Fourth South African pit bull fatality in 10 days
News analysis by Beth Clifton
“We can’t live like this in a world where dogs eat children,” pit bull owner Mokete Selebano of Phomolong township, South Africa, told BBC News reporter Vumani Mkhize, a week after Selebano on November 21, 2022 saw a neighbor’s two pit bulls kill three-year-old Keketso Innocent Saule.
Selebano told Mkhize that he and his wife would surrender their pit bull to the National SPCA, both as part of being good citizens of their shantytown, seeking to avoid further deadly accidents, and to protect their pit bull from mob violence similar to the response of their own community to the attack on Keketso Saule.
Yet another pit bull death as this is posted
Saule was the second of three children under ten years of age who were killed by pit bulls in South Africa within the span of nine days.
As this is posted, ANIMALS 24-7 has just learned of yet another South African dog attack fatality, 37-year-old Zimkhitha Brenda Gaga, facially mauled on November 27, 2022 by three pit bulls on the street in Port Alfred, near Cape Town, while walking to work.
The three pit bulls apparently broke through a fence to get at her. She died there alone, before help summoned by two witnesses and a nearby security guard could arrive.
Strong sense of family and community
Eighty percent of the people of South Africa are black; 57% live on less than $5.50 U.S. per day, dwelling chiefly in crowded shantytowns without running water, plumbing, or electricity other than what can be brought in with extension cords often tapped illegally into overhead wires serving more affluent neighborhoods.
What most South African people do not lack, including most of the shantytown poor, is a very strong sense of family and community. A threat to either is not tolerated.
Keketso Saule was killed in front of his home by pit bulls belonging to neighbor Lebohang Pali, 21, who somehow escaped from their cage in a gated yard.
“You could see his brain”
The pit bulls tore Saule’s small body apart.
“One side his face was gone and you could see his brain,” Saule’s aunt Nthabeleng Saule described to BBC reporter Mkhize. “Had someone not pulled him away the dogs would have finished [eating] him.”
The pit bulls released Saule only after someone threw scalding water on them, witnesses told Mkhize. The dogs were then stoned to death by the gathering crowd and ultimately burned in a pile on top of each other.
A child barely survived a similar pit bull attack the same day in Gatesville, near Cape Town. Two of the pit bulls who injured that child were stoned and burned on the spot. A third pit bull was chased down, dragged behind a car, and burned.
130,000 petition signatures
Eighty-seven thousand South Africans, almost all of them believed to be black, had already signed a petition demanding a national ban on possession of pit bulls.
The petition had been circulated by Eastern Cape region firefighter Sizwe Kupelo following the September 26, 2022 pit bull mauling death of 10-year-old Storm Nuku in Gqeberha, formerly called Port Elizabeth.
Thirty-three thousand of the 87,000 signatures came in the first few days after the November 12, 2022 pit bull mauling death of eight-year-old Bloemfontein resident Olebogeng Mosime.
The petition has now been signed by more than 130,000 South Africans.
The most recent South African pit bull fatality, fifteen-month-old Reuben le Roux, killed on November 23, 2022, was white, but also a resident of a low-income district. His death broke a three-year streak of eleven black deaths by pit bull in a row, during which all but one of the victims were children.
Small wonder that people of color in South Africa are demanding a pit bull ban.
This demand is now endorsed by the Congress of South African Trade Unions [COSATU], the largest labor federation in the nation, and by the Economic Freedom Fighters political party [EFF], founded by former African National Congress Youth League president Julius Malem.
Political party asks members to surrender pit bulls
The EFF asked members to voluntarily surrender their pit bulls to the National SPCA, and reportedly booted out former EFF chairperson Vusi Khoza––who had already been voted out of office in October 2022––when Khoza refused to do so.
Said Nkululeko Ngubane, the EFF party secretary in KwaZuluNatal, “The organization has spoken. Anyone who says anything else is defining himself outside the organization.”
Despite Khoza’s adamant defense of his pit bulls, it is primarily the white people of South Africa who are resistant to any bans of dogs, especially pit bulls.
National SPCA does little to prevent attacks
The National SPCA in particular opposes either a breed ban or breed-specific regulations, following in lockstep with the large organizations in the U.S., Canada, Australia, India, and the United Kingdom, which have blocked or undone breed-specific legislation, while doing little or nothing by any other means to prevent the human and animal carnage done by pit bulls.
In South Africa, inaction by the National SPCA––still largely perceived as a white-run institution despite the ascent of some black leadership––has driven a wider wedge between the haves, most of whom are among the white 8% of the population, and the have-nots, almost all of whom are among the black 80%.
Safety of family & community should take precedence
One evident difference between the South African majority and those of us residing in the U.S., Canada, Australia, India, and the United Kingdom is their admirable ability to understand that the safety of their families and communities should take precedence over the desires of some to keep dangerous, high risk dogs, especially pit bulls, whose nature is unpredictable to say the least.
