A three-year-old boy was mauled to death by two pit bulls outside a house in South Africa, according to local police.
The fatal attack sparked anger in the local community with one of the dogs then reportedly stoned, beaten and set on fire in the aftermath.
Free State police spokesperson Captain Stephen Thakeng told Eyewitness News the child, named as Keketso Innocent Saule, was killed outside a house in Sekoti Mpate Phomolong in Hennenman at around 8:15 am on Sunday.
“Two pit bull dogs attacked a three-year-old boy and mauled him to death. At this stage, we are investigating,” he said.
Hennenman Police arriving on the scene reportedly encountered a large group of community members who had gathered around the yard where the deadly attack is thought to have taken place.
According to Free State Central Newsthe young boy was pronounced dead at the scene, having suffered severe head injuries.
Thakeng said News24 that some of the local Phomolong residents present at the scene attacked one of the dogs in apparent retaliation, hitting it with garden spades and stones before setting it alight.
“The angry residents wanted to kill both dogs and attack the owner of these two pit bulls. Members of Welkom Public Order Policing were summoned to the scene and removed the owner to a safe place,” he said.
Ernest Khakhau, a member of staff from the National Council of Societies for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) also told News24 They were attacked by the angry crowd while trying to remove the two dogs from the scene.
“We had to vacate the place because we were attacked. We left one dog there. The other dog had managed to escape, and we removed that dog, which has been euthanised,” Khakhau said.
Thakeng said more police were deployed to the scene to try and calm the escalating tensions.
“We can confirm that the staff of SPCA was attacked by angry residents, but nobody got injured,” Thakeng said. “Members of Welkom Public Order Policing and Hennenman SAPS managed to rescue them.”
Thakeng also confirmed an investigation is underway to determine the circumstances that led to the boy’s death.
“An inquest was registered for further investigation, and there will be an additional charge under the Animals Amendment Act. A thorough investigation will be conducted regarding the circumstances which led to the two pit bulls killing the boy,” Thakeng told News24.
Thakeng also expressed concern that a video of the attack is being shared on social media and urged users to refrain from circulating any alleged footage.
“We have noted with concern a clip that is making the rounds on social media platforms where the two dogs are seen killing the deceased,” he told the news provider. “Residents must refrain from doing it. This gesture must stop with immediate effect.”
In the wake of the incident, the Pit Bull Federation of South Africa hit out at the government and law enforcement for not doing enough to regulate the domestication of the breed.
Federation’s spokesperson Lins Rautenbach told SABC News: “Banning the breed of dog isn’t going to work in South Africa. Licensing needs to come back. If a problem dog is passed on to a neighbor or a friend, when it attacks, you as the owner – you are the one who caused this. Then we need to look at how properties are, how are these dogs being contained.”
A spokesperson for the executive mayor of the Matjhabeng Municipality, Thanduxolo Khalipa, told Free State Central News They are eager to impose strict new by-laws to allow for the removal of aggressive animals in the local community.
They told the outlet: “The Executive Mayor visited the bereaved family to pay homage. He expressed his condolences to the family and committed support with funeral arrangements of the late Keketso.
“He further registered his worries about the ownership of pit bulls in the communities of Matjhabeng, and calls for tight by-laws which will ensure the safety of our people from these monsters.”
This latest incident comes a week after the funeral of 8-year-old boy, Olebogeng Mosime, who was killed after being attacked by a neighbor’s pit bull in Vista Park, Bloemfontein.
Newsweek has contacted Thakeng for comment.