Parliaments of both U.K. & South Africa allow pit bull advocates to filibuster while the bodies pile up
LONDON, England; CAPE TOWN, South Africa––If the pit bull body count was a taxi meter, the Parliaments of the United Kingdom and South Africa might be worried about letting it run while deliberating over whether even to introduce new legislation to curb the mayhem.
If the members of either Parliament gave a damn about the truth of dangerous dogs, as opposed to the noise emanating from dog trainers and humane societies trying desperately to rehome the pit bulls filling their shelters, they would heed the scientific maxim that when data conflicts with the testimony of credentialed experts, a prudent scientist trusts the data.
A Ph.D., a tenured position, and a title all may be obtained by endorsing beliefs popular among the influential, but if those beliefs conflict with valid data, the data eventually will show them to have been in error time and again, try though the influential people might to argue against the facts.
Killed at dawn by brother’s “Bully XL/Cane Corso mix”
“A man has been charged under the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 following the death of another man at a house in Derby,” an April 22, 2023 Derbyshire police statement opened.
Charges were filed, the Derbyshire police elaborated, after a 5:50 a.m. attack in which a pit bull-type dog identified as a mix of American Bully XL and Cane Corso killed Wayne Stevens, 51, at the home of one of his two pit bull-owning brothers, Gary Stevens, 53.
Gary Stevens was “charged with being the person in charge of a dog dangerously out of control causing injury resulting in death.
“A dog was also found at the address,” the Derbyshire police added, “presenting a risk to officers and the public, who was was destroyed at the scene.”
Wayne Stevens was fatally mauled three weeks after a six-year-old girl was on March 26, 2023 seriously injured by pit bulls in Carrington, Greater Manchester, leading to the immediate seizure of four of the pit bulls and the impoundment of four more pit bulls plus nine puppies soon afterward.
“A 35-year-old man from Carrington faces eight counts of being in charge of a dog dangerously out of control,” the BBC reported, adding that six counts pertain to the injuries to the six-year-old, while “two others are linked to another incident in December 2022 when a man in his 20s and his dog were injured.”
Caerphilly isn’t when it comes to dogs
Meanwhile in Caerphilly, Wales, described by The Mirror as “a hot-spot for dangerous and aggressive dogs in the past few years,” Gwent police asked for public help in identifying the owner of a dog described as an off-lead mastiff/Great Dane cross who seriously injured another dog in a supermarket parking lot.
The parking lot attack came only blocks from where an American bully XL inflicted fatal injuries on Shirley Patrick, 83, in December 2022, also within walking distance of where another purported American Bully XL killed Jack Lis, 10, on November 8, 2021.
“Brandon Hayden, 19, of Penyrheol, Caerphilly, was jailed for four-and-a-half years at Cardiff Crown Court after admitting owning or being in charge of a dangerously out of control dog,” the BBC recalled.
“Amy Salter, 29, of Trethomas, Caerphilly, was jailed for three years for the same offense,” the BBC added.
Dog attacks rising by about 1,200 a year
Observed Andy Gregory of The Independent, “Despite the U.K. canine population only increasing by 15% since 2018, the number of dog attacks has risen by more than double that proportion, rising from 16,000 in 2018 to 22,000 last year.
“But the recent rise merely represents the latter end of a stark trend of rising dog attacks in recent decades, including those which are fatal or require hospitalization.
“Some 8,389 of the victims of such attacks in 2018 were hospitalized by their injuries – a huge increase on the 3,395 such admissions in 2002.”
No mystery about source of the mayhem
There is no mystery about which dogs, of soaring representation in the U.K. dog population, are responsible for most of the mayhem.
Of the 71 dogs involved in 56 fatal attacks in the U.K. since the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 banned “American pit bull terriers,” but exempted pit bulls under all other names, including Staffordshire and “Bully XL,” 59 (83%) were pit bulls or pit bull variants.
(See United Kingdom dog attack fatalities, 1991-present.)
