Please note: Since the publication of this article on 14 March 2018, the NSPCA has informed us that there were errors in the text; which we have corrected (as of 15 March 2018). We sincerely apologise to both the NSPCA and to our readers for the mistakes and for any inconvenience caused.
According to the National Council of SPCAs (NSPCA), the occurrence of organised dog fights – having grown into a multimillion rand industry – increased by 500 percent between 2012 and 2016. Moreover, the phenomenon is certainly not confined to disadvantaged areas.
Wendy Willson, of the NSPCA Special Investigations Unit, has noted:
Dog fighting crosses all cultures and occupations, [including] doctors and lawyers, and is rapidly growing among young people.
The extent of the blood sport
The Special Investigations Unit has informed us that, currently, charges have been brought against 110 individuals in almost 30 separate cases. The accused, in terms of occupation, range from petrol attendants to business people and school teachers. Collectively these cases involve over 200 fighting dogs.
Encouragingly, sentences have been handed down in the recent Dobsonville dog fighting case, and sentencing in the well-publicised Tsakane case is set to take place on 18 April 2018.
The above figures, however, nonetheless demonstrate that the problem has reached epidemic proportions. But to even begin to understand the true cost to the dogs trapped in the blood sport, we’re going to focus on two cases that have been well documented.
The Atteridgeville bait dog
This appalling case received widespread attention as the unimaginably cruel abuse was caught on video. With a firmly duct taped mouth and a chain to keep pulling her into a frenzied attack, an obviously undernourished street dog was used to train a fighter for the ring.
The dog, possibly used for six training sessions in three days, eventually became too weak to continue, and, having outlived her usefulness, was allowed to be mauled to death.
Warning – extremely disturbing and graphic content
It took two years to obtain a verdict, and sentences of direct imprisonment that varied from eight to 20 months were handed down to the perpetrators. These sentences excluded the possibility of a fine, and only half of the jail term was suspended for five years. Notably, justice may never have been served without the work of the NSPCA.
Wolves in sheep’s clothing – Fanie and Rina Joubert
To reiterate the fact that dog fighting covers the full socio-economic spectrum, we’ll briefly consider the cases of the now divorced couple, Fanie and Rina Joubert.
In a raid conducted on a plot just outside of the upmarket town of Plettenberg Bay, SAPS officers arrested ten men, including Fanie Joubert, for contravening the Animals Protection Act No. 71 of 1962. Joubert had served as the technical chairman and a committee member of the Pitbull Union.
It is reported that when arriving on scene, SAPS officers walked in on a live dog fight, taking place in a six by six metre wooden enclosure. There were blood stains on the walls and floor, and both of the dogs – fighting for the lives – were severely wounded and bloodied, too. It was also reported that, when appearing in court in the State’s case brought against six of the ten men, the defendants wore clean and crisp Polo shirts.
Fanie Joubert was found guilty of animal fighting and animal cruelty in two separate cases.
The plot, however, thickens. In 2016, Rina Joubert – who had served as the treasurer and a committee member of the Pitbull Union – entered into a plea bargain with the State after 23 animals, including Pitbull Terriers, were found with dangerously infected wounds on her Vanderbijlpark property.
Consequences, though, were forthcoming: a sentence of a R30 000 fine, or 15 months in jail, was handed down to Rina Joubert. But the court ordered that R20 000, or ten months, were to be suspended for five years, “on condition that she does not obstruct the NSPCA or contravene any section of the Animals Protection Act during that period”.
Help if you can
Despite these successes, horror stories of the vilest cruelty abound, and whereas the NSPCA does its utmost to save dogs thrown into this violent existence, many are left with broken and mutilated bodies – not to mention broken spirits that can simply no longer withstand the insatiable blood lust.
Secondly, donate generously – every cent will be used to protect innocent animals. SMS “FIGHT” to 38018 for an affordable contribution of R25, or create a monthly debit order at an amount you can spare for an incredibly worthy cause. Alternatively, explore their other easy donation options.
Through collective action, we can all make a difference.