Dog fighting happens all over Cape Town, but almost 40% of prosecutable cases originate in Ocean View, says the SPCA.
And all of those cases involve children, according to SPCA Cape of Good Hope spokeswoman Belinda Abraham.
“This is concerning as this routine exposure to animal abuse and neglect is a major contributing factor to a later manifestation of social deviance.”
Many active street fighters are teens, and younger children watch or take part in the fights, which are an introduction to gang life, she says.
According to Ocean View animal activist Ingrid de Storie, known in the area as the Mother Theresa of animals, many school drop-outs in Ocean View become involved in dog fighting. The children often came from broken homes.
A few weeks ago, she said, a young girl’s dog had gone missing after following her to school.
The girl was unaware her dog had been taken by youngsters and used for a dog fight.
Gravely injured after losing the fight, the dog’s head had been smashed in with a rock, Ms De Storie said.
The matter was reported to the police.
In a separate incident, a young boy’s dog was snatched while he was collecting wood. The dog was thrown in “the pit”, where it was badly injured, but it survived after being rushed to The Emma Animal Rescue Society (TEARS).
“I didn’t even have to look for the boy and his dog, I just followed the blood trail,” Ms De Storie said.
According to her, fights happen up in the mountains at a spot called the “American pit”.
“I’ve heard they kick the dogs while they are fighting and pinch their balls to make them more aggressive, and if the dogs lose the fight they will be further abused. “Just last week, she said, a badly injured dog had been left lying in a field for several hours before she was alerted.
The dog was taken to Tears for treatment.
Tears operations manager Mandy Store said they had recently seen several dogs involved in organised pit bull fighting and had contacted the SPCA to investigate.
Ms De Storie said pit bulls were mostly used for these fights and she would often see them walking around Ocean View with open wounds and scars.
“Their owners don’t take them to the vet to be treated after a fight.”
Ms Abraham said the American pit bull terrier had become the most popular fighting breed in South Africa because of its incredible loyalty and protectiveness towards its owner.
Tears director Marilyn Hoole said the animals they treated were innocent victims of informal dog
fights. The owners of the fighting dogs set them on people’s pets to incite them and train them to be vicious, she said.
“Organised dog fighting is huge and is definitely linked to gangs and drugs,” she said.
Dog fighting is illegal in South Africa under the Animal Protection Act. Those found guilty face three to 15 years in jail or fines between
R60 000 to R300 000.
“Because these criminals know it is illegal they go through great lengths to hide their activities and to avoid detection by law enforcement,” Ms Abraham said.
Community Safety MEC Albert Fritz has condemned dog fighting and urged communities to help stamp it out.
“Dog fighting is often linked to other forms of criminal behaviour such as illegal gambling, trade of illicit substances and exchanging of sexual favours. It is of great concern that young people are being drawn into dog fighting as they are seemingly being diverted into a life of criminality,” he said.
Ocean View police spokesman Sergeant Leon Fortuin said
there had been an increase in dog-fighting complaints, although he could not immediately provide statistics. A 15-year-old girl whose dog was stolen had recently opened a case.
Ms Abraham urged anyone witnessing a dog fight to try to get video footage, as long as it was safe to do so, of both the fight and the faces of those involved.
Reports can be made anonymously to 021 700 4158/9 during office hours or 083 326 1604 after hours or at www.capespca.co.za
Alternatively call the Animal Welfare Society for South Africa at 021 692 2626 or SAPS at 08600 10111 or by SMS on 32211.