Pet owners, especially those with ferocious guard dogs that could harm innocent passers-by, have to take responsibility for their animals’ behaviour.
This was the message of five justices of the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA), who turned down the appeal of a man whose three mixed-breed pit bulls mauled a man so badly that he lost his arm.
The Eastern Cape High Court previously ordered that the owner was liable for the damages suffered by the victim, but unhappy with this verdict, turned to the Supreme Court.
According to the Pretoria News, Justice Malcolm Wallis, who wrote the judgment, said: “People are entitled to walk our streets without having to fear being attacked by dogs.
“Where such attacks occur, they should in most circumstances be able to look to the owner of the dog for recompense.”
The dogs’ owner, Christiaan van Meyeren, claimed that someone tried to break into his home while he and his wife were not there and that the dogs had attacked the intruder.
But Gerald Cloete, who lost his arm, said he had been walking past Van Meyeren’s house, pulling a trolley in which he collected refuse when he was attacked and mauled.
The dogs left him when the police arrived and fired shots in their direction.
Cloete’s left arm had to be amputated.
But Van Meyeren said his dogs, Mischka, Zeus and Coco were house pets that slept on his son’s bed.
He could not explain how they got out of his property, claiming that someone had broken the two locks on his gate in an attempt to break in.