World News

South Africa pit bull attacks: ‘We can’t live in a world where dogs eat children’

Residents of Phomolong township in South Africa woke up to horrific screams last Sunday morning.

They came from a three-year-old boy as he was attacked and then mauled to death by two American pit bull terriers.

The toddler had been outside with friends in a neighbour’s gated front yard, where the two pit bulls were usually tied up in a cage. But that morning they were loose and roaming around.

It was as the children were playing that the dogs pounced on Keketso Saule.

His devastated family say the savage attack lasted for several minutes.

“Had someone not pulled him away the dogs would have finished [eating] him,” his distraught aunt, Nthabeleng Saule, told the BBC.

“One side his face was gone and you could see his brain.”

A video taken during the attack shows horrified relatives and neighbours shouting in shock and looking on at the vicious dogs unsure of what to do and how to intervene.

It was only when someone poured hot water on the dogs that people were able to drag Keketso’s lifeless body away from them.

In a groundswell of anger, the crowd, who had rushed to the scene, turned on the dogs and began throwing things at them.

They managed to stun and catch one, setting it alight.

The police then arrived as the community bayed for revenge, and the 21-year-old owner of the dogs, Lebohang Pali, was arrested and charged with keeping dangerous dogs and could face a fine or a jail term of up to two years or both.

The second dog was taken away and euthanised by the animal welfare group SPCA.

Mr Pali has since been granted bail – set at 300 rand ($18, £15). It is unclear if he will return to the house that he was renting.

When we visited the neighbourhood in Free State province, about 250km (155 miles) south-west of Johannesburg, the charred remains on the street outside the Saule family home told of the grisly weekend scenes.

Rocks, sticks and a burnt-out tyre littered the area where the dog had been burnt. Residents came out to speak of their shock and anger about what they witnessed on Sunday.

“This incident has broken our hearts,” said Emily Moerane, a young mother carrying her toddler.

“We don’t want pit bulls any more,” she said, adding that if the owner of the dog did not face justice they would “take the law into our hands”.

Inside the Saule home, Kekesto’s aunt showed us a photo of the smiling bright-eyed little boy on her phone.

Battling to hold back the tears, she spoke of the family’s trauma.

“Things are just not right, not right at all. Even the child’s mother, grandmother and grandfather witnessed what happened,” she said.

“It’s going to take time for them to understand why they [the dogs] ate the child.”