali was moved to a place of safety after the incident when angry residents stoned and burnt one of the dogs to death,” Morgan said. “He was then arrested and later released on bail.
“The National Prosecuting Authority said Pali’s case would return to court on January 23, 2023,” Morgan continued.
“National Prosecuting Authority spokesperson Phaladi Shuping said the case was postponed to next year for further investigations, and to allow Padi the opportunity to acquire a legal representative,” Morgan explained.
Petition tops 120,000 signatures
A petition demanding a national ban on pit bulls, circulated by firefighter Sizwe Kupelo of Umtata, a city in the Eastern Cape region, has reportedly now topped 120,000 signatures, while a petition opposing the proposed ban drew only 38 signatures in the first days it was posted to Change.org.
Kupelo posted his petition after the September 26, 2022 pit bull mauling death of 10-year-old Storm Nuku in the Gelvandale suburb of Gqerberha, South Africa, the city formerly called Port Elizabeth.
“We are calling on the current leaders in government to protect the future leaders of this country,” Kupelo told Nivashni Nair of Sowetan Live, “by ensuring they ensure everyone has a right to life as our constitution guarantees.
“Send a strong message”
“Though it won’t bring back the little one,” Kupelo said at the time, before the three most recent deaths of South African children attacked by pit bulls, “we are calling on law enforcement agencies to leave no stone unturned in ensuring the owner of the dog is held to account. The courts should send a strong message to other pit bull lovers by sentencing owners of dogs who have attacked and killed people to lengthy prison terms.”
“After Storm Nuku was killed by his family’s pit bulls,” Nair explained, “Kupelo wrote to police minister Bheki Cele, health minister Dr Joe Phaahla, and minister of agriculture, land reform and rural development Angela Thoko Didiza, requesting an intervention.
“While Kupelo called for the castration of male pit bulls and the sterilization of female pit bulls, those who supported the cause beg the government to remove ‘the unpredictable dogs’ from all South African homes.”
This unofficial demand apparently stoked rumors of a bounty on pit bulls, reported Agence France Presse correspondent Tendai Dube on November 22, 2022.
“There’s a R2,500 reward in South Africa when you report a household that owns a pit bull,” reads a tweet from a Twitter account with more than 1.8 million followers and a history of spreading disinformation,” Dube summarized. “Agence France Presse ‘Fact Check’ has previously debunked false claims shared by the account.
“The purported reward ranges from $87 to $145 U.S.” in other postings, Dube said, with “no mention of where to file a report, how the money would be paid, or what regulation, if any, is being invoked.”
Racist rant from pit bull advocate
Amid the rumor-mongering, a WhatsApp user identified as Kempton Park, Gauteng province home business services provider Belinda Magor posted, “What I say is ban the black man. They rape, they steal, they kill, worse than any pit bull could, and they get away with it. Ban those that are making the laws, ban Ekurhule [a city incorporating nine communities of English and Afrikaner names], ban the black man.
“Get all the black women and cut out their uteruses and their ovaries that they cannot procreate because they will all turn out the same because they all the same. I’m very passionate about this. Ban them, kill them, shoot them. Get rid of them because they are the problem. Not pit bulls, not animals. Animals are beautiful, and they deserve a warm bed, food, love and attention and everything else. God created those animals. Who created the black man, do you think God? I don’t think so.”
“Act in a civilized manner”
The racist rant probably could not have come at a worse time for the Pit Bull Federation of South Africa, struggling to enlist black South African support in opposition to banning pit bulls.
Pit bulls, along with Boerboels and Rhodesian ridgebacks before pit bulls came into vogue after the fall of the former white-led apartheid government in 1992, have historically been kept chiefly by white South Africans, who are less than 8% of the population.
Black South Africans, about 80% of the population, probably now keep just as many pit bulls, though no survey data exists to establish this.
What is clear, however, is that about 80% of South African pit bull victims are black, many of whom are attacked by pit bulls belonging to white property owners, often while working for those property owners.
Posted the Pit Bull Federation of South Africa in response to the Magor rant, “We caution ‘activists’ to act in a civilized manner, as your actions impact the public perception of the pit bull.”
Tracked down by TimesLIVE, Magor explained, “I’m diabetic. When your sugar is out of whack, which happens quite often, you don’t think clearly. You can’t focus. There’s like a cloud over your mind. I’m on insulin. If my sugar is out of whack, that is why I don’t do an office job, I cannot do it.”
Diabetics around South Africa, of all races, are wondering how that explains anything.