This week a four year old boy, Peter Frans, succumbed to his injuries and died after being attacked by the family dog. Police spokesperson Captain Malcolm Pojie told You magazine that the child died in hospital shortly after being bitten by the dog shortly before 10 pm. According to the report, the child had apparently being playing in the yard of their Bridgton home when tragedy struck.
“He was bitten in the neck and face. His parents tried to stem the blood loss with a towel and he was taken to the Oudtshoorn Hospital,” Pojie said.
This type of story shakes me to the core every time. Not much has been published about the incident, which occurred in Oudtshoorn as it appears the parents have not commented but like a lot of people I had several questions rattling through my mind when the news broke this week. Did they leave the child alone with the dog? Where were they? What were they doing? What had the child done to set the dog off?
I was also interested to know what kind of dog it was that attacked the child. Was it a Pit Bull, a Doberman or perhaps a Rottweiler? Imagine my shock when I saw a post by You magazine which said it was the family Labrador that killed the toddler.
At the time of writing another dog attack was recorded in Halstead in the UK. This time it was a three year old, named Dexter Neal, and the dog was an American Bulldog.
Too close to home
Maybe I’m ignorant but I’d expect this type of attack from an American Bulldog. But a Labrador? Never! We have a lovely chocolate Labrador that we call Charlie. She’s thoroughbred and has all the right papers, so in fact her full fancy name is Lady Charlotte Plum of Ed Li. I remember how most people nodded in approval when we said we’d get a Labrador just before the birth of our second child. “They’re fabulous dogs for children” and “They’re the most gentle souls” are typically what people would say.
I tend to agree with them. Charlie is a Saint. I truly believe she wouldn’t hurt a fly. When I raise my voice after catching her digging up the garden she simply puts her head down and slinks away. I don’t even get a dirty look. As for the baby – he just loves her and at ten months can already say her name. We never leave our baby alone with the Labrador but we do let the baby interact with her.
We also have another dog, a Spaniel called Finley. We got him just before we had our first son and he was and still is very good natured around the kids. Some people criticised us for getting a Spaniel saying that they snap at little kids but nothing can be further from the truth when it comes to Finley.
Both dogs are good natured and I think it’s partly their nature and also down to the good training that they got. We took Finley to Christopher Brookin’s class in Constantia. Brookin made socialisation of his dogs a top priority – particularly with children. In fact, he used to encourage the dog owners that attended his class to bring their kids along so that dogs would get used to children. I was pregnant at the time and had no clue about what to expect, but I realise now and following on from this incident how important that all was.
Why do we always do the blame game?
Now I don’t know if the family concerned had in fact trained their dog at all or if it had gone for rigorous training. I heard some comments on the radio criticising the parents for their silence. Some went as far as to say the parents had been negligent and this is why they are remaining silent. It’s terrible that accusations are being flung around at this sad time, particularly when people don’t know the full story. Why do we always jump to conclusions and try to shame the parents?
We all grieve differently and I could understand why the parents are ignoring the media spotlight. Why would you, at a difficult time like this, want the entire nation’s eyes on you. Not everyone seeks out the press at a time of pain and suffering. This family has lost a child for goodness sake – whether they were negligent or not I am sure they never intended for this to happen. Perhaps, they thought, as I did, that a Labrador with its gentle nature was the perfect family pet. Maybe they also had a number of family members and friends nodding in approval at the choice.
But it’s clear that all dogs have the potential to do harm whether they are a Doberman, Labrador or Maltese Poodle. Should we ban all dogs from our homes now that we have children just to be sure? Despite these tragedies, I still don’t quite agree with that. Something in my bones tells me that having the dogs in our lives is the right thing for our family. But, at the same time, I’m going to be even more vigilant.
Perhaps the American Bulldog Rescue website says it best: “American bulldogs are great with children and are very loving and protective with them. However, this is a very strong and powerful breed with a very strong prey drive, which is easily set off by an excited, running, screaming child. Close supervision is a must when owning dogs with kids. A dog is not a babysitter.” Surely this is advice we should adhere to, regardless of breed.