Hout Bay beach has gone to the dogs. This is the impression of several Hout Bay residents after the City of Cape Town posted new signage on the beach indicating when and where dogs are allowed on the beach.
The issue of dogs roaming freely on the beach without a leash has been a controversial one for many years, and, in recent months, several posts and photos appeared on community Facebook groups, Hout Bay Organised (HBO) and Hout Bay Complete (HBC) of children and dogs being attacked by unleashed dogs.
Durbanville resident Saartjie Lecoq spent the afternoon of Sunday October 9 on the Hout Bay beach with her boyfriend, Elgee Bothma, and her two children, Matthew, 5, and Lee-Ann, 8.
After visiting Kirstenbosch Gardens earlier that day, the couple decided to go to Hout Bay beach as they had never been there before.
But their enjoyment turned to horror when both children were attacked by an unleashed Pitbull on the beach.
They parked near Dunes Restaurant, and the children ran off to play on the beach.
Ms Lecoq said they had noticed a man walking with his dog but had not paid much attention to it as it was a lovely day and the children were thrilled to play on the beach.
She said that the next moment the dog had jumped on her son, attacking him.
“He was screaming and Elgee tried to kick the dog off him. The dog was in attack mode and very aggressive and tried to bite him (Elgee) too,” she said.
The dog then turned to her daughter and attacked her as well.
The dog owner managed to take control of the dog and leashed it.
“He seemed very surprised as to what had just happened,” she said.
The couple then rushed to the emergency room where both children were treated.
Ms Lecoq said her son sustained deep bite marks under his right arm and below towards his ribcage while her daughter was bitten under her left arm and on her lower back area.
She said the wounds were not stitched but closed with steri-strips which is similar to stitches.
The dog owner has since apologised and has been very accommodating with the treatment of the children.
But Ms Lecoq said the incident could have been prevented if the dog had been leashed. The attack resulted in her children being terrified of dogs and Matthew has indicated that “he is never going to the beach again”.
Hout Bay Civic Association secretary, Roscoe Jacobs said the new signage on the beach was very confusing.
A sign on the beach in front of Mariner’s Wharf indicates that dogs are only allowed on the beach after 6pm in the afternoon and before 9am in the mornings from November 1 to March 31.
However, about 30 meters from this sign is another sign out mapping the beach. This sign indicates that dogs are allowed on that side of the beach from 9am to 6pm only.
Mr Jacobs says the sign contradicts the first one and can be interpreted that dogs are allowed on the beach all day but not in the evening after 6pm.
Then, about 30 metres from that sign is another sign indicating that dogs are allowed but must be leashed.
That sign is followed by three other signs about 30 metres apart indicating that dogs are allowed without a leash.
Then, the next sign after those three is the dog running zone where dogs can run off a leash to their heart’s content.
Mr Jacobs said according to the signs, dogs are allowed on the beach all day, off a leash except one area which is located between two off leash zones.
“It just doesn’t make sense,” he said.
He said he was attacked by a dog in his childhood and it was a very traumatic experience. He said dogs should not be allowed on the beach during the day and especially in peak season to protect locals and visitors using the beach.
Mayoral committee member for community services, Anda Ntsodo said she was shocked to hear about the attack on the beach.
She said the dog free-running zone on Hout Bay Beach is the middle section, from the river mouth westwards to the access point where the Law Enforcement building used to be.
“The majority of Hout Bay Beach is designated as dog-free, Ms Ntsodo said.
She indicated that dogs in a public place, including at the beach, should always be under the control of the owner and must be muzzled if the dog is thought to be unpredictable and a threat to others as per the Animal By-law.
At the moment, the nearest free-running beach for dogs is at Llandudno, where dogs are allowed between April 1 to October 31 at all times and from November 1 to March 31 only before 9am and after 6pm.
Ms Ntsodo said visitors looking for beaches free of dogs during the peak season are welcome to make use of the blue flag beaches during blue flag hours as these are required to be animal-free as per the criteria.
She said in cases where people are attacked by dogs not leashed, the incidents should be reported to the police and a case number obtained.
“Victims can request CCTV footage from the SAPS if further evidence is required.
“It is important that dog owners are held to account for putting others at risk,” she said.