A decade ago, in 2013, the United Kennel Club reportedly “found the Staffordshire Bull Terrier to be the most frequent specific dog type to be involved in dog bites,” adding that “The percentage of Staffordshire Bull Terriers in the U.K. is estimated at 8% but accounted for 18% of the dog bites.”
Bully breed advocates hijack the discussion
Yet the Kennel Club, the Royal SPCA, and Dogs Trust, among other dog advocacy charities, remain adamantly opposed to any amendments to the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 that would prohibit breeding, selling, trading, or otherwise rehoming pit bulls under any name.
A Facebook page identifying itself as the All-Party Parliamentary Dog Advisory Welfare Group, ostensibly posted to discuss improvements to the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991, has instead become a forum for bully breed advocacy, dominated by trainers and breeders who insist that their dogs are not the problem and seem oblivious to the notion that the average citizen should not have to become a dog behaviorist before toddlerhood to be safe even in a securely fenced sandbox.
Pit bulls kill another South African child while cabinet minister dawdles
Two pit bull fatalities have now occurred in South Africa since land reform and rural development minister Thoko Didiza at last agreed on March 23, 2023 to accept a 139,000 signature petition seeking a national ban on breeding and keeping pit bulls, compiled during the last three months of 2022 by the Sizwe Kupelo Foundation, formed by firefighter Sizwe Kupelo.
Kupelo, trying to deliver the petition to Didiza since December 2022, was hopeful of obtaining a meeting with Didiza in early April, but––as April fades away with the spring daffodils–– such a meeting has apparently not occurred.
Pit bulls killed Olga Grill, 88, of Bonteheuwel, on March 28, 2023. Grill would have celebrated her 89th birthday on April 4, 2023.
(See Second South African pit bull fatality of 2023 builds pressure for national ban.)
Five-year-old killed on Good Friday
The body count clicked higher on April 9, 2023, when five-year-old Zibele Liyakhanya Mthi died at Frere Hospital in East London, Eastern Cape province, two days after two pit bulls mauled him in the street in Dyamala village as he ran home from his grandmother’s house to take a bath before attending a Good Friday church service.
Initially treated at Victoria Hospital in Alice, Zibele Liyakhanya Mthi was transferred to Frere Hospital later on Good Friday to receive more advanced care for bite injuries including a perforated right kidney.
Family spokesperson Tabita Mthi told News24, “No one dared to come near that house,” from which the two pit bulls escaped. “Everyone knew how dangerous those dogs were. That family usually kept those dogs behind locked gates. I don’t know how they escaped and ended up on the streets.”
Reported Malibongwe Dayimani for News24, “Petros Majola, a director at the children’s rights advocacy group Khula Community Development Project, said that while he understood the owners of pit bulls love their pets, one should think twice about keeping this type of dog.”
“Nothing left for the community but to take the law into their own hands”
Zibele Liyakhanya Mthi died three weeks after nine-year-old Likhanyile Zekevu of Bhongweni, an East London shantytown, was mauled by a pit bull severely enough to miss a week of school.
The pit bull owner, a 37-year-old woman, was “arrested for contravening the Animal Matters Amendment Act,” Malibongwe Dayimani told the News24 audience.
“Community activist Anele Ncumbese said Bhongweni would be left with no choice but to put down all pit bulls if the National SPCA did not remove the dogs from the area,” Malibongwe Dayimani continued.
“Unfortunately,” said Anele Ncumbese, “if you report the cases to law enforcement and they don’t act, there is nothing left for the community other than to take the law into their own hands, even though we don’t necessarily encourage that.”
(See Pit bull attacks inflame pit bull lynchings in South African shantytowns, and Baby is 3rd South African killed by pit bull in 9 days; calls for ban rise.)
43 pit bulls to 5 Boerboels & just 12 other dogs in body count
Zibele Liyakhanya Mthi was at least the 43nd pit bull victim among the 56 known dog attack fatalities in South Africa since 2004.
Eighty pit bulls participated in the 42 pit bull fatalities.