While the South African National SPCA now complains that it is overwhelmed by owner-surrenders of pit bulls, it is further noteworthy and admirable that these pit bulls are not merely being dumped, or being killed by any means available.
Rather, many pit bull owners throughout the nation, like Mokete Selebano of Phomolong, are taking what they understand to be the most humane and responsible action they can, both to prevent more bloodshed in their communities and to prevent further vigilante lynchings of the dogs themselves.
Call for “responsible” breeding & ownership is irresponsible approach
Meanwhile the Pit bull Federation of South Africa, run by white Afrikaners, is doing all it can to prevent a ban and calling for “responsible” breeding and ownership as an alternative.
“Responsible” breeding and ownership are the mantras of any and all pro-pit bull organizations worldwide, who unfortunately cannot point to any nation or community worldwide which has ever achieved the paradox of unrestricted pit bull ownership and zero pit bull-inflicted human fatalities and disfigurements.
On the contrary, there is no nation with a statistically significant pit bull population in which pit bulls do not account for two-thirds or more of all dog attack fatalities and disfigurements––as ANIMALS 24-7 has demonstrated with 40 years of breed-specific data logged in the U.S. and Canada, 26 years of breed-specific data from the United Kingdom, and 18 years of breed-specific data from South Africa.
In the three-plus decades that ANIMALS 24-7 has advocated for breed specific laws with regard to public safety, pit bulls and other dangerous dogs, after the U.S. and Canadian dog attack patterns became clear, we have never before seen a hue-and-cry comparable to what we are seeing now in South Africa, led by the poorest of the poor and most disadvantaged of the disadvantaged.
Black South Africans are making the safety of their families their first priority, irrespective of the use of pit bulls as cheap defense against burglars, easily portable weapons, and money-makers for backyard breeders and gamblers on dogfights.
Black South Africans are willing to do what it takes, politically and culturally, and are demanding through the political system that action be taken to be rid of these dogs who are tearing their children limb from limb.
Inverse “virtue signaling”
Meanwhile here in the United States, we continue to see no meaningful political or cultural response to the bloodshed committed by pit bulls.
Instead the incessant killing and disfigurements have become a staple topic of “edgy” stand-up comedians, pit bulls themselves have become a fashion accessory for celebrities, and possession of a pit bull has become a form of “virtue signaling” incomprehensible in contrast to what––we hope––would be the public response to celebrities stepping out with Glock on hip and an AR-15 or AK-47 draped over one shoulder.
This is not, ANIMALS 24-7 trusts, the sort of society most people, including most Americans, choose to live in, hundreds of thousands of years after evolution reshaped our bodies and especially our jaws and teeth to avoid presenting an omnipresent threat to our fellow humans.
Unfortunately, even though pit bulls killed more Americans in 2021 than ever before, and have already broken that record in 2022, humane organizations continue to promote pit bulls as family pets.
AKC honors legacy of John P. Colby
Even the American Kennel Club, mistaken by most Americans as a reliable source of information about dogs despite glaring errors in many of the official AKC breed histories and descriptions, on November 24, 2022 selected two pit bulls, an “American Staffordshire” named Trouble and a “French Bulldog” named Winston, to reign as respectively “Best Terrier” of the year and “Best in Show” at Westminster.
The recognition conferred on Trouble completed the 133-year effort of dogfighter and pit bull breeder John P. Colby, of Newburyport, Massachusetts, to have the fighting dog line he dubbed “Staffordshires” recognized with a pedigree, like the dogs bred by the high society “fancy.”
There was at the time, and historically, no dog documentedly recognized either in Staffordshire, United Kingdom, or anywhere else, as a “Staffordshire.”
A name that should live in infamy
Colby and family persisted, though, even after the Boston Globe on December 29, 1906 reported that police shot one of the Colby pit bulls, who mauled a boy while a girl escaped.
On February 2, 1909 the Globe described how one of Colby’s dogs killed Colby’s two-year-old nephew, Bert Colby Leadbetter.
Colby and his wife Florence in 1935 chartered the Staffordshire Club of America to try to end-run the then-American Kennel Club exclusion of fighting breeds.
The AKC then accepted the Colby pit bulls as a pedigreed line. As the breed standard for the Staffordshire, the AKC chose the fighting dog known as Colby’s Primo.
That the AKC has now recognized a “Staffordshire” as “Best Terrier” will no doubt help pit bull advocates in the United Kingdom to continue to maintain the exemption of “Staffordshires” from the list of recognized pit bulls prohibited by the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991.
Yet as William Shakespeare wrote, while his Globe Theatre competed for audience share with the nearby Paris Gardens dogfighting and bear-baiting emporium, “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”
Likewise, dog shit by any other name would reek as badly.
Calling a pit bull by any other name does not change the fact that pit bulls continue to commit the most horrific damage to humans and other animals, have done so under a variety of names at least since Shakespearian times, and at this time South Africa has come to what appears to be a tipping point.
A civilized society should not allow pit bulls to be bred, sold, traded, rehomed, or otherwise allowed to proliferate and wreak havoc.
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