A 2-year-old girl is reportedly traumatised after a dog attacked her at a day care centre in Witbank.
The Witbank News reported that the incident occurred on October 9 when the toddler asked her carer for juice.
According to the carer, the labrador took that opportunity to bite her without warning.
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First responders, Legacy Emergency Specialists, administered first aid to the girl before transporting her to Life Cosmos Hospital.
"She was crying a lot. We gave some medication to calm her down. She was sleepy due to the medication," Legacy Emergency Specialists director Gene Jacobs told News24 on Thursday.
Dog attacks provoked
The toddler had injuries to her face, ears, eye socket and tear duct. She underwent a two-hour operation at Highveld Eye Hospital to repair the damage to her eye.
The girl's mother told the publication that they've removed her from the day care centre until her next surgery to remove the drainage pipe, and are still deciding if they will send her back to this specific centre once she's recovered.
The dog was put down immediately after the incident, the "guilt-ridden" day care centre owner said, adding that the 4-year-old dog previously never showed any signs of aggression and had grown up with the pupils.
According to US animal behaviourist Dr Ilana Reisner, almost all dog bites are provoked, even when it is not obvious to humans.
"There is a danger in concluding that bites are random. If there isn't a 'real' stimulus triggering the aggression, how can it be prevented or managed? The basic premise that bites occur in response to something is exactly what helps us understand dog and child behaviour. Dog and child behaviour work together to increase bite risk," she writes.
She warns parents that some dogs should never be left with infants and that adults should watch for dog behaviour such as lip-licking, leaving the room, yawning or whining.
Dog bites are a complex issue, says Australian animal behaviourist Dr Kersti Seksel.
"A dog's behaviour in certain situations and a person's skills in picking up certain cues can play a role in reducing dog bite incidents in the community.
"Dog behaviour is an interplay of genetics, learning and environment and all of these factors need to be considered, yet rarely are," she said at the Australian Veterinary Association conference in Melbourne.
According to The Animal Behaviour Consultants of SA, owners should acclimatise dogs in anticipation of a new baby, by using a doll sprinkled with baby powder and showing the doll affection.
Dogs should be allowed to have brief interactions with a new baby in the home and be praised and encouraged, writes the organisation's Carole O'Leary.
Legacy Emergency Specialists said that the dog attack was a rare event and the service had only responded to a few cases in their two-year operational history.
"It's a very isolated thing we don't do it a lot. I know of two or three cases because it's not an everyday occurrence," said Jacobs.