A recent cycling trip along the beach took a nasty turn for Hermanus resident, Johan Coetzee.
On Saturday afternoon 4 January, he and a friend, Kolvert Rautenbach from Johannesburg were riding near De Kelders. At some stage Johan noticed children on the sand with their dog lying next to them. Close by, two men were fishing in the shallow water. Suddenly the dog, a Weimaraner, jumped up. When Johan was about ten metres from the anglers the dog ran towards him and bit him on his left calf.
“I fell off my bike. The men saw what had happened, but did not react. Kolvert, who was behind me, went up to them and asked them whether they were aware of what had happened,” relates Johan.
Kolvert adds: “The owner did not look alarmed. That’s when I told him that his dog had bitten Johan. His reaction was a startled, ‘My dog does not bite.’
“I then informed him that this was extremely serious seeing that Johan had undergone a liver transplant some three years ago.”
Johan, a retired anaesthetist, adds: “Since the transplant I have had to take immuno-suppressants to prevent rejection of the new liver. These slow down the body’s immune system, thus affecting the body’s defence against germs, which means I am susceptible to infections. Even minor infections can become very serious.”
Kolvert convinced the owner of the severity of the situation and that he had to get Johan to hospital as quickly as possible. This was done.
Kolvert then continued his ride back to Hermanus along the beach and on the way a large dog attacked him too, also unprovoked. Fortunately, he avoided being bitten. The owner was extremely offhand about the regulations regarding dogs being on a leash in public places. Kolvert, a visitor to Hermanus, expressed surprise at the general casual attitude of the public towards an apparently serious dog problem on Hermanus beaches.
At MediClinic Johan’s wound (6 x 4 cms) was cleaned and the loose flap of skin secured with stitches. Since then, Johan has been on huge dosages of antibiotics that are administered intravenously.
On Tuesday 7 January Johan saw a plastic surgeon who unfortunately had some more bad news. The piece of skin that had been stitched to cover the wound, was dead. That will necessitate a skin transplant that could only be done once the swelling and inflammation have gone down. A further complication is that immuno-suppressant drugs hinder wound healing, so Johan has had to stop taking the drug. This increases the risk of liver rejection, with potentially fatal consequences.
Johan, who is a dog lover, holds no grudges against his attacker. “I understand that dogs react with a hunter’s instinct when they see something moving past them. The problem lies with owners who do not have their dogs on leashes in public spaces. The municipal by-laws of the Overstrand state this very specifically. Moreover, the stretch of the beach where we were cycling is part of a nature reserve where no dogs, or any animal, is allowed, not even on a leash.”
The by-law relating to the Keeping of Dogs and Cats is applicable to the whole of the Overstrand Municipal District, and must be complied with.
Sections 6(2) and (3) of this by-law stipulates that “No person may or cause to be allowed any dog to be in a public place unless it is kept on a leash.”
Since the stretch of beach where the attack took place falls within a nature reserve, even stricter rules apply, as stipulated in Chapter 8 Section 45 of Regulation Gazette Vol. 560 Pretoria, No. 9679 8 February 2012 35021: “Pets in nature reserves 45 (1) No person may, except on conditions determined by a management authority from time to time, allow any dog, cat or other pet belonging to or under the care of that person to enter and remain in or enter or remain in a nature reserve. (2) Any dog, cat or other pet contemplated in subregulation (1) which is not in the care of any person, may either be caught and removed or destroyed at the discretion of the management authority. (3) Any dog, cat or other pet not in control by a leash in a nature reserve may be impounded or destroyed at the discretion of the management authority during or after such act.”