Pit Bull Mayhem in Australia Kills Girl, Injures Mother and Child

| by Denise A Justin

On August 17, 2011, around 8:00 p.m. four-year-old Ayen Chol was watching television with her cousins in the living room of a relative’s home when a neighbor’s Pit Bull Terrier-mix ran into the house and attacked and killed her as she fought against the animal.

Her cousin, Anglina Mayout, 30, was bitten on her hands and arms trying to stop the attack by the dog, even beating it with a table to protect the children. Anglina’s five-year-old daughter also suffered serious bite wounds to the back of her head.  The attack occurred in the Melbourne, Australia, suburb of St. Albans, which is governed by New South Wales (NSW).

The Herald Sun reports, “Ayen was clinging to her mum's leg when she was fatally mauled.”

Neighbors heard Aven’s mother screaming for help after running into the street and they rushed to the home.  Witnesses reported the scene inside the house as “horrific. “ One neighbor said he ran to the red brick home and found Aven lying on the floor in a pool of blood from the serious wounds to her head.  He tried to resuscitate her while receiving instructions over the phone from paramedics.

''It's something that I will have to live with for a long time,'' the distraught man said. ''We were just trying to revive her and we couldn't do anything about it.''

The Moree Champion reports that the owner of the dog is a 30-year-old man who was cooperative with the police.  When he was alerted about the attack, he ran to the victims’ home to drag the animal home before returning. He appeared to be “devastated” about what had happened, witnesses said.  He could be facing serious charges under strict NSW laws.

The pit bull was not licensed, as required by law and was destroyed by authorities the following day.

Although no prior complaints were on file, Anisah Mama, who lives next door to the dog, said that the pit bull was aggressive and she had feared for the safety of her children, ages 9 and 13.

Ms. Mama said that, although she hadn’t talked to Aven’s family, she had seen them and had often noticed the children playing outside. ''I can say they are good people. They are fun-loving people,'' she said. ''It's very awful, very sad.''

Ayen's mother, Jackline Anchito, said her daughter had watched her die trying to fight off the dog. ''She was a loving child and a very clever child. She died struggling for her life.” Aven was also described as talkative and artistic.

ABC News reports that Aven and her Mother and two siblings were staying at the home in Melbourne because their own house had burned down last month.  Her father was on a trip to the Sudan.

St. Albans is in the state of Victoria.  The Victorian Premier, Ted Baillieu, said such attacks were unacceptable and the government would try and outlaw dangerous dogs as soon as possible, reported the Moree Champion.

''There cannot be a more tragic situation than to see a young child like this killed in this horrible, horrible way,'' he said.

Failure to control “dangerous” dogs compared to “culpable driving”

An article in the Sydney Morning Herald (8/20/11),entitled, Death of girl forces new thinking at dog review, states:

A companion-animal taskforce convened by a NSW government backbencher [unseated member of Parliament]…will begin deliberations on Monday on aspects of state legislation under a deepening shadow cast by this week's fatal dog attack in Victoria…and is likely to discuss Thursday's attack, in which Ayen Chol, 4, was fatally mauled by a dog described as a pit bull-mastiff cross.”  . 

NSW already has some of the strictest companion-animal control laws in the country, reports the Herald.

“Restricted breeds''—including the American pit bull terrier or pit bull terrier, the Japanese Tosa and the Argentinian and Brazilian fighting dogs--cannot be sold, bred or imported in New South Wales.

New South Wales consists of 152 towns, each with its own council. Councils have the power to declare any dog ''dangerous'', which places special responsibilities on the owner for control and confinement. Penalties include a maximum jail term of two years and fines of up to $55,000. However, enforcing the laws can be costly for the council.

The Sydney Morning Herald also reports,  “A spokesman for the NSW Minister for Local Government, Don Page, said yesterday the state's 152 councils had been reminded of their responsibilities after a magistrate's decision to fine Warren Council $120,000 for negligence in failing to act on complaints about the dogs involved in the attack there.” (In 2006, Tyra Kuehne, 4, at Warren, was attacked by several cross-bred dogs.)

But so far the state has not seen the intense reaction in Victoria, where the National Party deputy leader, Peter Walsh, said failure of dog owners to control dangerous dogs would be likened to culpable driving. He also said that pit bull terriers had ''lost their right to exist in Victoria.”