The National Council of SPCAs (NSPCA) grows more and more concerned by the amount of children that are implicated in the scourge of dog fighting in South Africa. The NSPCA was involved in recent joint operations with various SPCAs around Gauteng and Mpumalanga which has led to the detention, arrest and subsequent charging of many young people.

This time of the year which is perceived as the season of good will and kindness by most heralds a far more sinister time for the NSPCA Special Investigations Unit. The holiday season means idle, unsupervised youth being presented with the opportunity to engage in the violent and cruel past time of street corner dog fighting.

Dog fighting is a horrifically violent crime which affects a multitude of victims – from the voiceless animal victims stolen from loving homes and thrown into this circle of violence to the communities who suffer the consequences of a generation growing up with reduced empathy and elevated blood lust.

Two of the recent cases highlight how quickly children exposed to this premeditated animal abuse become desensitised to violence and start emulating the crimes they have witnessed.

In the remote town of Matsulu near Nelspruit, a young adult invited his 10 and 13 year old family members to watch as he filmed his Pitbull Terrier being incited to attack and kill a terrified crossbred dachshund. Immediate action was taken by the NSPCA Special Investigations Unit and the Nelspruit SPCA to trace the video, secure evidence, identify the property and identify the culprits responsible for such premeditated cruelty. Evidence of additional acts of animal cruelty were discovered and the perpetrator was arrested immediately. Four dogs and a cat were taken into safekeeping.

In a separate incident in Nigel, a group of teenagers were witnessed to have been attempting to fight crossbred community pets and suspected stolen companion animals in vacant plots and abandoned buildings. At one household an older Great Dane was rescued. Inspectors were informed that the gentle old dog had been stolen from Heidelberg because the young boy believed his large size would make him a good fighting dog. At the home of the identified ringleader, a pit bull cross was found hidden away in a room in a state of collapse. Eleven dogs were rescued and removed for veterinary treatment.

“It is very distressing to see children as young as 10 years of age involved in such a violent activity and how quickly they change from being unwilling spectators to hardened, active participants.” Says NSPCA Special Investigations Unit Inspector Nadia Hansa. “It’s also devastating to hear how their parents explain that they recognised the change in their children and how helpless they felt as they watched them become involved in other crimes such as narcotics, addiction and theft”

Witnessing violence towards animals and humans has long been shown to erode a child’s empathy and often leads to them becoming violent adults themselves. In both these communities the pattern is clear and it is not only animals and children who suffer but the future of our nation as well.

Our sincere gratitude is expressed to the Roodepoort, Benoni, Nigel and Nelspruit SPCAs for their swift and dedicated action to save these dogs and pursue justice for the victims of this crime.

Please contact the Benoni SPCA urgently if you have lost your black male Great Dane or Great Dane cross from the Heidelberg area or have any information that may lead to the identification and return of this dog. Benoni SPCA: 011 894 2814/5

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