Four fatal attacks were by dogs of unknown breed.
Five Boerboels, four German shepherds, three Rottweilers, and one Labrador retriever accounted for the 14 other fatal attacks.
Geoff Geiger says
The stories about pit bull attacks that in some cases end in deaths are very sobering. Growing up, my family had dogs (not pit bulls), and I remember that my attitude was that all dogs were harmless if you were not afraid of them. My belief as a child was that if dogs smelled fear on a human it would frighten dogs into possibly biting that person. This is how I viewed dogs for most of my life, and I’ve never been harmed by a dog of any breed.
I’m learning from reading ANIMALS 24-7 that some breeds, especially pit bulls, can and often have launched unprovoked attacks against humans, sometimes resulting in serious injury and even death. It may be that the only long-term solution is for countries to pass legislation to neuter pit bulls and eventually terminate the breed this way. That will take a very long time, if it happens at all.
In the meantime, what can people do to be as safe as possible when around pit bulls? I read somewhere in ANIMALS 24-7 that a fire extinguisher is the best tool for stopping an attacking pit bull. However, it was pointed out in that article that fire extinguishers are simply not an item most folks will carry around with them, like a wallet or a purse.
What I’d like to see in ANIMALS 24-7 is: after every article about the dangers of pit bulls, have a box with a headline something like “Protect Yourself from Pit Bull Attacks” followed by some simple, doable suggestions. This might start with how to recognize dangerous breeds, something many of us don’t know, or only know partially.
As it is now, the articles can cause fear but may offer little in the way of constructive information about how to protect oneself.
And one more thing: Thanks for the great reporting!
Merritt Clifton says
ANIMALS 24-7 takes seriously these criticisms from Geoff Geiger, a friend for 60 years, but note that many of the same issues arise in reporting about crime, fires, traffic accidents, wars, and natural disasters. ANIMALS 24-7 does have an often updated article about How to protect yourself, others, & your dog from a pit bull attack, which often appears among the “Related posts” following each article pertaining to pit bulls, and is our second-most-read posting all time, having reached now reached more than 95,000 people.
Concerning the time that would be needed to prevent pit bull attacks through spay/neuter, we have two historical models. One is that the U.S. had less than one fatal non-rabid dog attack per year during the time frame 1930-1960, though more than half were by pit bulls, when under 1% of the U.S. dog population were sterilized, but under 1% were pit bulls. Currently, 5.2% of the U.S. dog population are pit bulls. This suggests that if about 80% of pit bull litters could be prevented, fatal pit bull attacks might fall to the 1930-1960 norm. The other historical model is that when breeders of high-end purebred dogs recognize a serious genetic defect in their lines, eliminating that defect through early-age spay/neuter typically takes from three to five years, if the defect is recognized early. The more widely a genetic defect spreads before it is recognized, however, the more difficult it is to eradicate, especially if it is closely related to a desired trait in the breed.
Merritt and Beth,
Perhaps you want to consider putting the “How to protect yourself, others, & your dog from a pit bull attack” piece at the very beginning of EVERY pitbull related new piece you publish.
Question: are the pitbulls in South Africa of American origin?
Merritt Clifton says
Thanks for the suggestion, but news has to be at the beginning of every article on any subject to attract & hold readers.
The pit bulls in South Africa have multiple points of origin. White South Africans imported many pit bulls from the U.S. for personal and property defense, as well as for fighting, during the last years of apartheid and first years after apartheid ended. This imported pit bull population rapidly mingled with Boerboels, who were already there. The proto-boerboel was a “bullenbitjer,” or “bull-biter,” a bullmastiff-type baiting and fighting dog closely related to the ancestral Presa Canario, imported by Jan van Riebeeck, one of the first Dutch settlers to land at Cape Horn, the future site of the city of Cape Town, in 1652. (See Deadliest dogs in South Africa? Boerboels challenge pit bulls.)
Jamaka Petzak says
Shameful, sad, and senseless.
Sharing, with gratitude.