Exactly one week after a piece of legislation aimed at giving the victims of dog maulings additional protection while introducing stricter penalties for the dogs’ owners was passed by Parliament, an 84-year-old Tunapuna pensioner was mauled to death by three of her son’s pitbulls yesterday. Sylvia Roberts, of Archibald Street, was alone at home shortly after midday when she walked into her enclosed verandah to speak to a postman who was calling at her front gate.
When she leaned over the verandah’s bannister to better hear what the postman was saying, one of her son, Glenroy’s, pitbull terriers, which was roaming in their yard, jumped up and grabbed her neck in its jaws. As she toppled over onto a small flight of stairs leading to the front porch, the two other pitbulls in the yard quickly joined the other in mauling a helpless Roberts.
By the time the postman and neighbours contacted police and they arrived on the scene, the officers found Roberts lying in the yard with the three dogs standing over her body, still repeatedly bitting her. The officers, led by Insp Mark Maharaj, quickly drew their guns and shot and killed the three animals. A district medical officer (DMO) pronounced her dead on the scene and her body was transported to the Forensic Science Centre, St James, where an autopsy will be performed today.
The dogs’ bodies were left strewn around the yard, with the responsibility of their disposal being left to Roberts’ son, who was not home at the time of the attack. When the T&T Guardian visited the scene, neighbours and curious onlookers expressed shock over the incident. “She was a good lady. She used to make plenty jokes,” Roberts’s neighbour Roy Peters said.
Peters said Roberts would normally speak to him from the verandah when he passed on mornings and did not venture into the yard when the dogs were not in their kennels. “You know 99 per cent of the time them dogs are locked up,” Peters said, shaking his head in disbelief. He said Roberts’s son worked night shifts at Carib Brewery and would usually let the dogs loose when he went to work.
Roberts was asked to work a double shift on Monday night and was unable to come home to do his daily routine of returning them to their enclosures yesterday, the T&T Guardian was told. Peters said he did not blame Glenroy for having the dogs in the yard, however, as he did so for security reasons. “These days you have to have protection. You can’t have a gun in your house so at least you have dogs,” Peters said.
An onlooker agreed with Peters, saying: “I can’t blame the man for having his dogs. The place dangerous. He can’t have his mother home alone by herself.” Yesterday’s mauling of the elderly woman was not the first to occur in the last few years. On August 26 last year, 82-year-old Lillian Bunsee was walking in her La Seiva Road, Maraval, home when she was attacked by her son’s pitbulls. In December 2008, 75-year-old Ann Kurban-Ali was killed by three of her son’s Rottweilers at his Diego Martin home.
The Dog Control Act, which seeks to regulate how certain breeds of dogs are kept by their owners, was passed in the Senate during an early morning session last Tuesday. The T&T Guardian understands the documentation on the legislation has not yet been sent to President Anthony Carmona for proclamation. Once proclaimed by the President, the legislation will introduce fines for owners who failed to register their dogs who are deemed dangerous and require them to obtain insurance for the animals.
Sgt Ganga Singh and detectives of the Tunapuna Police Station are continuing investigations into Roberts’s death.