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Pitbull owners stand trial over child's death

Three people go on trial on Monday in connection with the death of a six year old boy savaged by three pitbull terriers near Zurich last December.

The prosecution is contending that the boy's death could have been prevented had the accused acted correctly and responsibly.

Also in court for the trial in Zurich will be the boy's parents and a 26 year old woman who witnessed the attack and who has since had chronic post traumatic stress.

The dog owners stand accused of manslaughter and of causing grievous bodily harm through negligence.

The prosecutor, Susanne Steinhauser, is seeking a prison sentence of two-and-a-half years for the principle accused, a 42-year-old Italian, a suspended sentence of 16 months for his 29-year-old Swiss girlfriend and a suspended sentence of 14 months for the owner of the flat where the couple lived with their dogs.

No chance
The charges, published last month, cover in detail the victim's ordeal on the morning of December 1, 2005 and how another boy narrowly avoided a similar fate.

A mother had taken her child to school and was returning with her younger son when three pit bulls suddenly appeared. The dogs adopted an attacking stance and surrounded them for more than a minute. The mother and son managed to remain motionless.
Then the six:year:eek:ld boy arrived, walking along the path to school. The dogs focused on him before running towards him. He tried to run away but the dogs jumped on him.

The boy sustained grave head and neck injuries and was most probably already dead by the time the dogs stopped their attack, according to the prosecutor.

The mother who witnessed the attack was very shaken up and has not been able to work since.

Systematic negligence
The prosecution aims to prove that the negligence that led up to the events was almost systematic.

Before escaping, the dogs were kept in a makeshift shelter on the flat's terrace. Five dogs had a total of 3.75 square metres to move around in. They had no difficulty in moving the planks and gaining access to the road.

The ten-month-old pit pulls had been imported, legally, from Italy two days previously. Since their birth they had been confined with two other dogs in a single room occupied by the mother of the principle accused.

The dogs had never seen another human being, had never been taken for walks and showed signs of having injured one another.

The prosecutor claims that the accused would have been able to save the victim's life ? "with a probability that verges on certainty" ? if he had respected his duties and responsibilities as a dog owner.

His girlfriend was subject to the same charges since she looked after the dogs in the same capacity as her boyfriend.

What's more, after the attack she managed to recapture two of the five escaped dogs but then returned to the flat rather than tend to the victim.

The flat owner, a 39-year-old Swiss who had just bought one of the pit bulls, faces the same charges. He saw the dogs escape but did not alert anyone, losing valuable time in finding them.

The trial is expected to last until Thursday or Friday.

swissinfo, Ariane Gigon Bormann in Zurich


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