A two-year-old girl has had emergency surgery after being attacked by a Rottweiler at one of Cape Town’s most popular beaches.
What started as a fun day at Clifton’s First Beach for Meeka Riley and her aunt, Liska October, turned into a terrifying ordeal when one of three unleashed Rottweilers roaming the beach attacked the child.
Meeka, an only child, was rushed to Cape Town Medi-Clinic. On Wednesday night, her concerned parents, Chanell Riley and Keagan Peters, were at her bedside, waiting for her to be taken into surgery.
Meeka was heavily sedated, drifting in and out of sleep as her mother sobbed.
The little girl’s cheeks and forehead are badly bruised. The dog dragged her along the sand.
October said the attack happened at about 12.30pm on Wednesday. She and Meeka were standing in shallow water, chatting.
“I looked away from her for just a second. When I looked back at her a Rottweiler was clutching her leg. (The dog) started dragging her towards the sand. I froze… the next thing I knew I was on top of the dog, struggling to get it off her leg.
“Meeka started screaming and then she went quiet. A crowd formed around us, people trying to pull the dog away, and then I lost sight of her.
“Suddenly I heard her calling my name. I just went to her and held her. A huge chunk of her upper leg was missing.”
October said an off-duty doctor passing by rushed to help, and tried to keep the little girl conscious. Meeka had repeatedly told her aunt: “Liska, I want to sleep.”
“I never saw the dog coming. If I did I would have kept Meeka away from it because she is terrified of dogs.”
October said she had seen the dog and two others before the attack, with two men who appeared to be walking them. None of the dogs was on a leash, she said.
“I never thought something like this would happen at Clifton beach… I have been here many times.”
Riley said she was shocked when she got a phone call at work from a friend telling her that Meeka was in hospital.
“When I got here she was moaning as if in pain but not really waking up. She was bitten four times on her leg and she needs plastic surgery,” she said on Wednesday night.
On Thursday morning, Riley told the Cape Argus that her daughter had come out of the operating theatre at about 11pm.
“The doctor said the operation went well. He said the dog’s teeth just missed the main nerve in her leg, so she would have been paralysed if it had been closer.
“She’s on a drip for the pain, so she will be okay for now. But she’s very traumatised, so she needs counselling.
“All she says is that ‘my leg is in pain! My leg is in pain!’
“We are pressing charges at Camps Bay (police station) today (Thursday), because we don’t agree that any dog should be on the beach without a leash.
“What if all three dogs had attacked my child? She would have been dead today,” she said.
Riley said the owner of the dog had visited Meeka in hospital and offered to pay her hospital bills.
Meeka’s godmother, Melissa Herman, described the child as “a two-year-old going on 15. It’s hard seeing her like this in bed because she has so much energy and is always running around the neighbourhood”.
At the beach, two hours after the attack, a group of people contracted to clean the beach, and who asked not to be named, said they had seen two men walking three “very dangerous looking dogs”.
They noticed a little girl standing on the edge of the water with an older woman.
“The men with dogs walked past them and then on their way back one of the dogs just went for the little girl’s leg. The dog held on and didn’t want to let go of the girl until a group of men pulled him off her. She was just screaming.”
Disaster Management spokesman Wilfred Solomons-Johannes said the city was investigating the circumstances of the attack.
He described the dog’s owner as co-operative.
Nathan Ladegourdie, Cape Town’s acting chief of Law Enforcement and Specialised Services, said the dog had been impounded at 9 on Wednesday night.
Neil Arendse, the assistant chief of Specialised Law Enforcement Services, said the dog was being kept at the city’s dog pound in Atlantis and would be handed over to the SPCA on Thursday.
He confirmed that the dog’s owner had been breaking the law by walking his dogs on Clifton Beach.
He had contravened the beach’s rules determined by its Blue Flag status, and by the Seashore Act. – Additional reporting by Murray Williams