Dog owner liable for damage caused during attack, court rules

Gerald Cloete, 42, in the Port Elizabeth High Court
Gerald Cloete, 42, in the Port Elizabeth High Court
Image: Eugene Coetzee

The Port Elizabeth High Court has found that a Rowallan Park homeowner is liable for all the damage caused by his dogs after they attacked a passerby in February 2017.

Judge Murray Lowe ordered that Christiaan van Meyeren compensate Gerald Cloete, 42, who lost his arm after Van Meyeren’s dogs attacked him in Rowan Street.

In his judgment Lowe also described Jacques van Schalkwyk, a fellow resident who bravely fought off the dogs to save Cloete, as courageous.

Animal owners are held strictly liable for damage caused by their animals, without the plaintiff having to prove negligence or intent on the side of the owner.

Advocate Dirk Coetsee, for Van Meyeren, however, argued that the court should make an exception in this case.

Van Meyeren told the court the gate was always locked and he was not at home at the time of the attack.

He claimed, however, that an unknown intruder had broken open the locks on the gate, allowing the dogs to escape.

Advocate Pieter Mouton, for Cloete, said the court should find that the gates were never locked.

Mouton also asked the court to make a punitive cost order against Van Meyeren for at first denying that the dogs belonged to him, even though he testified that he had known since the day of the attack that it was his dogs that were responsible.

The Port Elizabeth man who was horrifically mauled in a pitbull attack – in which he lost an arm – is suffering recurring nightmares that the dogs are still coming after him. Making a slow recovery but still in tremendous pain, Gerald Cloete, 40, miraculously survived the savage attack by three pitbulls in Rowallan Park on February 18. Filmed by: Karen van Rooyen Edited: Deneesha Pillay

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