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Neighbour rejects father’s dog attack claims

Broke free: a pitbull such as this one attacked a boy of 8 on Sunday

A neighbour who says she witnessed an attack by a pitbull on a little boy has rejected claims from the child’s father that bystanders did nothing to help.

The woman said she heard the eight-year-old’s “heart-wrenching screams” on Sunday afternoon and ran outside her house barefoot to find out what was happening.

Her husband, meanwhile, picked up a cane and rushed over to the yard in Southampton where the dog was still clinging to the child’s upper arm.

“My husband did go over there and calmed the boy down,” she said. “He said ‘I know you’re hurt but stop screaming’. It was because of my husband that the dog let go.

“I want the father to know that people didn’t think twice before helping. You see a kid that needs help and you go and give help.

“Another young man who was there — a visitor at the house — also tried to help and was bitten on the hand. No one stood and watched his child get attacked.”

The 34-year-old woman told The Royal Gazette that her surveillance cameras recorded the attack and her husband called the Department of Environmental Protection twice to offer to hand over the footage and give a statement. “No one has returned the calls,” she said.

As previously reported by this newspaper, the boy was playing in a friend’s back yard where the dog was tethered, when it broke free and attacked him.

The victim fled his friend’s property, ran home and was later treated at King Edward VII Memorial Hospital for bad bites to his upper arm, including two deep puncture wounds. He returned to school yesterday.

The dog, an illegal pitbull, was surrendered to the animal wardens by its owner.

Yesterday, we reported that the boy’s father was angry with witnesses whom he claimed saw the attack and were willing to give statements to the authorities but not help his son.

The female neighbour disputed that and said she took offence at the remarks, particularly as the father wasn’t present and didn’t see what happened.

She said once the boy was free from the dog’s grasp he, understandably, ran off terrified. “I’m outside, barefoot, trying to help him, running down the road after him saying ‘are you hurt?’. He just took off. He ran over a little tribe road. Afterwards, we asked the kids around here where he lived and they said ‘he lives way over there’ in another neighbourhood.

“Every time I thought about the little boy’s screams that night it hurt my heart. Our first instincts were to go and help him.”

The woman alleged that the dog was regularly tethered in its back yard and local youngsters would taunt it, stepping on to the property to run and jump in front of it and make loud noises.

She claimed her husband had only recently warned the dog’s owner to come out of his property when he heard the animal barking so he could see what was happening.

The neighbour questioned why police hadn’t knocked on doors to investigate the attack, since it was reported to them. And she queried why head government animal warden Jeffrey Benevides hadn’t yet followed up on the phone calls from her husband.

“We have plenty of witnesses willing to assist,” she said. “There has been no police presence here to find out what happened. This guy’s dog has bitten someone.”

She added that wardens seemed eager to seize dogs on the banned list of breeds without the animals harming anyone yet less willing to prosecute owners whose dogs have attacked someone.

A police spokesman said earlier this week that officers did respond to reports of the attack but the inquiry was being handled by animal wardens.

A Ministry of Health, Seniors and Environment spokesman confirmed on Wednesday that the illegal pitbull was “humanely euthanised after it was voluntarily surrendered”.

He added: “Investigations are ongoing. However, prosecution is dependent on a number of factors, including identification of witnesses.”

Campaign group Punish the Deed not the Breed said in a statement: “Incidents like these reinforce our position that the current policy as it relates to breed restrictions and prohibition of certain breeds is ineffective.

“The ban on bull-breed-type dogs is directly responsible for increased dog welfare problems with bull-breed-type dogs and public safety issues.

“This behaviour encourages unsuitable owners to covet these dogs where they are overbred, under-socialised, and often severely mistreated.

“Dog owners need to be held accountable for 100 per cent of their pets’ behaviour.

“Not all dogs and owners can be placed in the same category. It is unfair that educated and compliant dog owners are punished for the handful of irresponsible owners that present the bull-type dogs in a negative light.

“There are many on-island options for dog owners to educate themselves on breed traits and behavioural triggers. However, until an emphasis is placed on responsible ownership and reflected in a coherent and sensible dog policy which demands of all owners to adhere to a minimum standard of education and responsibility, the dogs will continue to suffer and so will public safety.”

The dog wardens can be reached on 239-2327