A 71-year-old woman has been charged with assault for allegedly pepper-spraying a dog after an agility training session.
Onyx, a 7-year-old black Border collie, was temporarily blinded in the attack on Friday October 15, according to the dog’s owner, Jacqueline van Heerden, who is the co-owner of Fish Hoek Agility Dogs.
Classes take place three days a week, from 2pm to 6pm and on Saturdays from 8am to 3pm, and accommodate four dogs and their handlers per class on a piece of land rented from Paul Greyling Primary School.
Ms Van Heerden bought the training school five years ago, but she says it has run for the past 13 years without complaints.
“The residents from the flats next door love our dogs and so do the children,” she said.
However, the woman who allegedly attacked her dog had not been happy and had complained frequently for the past eight months about the dogs barking, she said.
The woman, who cannot be named as she has not appeared in court yet, called City Law Enforcement several times, but Law Enforcement found her complaints to be baseless after doing a noise evaluation.
“She complained about the noise from the pre-school, then about the groundskeeper taking out the bins, about the neighbours having a birthday party, and she would shout at us whenever we were busy at the training grounds,” Ms Van Heerden said.
A week before the incident, she said, she had sought a protection order against the woman for harassment. A court had been due to issue the order on Tuesday November 9.
On the day of the alleged attack, according to Ms Van Heerden, the woman hid behind a tree on the pavement on the outside of the fence surrounding the field and started screaming at one of the trainers as she walked to her car after the training session. This caused Onyx to run to the fence and this is when the woman sprayed the dog three times in the face at close range before returning to her flat, about 300 meters from Laerskool Paul Greyling.
Ms Van Heerden said some of the pepper spray’s residue had reached her, causing her skin and eyes to burn.
“Thankfully, I was not alone and the four people who witnessed the attack rushed towards me and Onyx with bottled water, and we rinsed her eyes. She was whimpering and frozen from shock,” she said.
Ms Van Heerden took Onyx to the vet the next day.
“The incident was very traumatic for her, but thankfully there was no permanent damage”.
Jackie Duncan Smith, a member of Fish Hoek Agility Dogs, said she had been walking towards the gate when a woman had appeared from behind a bush. She had then noticed that Onyx’s eyes were closed and the dog’s head, face and forepaws were wet.
“Someone shouted something about pepper spray, and I called for water. We flushed her eyes and put her in the car, and I continued to flush her eyes, chest and paws until she was calmer and able to open her eyes.”
Ms Duncan-Smith said the woman had been in no danger from Onyx or the other dogs as there had been a fence between her and them.
Fish Hoek police spokesman Warrant Officer Peter Middleton said the woman had been arrested and charged with assault on Tuesday October 26.
Cape of Good Hope SPCA spokeswoman Belinda Abraham said the SPCA chief inspector, Jaco Pieterse, was investigating the matter and would assist Ms Van Heerden to open a case of animal cruelty should there be sufficient evidence to warrant it.
Law Enforcement spokesman Wayne Dyason confirmed that law enforcement had received several complaints involving the training school from the woman. Each complaint had been investigated, and Law Enforcement officers had conducted five noise-monitoring sessions, taking the Animal By-law of 2010 into account, and there was no contravention of the by-law, he said.
Paul Greyling Primary School Principal Andre Engelbrecht said he was aware of the incident, but he declined to comment.