Cynophobia has gripped Mzansi after multiple reports of vicious dog attacks on children. The cases that have catalysed a conversation about possible bans on owning certain dog breeds involved pit bulls.    

Our country is divided with people calling for a blanket ban on the breed with one petition receiving over 100,000 signatures. 


The fear of dogs

“Any dog breed has the potential to be aggressive and pit bulls are no different,” says Jenny Minne, Director of Bully Assure – a pit bull special interest organisation. “These are working dogs and need a lot of training and stimulation; this keeps them sociable in general.” 

South Africans are justified in their calls for stricter laws around dog ownership. In November alone there have been three incidents involving pit bulls, one killing a child as young as 15 months old.

In another incident the community took the law into their own hands and stoned the dogs to death. 

Our laws are quite clear on the responsibility of animal ownership. The Animal Matters Amendment Act, No. 42 of 1993 states that “any person whose negligence causes an animal to injure another person is guilty of an offence.” 

The penalty can be either a fine or imprisonment of up to two years.

“Any person whose negligence causes an animal to injure another person is guilty of an offence.” 

– Animal Matters Amendment Act, No. 42 of 1993

“It’s very important for any dog owner to understand their breed, especially working dogs. Owners of working dogs should preferably go for training to learn how to handle and how to stimulate the relevant dog,” Minne continues. 

“Ethical ownership includes understanding the specific dog and how to secure the dog at home and in public if needed. It’s our belief that too many owners lack proper training or/and information and the understanding of how to handle a dog in a given social situation.”

Pit bull ownership has been on the rise alongside the ascendancy of Instagram, with about one in five dogs in the USA being identified as a pit bull terrier. Statistically it does make sense that most dog bite incidents are then pit bull related, in the same way that most smartphones stolen in the iPhone saturated market would be iPhones.

With the high frequency of vicious attacks on South African soil, public sentiment is not on the side of the breed. Perhaps pit bull owners should take full accountability for their own negligence and mobilise to become better handlers. 

Photo by Mika Lika/Pexels