Use of Pellet Guns

The National Council of SPCAs offers clarity on the issue of pellet guns.

Communications are received on a regular basis by the National Council of SPCAs and individual SPCAs throughout South Africa. Of great concern is the use of them to victimise animals either “for fun” or as a punishment for encroaching on properties or for simply becoming a nuisance.

Air rifles, to give these items their technical or correct name, no longer need to be licensed as firearms but they can still not be discharged in a built-up area.

They are not toys. Their use on living creatures may violate the Animals Protection Act and each instance needs to be reported.

Advocate John Welch, former Deputy Attorney General of the then Transvaal Province, has stated that the law makes no difference between discharging a pellet gun and a real firearm in suburban areas. “Do either and you go to jail” was his message.

This follows an incident in KwaZulu-Natal after girls at a school were seriously hurt, with injuries to the legs, chest, head and buttocks. A 19-year old youth from Durban was charged after pellets fired from his air rifle hit the learners. He claimed he was firing the pellets at glass bottles in his back yard and that the three girls had been hit by accident.

A further case demonstrates the general unacceptability of the use of these weapons. There has already been a criminal conviction of a person in KwaZulu-Natal for using a pellet gun on an animal. The NSPCA believes that the use of a pellet gun on any animal, including on any wild bird is a violation of the Animals Protection Act No 71 of 1962.

If you witness or know of anyone using a pellet gun on an animal or bird – report it! Advise your nearest SPCA as quickly as you can. Charges can then be laid in terms of the Animals Protection Act as well as charging the person(s) with discharging a pellet gun in an urban area, if this is the case.

Your swift action may be instrumental in saving an animal or animals a great deal of suffering, which is a worthy cause in itself.