Monday, February 18, 2019

Jamaica: Life after dog attack

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Jamaica Observer:–  SEVEN-year-old Tafferell Taffe has undergone five surgeries since he was viciously attacked by a pit bull at his family home in Parry Town, St Ann. And although weary of the painful procedures, he has more to undergo.

He was only three years old when, while playing with his seven-year-old cousin in the family yard, the unprovoked dog set its sight on him. Before the then infant could think to run, the canine locked its jaws around his head, shaking him for a sustained period of time before ripping off the right side of his cheek.

Nearly all dog bites leave some reminder of the event, and on a daily basis Tafferell asks his mother Annique Lewis if his scar will ever go away.

Doctors performed emergency surgery after the attack and skin from his stomach was transferred to his face in a skin graft procedure. But the life-changing scar still lingers as a reminder of what he told the Jamaica Observer was the worst day of his life.

“I am afraid of dogs; I don’t like them. I always remember what happened. I can’t forget it because it was the worst day ever for me,” Tafferell said. The attack occurred on January 2, 2014. The dog owner was a family member.

All is well now, he told the Observer, except for the scar approximately two centimetres wide at the corner of his mouth.

“I always ask my mother about it, Miss. I don’t like it. Why did that have to happen?” he said.

Lewis was devastated when she heard agonising screams from her only child and saw the dog gripping him. She rushed to protect him but attempts to get the dog to let go of the infant were futile, as the animal failed to respond to machete wounds inflicted.

“He is traumatised. We are still traumatised. Seeing your child and seeing the scars not easy. It’s not something easy to look at; it just brings back memories at all times. He’s still in the care of the [Bustamante Hospital for Children], he still has to do his medical check-ups. The right side of his cheek close to his mouth was ripped out completely. He still has to do procedures to this day; he still has more to do,” Lewis said.

“I wish I could explain to you how I felt. I couldn’t keep up, I was heavy. I was next door to death. Just seeing the dog have your child mauling him,it was painful. He was bit from the right side of his face, his head, coming right down to his mouth and back to the middle of his head. The dog bit out his tear duct. When him rip out his cheek that’s the time he let go,” she said.

Tafferell was rushed to hospital where he spent two weeks.

Today Lewis wants the Government to strengthen legislation governing dangerous dogs.

“They should get rid of all of them. It shouldn’t just be that you can’t bring them in the country, they should ban them from the streets. Right now my neighbour has four and Tafferell is afraid to go outside. I don’t let him go out there. Ban them, man,” she said.

The attack on Tafferell occurred just about two years before four-year-old Joshua Zhang was mauled in the street by a neighbour’s dogs in Manor Park, St Andrew, in March 2016.

Joshua’s mother, Aleiya Chin, had left home with him and his sister, and the three were passing dogs lying in front of the neighbour’s open gate by the side of the road. Seconds later, the family was attacked. The young boy suffered spinal injury as a result.

Last month, Minister of Agriculture Audley Shaw appealed to dog owners to prevent them from harming people in order to avoid forcing the Government to put a ban on some breeds.

He was speaking against the background of the death of 66-year-old Whittington Cole, who was walking in his Hampton Green community in St Catherine on July 21 when he was mauled by four dogs believed to be pit bulls and Rottweilers.

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