Dog attack family still in hospital

The family of Aubrey Murphy, 56, and his three-year-old granddaughter, Emma Murphy, who were both mauled by vicious dogs, said all they are focusing on now, is to support their loved ones through their “long road to recovery”.

Mr Murphy and Emma were expected to undergo more surgery this week, according to family spokesperson, Cliff Augustyn, who is Emma’s maternal grandfather.

Mr Murphy’s arm was severely injured, as he tried to protect Emma from the dogs’ attack in the backyard of his Garlandale Crescent home in Athlone, on Tuesday June 20. The dogs savaged little Emma’s head, and half of her scalp, just above her eyebrows, were ripped off.

By Sunday June 25, Mr Murphy was still in the intensive care unit at Vincent Palotti Hospital, and Emma was transferred from the intensive care unit to the high care unit of Red Cross Children’s Hospital.

It is believed on the afternoon of Tuesday June 20, Mr Murphy went to his backyard to investigate a commotion there, and was followed by Emma, who apparently then ran out ahead of him. Mr Murphy was home with Emma and her twin sister, Kate, at the time. Their neighbour’s two dogs, a Rottweiler and a pit bull, then attacked Emma, and also came at Mr Murphy as he tried to protect his granddaughter. Emma suffered injuries to her head and her face. Apart from the injuries to Mr Murphy’s arm, he also had severe bite marks on his body.

The dogs managed to gain entry onto Mr Murphy’s property, despite having a two-metre-long fence. It was initially believed the dogs scaled the wall, but Mr Augustyn said this cannot be confirmed.

“There has always been a little gap between the Vibracrete wall, but it was always covered. Nobody can say whether they scaled the wall, or squeezed themselves through the gap. It would all just be speculation,” he said.

Mr Augustyn described the incident as an “awful, horrendous” one, and said the two have a long way to go to full recovery. He added though, that they are both responding well to their treatment. Both have had reconstructive surgery done, and they might undergo more surgery this week.

When asked if the family will take any steps against the owner of the dogs, Mr Augustyn said they are only focusing on the recovery of Mr Murphy and Emma now.

“Our focus is not on that now. We have been inundated with this question, and for now, all we want, is for Aubrey and Emma to get back home and start the healing process. The authorities impounded the dogs and the law must take its course,” Mr Augustyn said.

Spokesperson for the Cape of Good Hope SPCA, Belinda Abrahams, confirmed that four dogs have been taken from the neighbour’s property. The dogs are currently cared for at its premises in Grassy Park, while the SPCA awaits instructions from the City of Cape Town’s law enforcement.

Ms Abrahams explained that law enforcement needs to make a decision on the fate of the dogs (whether they will be euthanised), and by Monday June 26, they have not given any instruction yet.

“The investigation is ongoing,” Ms Abrahams added.

Neighbours of the Murphys in Garlandale Crescent, said they have all been living in fear of the “vicious dogs”. One neighbour, who refused to be named, as he feared being intimidated by the owner of the dogs, said his dogs were also attacked when the other dogs made their way onto his property.

The neighbours said they are relieved that the dogs were impounded.

Another neighbour, who were among those who helped Mr Murphy and Emma, and who also did not want to be named, said: “In this road, we all know one another, and care for one another. We are a close-knit community. On the day of the incident, someone banged a spade against a tree, to get the dogs away. To the dogs it sounded like gunshots. So when they fled from the sound, I ran to help pull Mr Murphy and Emma away from them. Mr Murphy was still holding little Emma in his arms, trying to protect her from those dangerous dogs. The people who own them are the only ones who do not interact with our other neighbours in this road. They are isolated and their doors are always locked. To be honest, we are all a bit cautious when it comes to them.”

No one at the dog owner’s house answered the door when the Athlone News was there.