PEOPLE islandwide have been left shocked and horrified after a five-year-old boy was killed by an Akita dog while visiting a family friend’s home in the village of Skarinou on Easter Monday.
The boy was buried yesterday afternoon and the dog’s owner was released without charge until police complete their investigations, while the one-year-old dog has been put down.
The incident happened on Monday at around 1.30pm in front of the boy’s 20-year-old half-sister according to police. The two families were due to have a meal to mark the Easter celebrations, as both the owner of the dog and the child’s father have been close friends for decades.
State-pathologist Sophocles Sophocleous said the boy, Eantas Loizou, had died from shock after having his carotid artery severed. Sophocleous also revealed the child had other bites on his neck, his right arm, his head and his back.
According to reports young Eantas had been playing with the dog under the watchful eye of his sister who however did not manage to react in time once the dog began attacking.
The boy was taken to Kofinou medical centre by his father and then by a police patrol car to Larnaca General Hospital but he was pronounced dead on arrival.
The funeral took place yesterday at 5pm in Larnaca and the parents asked for those attending to dress in white to represent little Eantas’ innocent soul. Instead of wreaths they asked people to make contributions to the Anti Cancer Society where the boy was a young volunteer.
The dog was put down by veterinary services and the owner, who was arrested by police for not keeping the Akita on a leash, was released yesterday without charge.
The owner, and the boy’s father both serve at the same army unit in the Larnaca area and had been friends from a young age.
Colonel Andy Loizou, the boy’s father, called on the public to stop the arguing which began on social networking sites shortly after news of the incident broke as people rushed to point the finger at certain dogs and dog owners. He told reporters his son, would not have wished people to blame the dog as he had loved animals.
According to police spokesman, Andreas Angelides, the dog’s owner was released without charge until all relevant statements are taken and the case was seen by attorney-general Petros Clerides. “Once we have finished taking statements it will be clear which laws have been broken,” he said.
The dog was not on a leash at the moment he attacked the boy, according to Angelides.
“From the moment that the dog was at home and wasn’t on a leash and there wasn’t someone supervising the dog then any incident is the owner’s responsibility whether they are in enclosed spaces or in open spaces,” he said.
“Dog owners must take precautionary measures to prevent such incidents from happening, like keeping their dogs on a leash even in open spaces because even if their pets don’t have a history of attacking people you never know what might happen or how any animal could react,” he added.
Speaking on state radio yesterday, head of veterinary services, Giorgos Kyriakides said that all dogs under certain circumstances can be dangerous. “Every dog is different and they have their own individual character,” he said. He added that Akitas are very strong dogs that are very protective of their owners and their living area but they are also quiet and disciplined animals, he said. “Young children should not remain on their own with Akitas,” he said, adding they could be jealous animals and any movement made by someone other than their owner could be construed as a threat.
Kyriakides warned that buying a dog was a huge responsibility that required more than the basics of feeding and walking them. These included training from a young age and socialising the dogs with other animals and with humans. “If a dog is not properly socialised then you cannot tell how it may react in a given moment,” he concluded.
Laws need to be put in place to help police handle the many incidents of owners mistreating their dogs, farmers poisoning hunting dogs, strays and dog chipping according to former environment commissioner Charalambos Theopemptou.
“Pet shops continue to sell all kinds of breeds which has resulted in dog shelters, which are not aided by the government, becoming overcrowded and dog shelter owners having to put animals down as their owners cannot be found,” he said. Theopemptou added that certain breeds of dog should not even be brought to Cyprus, not because they may be aggressive but due to the climate. “If you cannot care for a dog in the correct manner by keeping it in temperatures that it is comfortable in, then you shouldn’t own that breed of dog,” Theopemptou said.
In response to Theopemptou’s calls for legislation to be put in place regarding dogs, Justice Minister, Ionas Nicolaou responded that every law must be regularly studied and modernised. “Our priority right now is to allow the parents of the unfortunate child and the dog owner to try to recover from this tragedy,” he said. “What I can say right now and it must be comprehended by those who wish to keep pets at home is that they must take appropriate protective measures,” he added. Nicolaou concluded that we must learn to be more consistent in our actions.
The Green Party also joined the debate yesterday, calling on an end to the complete lawlessness regarding dog ownership. “The main cause of this fatal incident is the ineffectiveness of our government and the criminal indifference to finally implement an effective law for dog owners,” a party statement said. The statement went on to say that the Green Party had submitted an amendment to the dog law eight years ago that was still pending approval. Green party General-secretary George Perdikis will meet with the justice minister today to discuss the creation of a special police department dealing with animals.
THERE ARE two types of Akitas, of differing weights and sizes: the original Japanese Akita breed and an American Akita. The dog which mauled the unfortunate five-year-old is believed to be an American Akita.
A look through various magazines and websites will tell you that the Akita is a docile, intelligent, courageous and fearless dog. It is careful and very affectionate with its family. Sometimes spontaneous, it needs firm training as a puppy, and a firm, confident, consistent pack leader. Without it, the dog can become very wilful and possibly very aggressive towards other dogs and animals.
The Akita is considered a first-class guard dog in Japan, and Japanese mothers often leave the children of the family in the Akita’s care, though they should definitely be supervised with other household pets and children. They are extremely loyal and thrive on firm leadership from their handlers. Although the breed may tolerate and be good with the children of its own family, if the dog is not taught that it is below all humans in the pack order, it may not accept other children. If teased, the breed may bite, thus children must be taught to display leadership qualities and at the same time to respect the dog.
Akitas consider eye contact a challenge and can react aggressively, therefore one is advised not to get down to the Akita’s level and close to the dog’s face unless well acquainted with the dog. Such positions can - and do - trigger an aggressive response.
One such incident which went unreported a year ago was that involving nine-year-old Sophia from Larnaca, who was bitten in the face and arm by an Akita belonging to her 10-year-old sister’s friend. The six-year-old male Akita had no previous history of violence but as Sophia’s 44-year-old mother told the Mail, she felt she should have seen the warning signs as the dog was not overly friendly or affectionate.
“Out of nowhere and with no warning, as the three girls were playing with the dog just two metres from where we were sitting, the dog turned around and bit Sophia’s cheek and arm,” she said. The bite was far from a friendly nibble and required 32 stitches for the unfortunate nine-year-old.
“Our first reaction was that we were just happy her life was not in danger, but something clearly needs to be done to protect children from certain breeds of dangerous dogs,” she added.
The dog owners were horrified by the incident and immediately took the dog to their vet to have him put down. “We were shocked by the incident and decided that we did not want to press charges, but the only way we could consider this is if the animal was put down,” Sophia’s mother said. “The vet, however, did not want to put the animal down as he had been caring for it for the last six years; it made us realise that strict laws need to be passed, which say that as soon as a dog bites a human being it needs to be put down,” she added. The 44-year-old told the Mail she is an animal lover herself but felt that specific breeds need to be banned as they are quite clearly dangerous.
The Akita is not a banned breed on the island. Currently in Cyprus, Pit Bull Terriers or American Pit Bulls, Japanese Tossas, Dogo Argentines and Fila Brazilieros have been banned.