Durban - “I’m not cruel to animals… This was a mistake,” a Chatsworth pensioner said on Wednesday, speaking publicly for the first time since he was arrested and charged for allegedly dragging a dog behind his car.
Mahendra Hariparsad, 58, said he had not known that his beloved family pet, Max, had been tied to his car when he drove out of his yard.
“My grandchild had tied the dog to the car when he came home from school on Monday and he didn’t tell anyone. It was so hot so Max was sitting under the car for shade,” he said.
“I didn’t notice that he was there when I got into my car. I couldn’t see him in my rear-view mirror.”
The Daily News reported on Tuesday that off-duty paramedic Vinod Dhanpal had stopped a motorist after seeing the dog being dragged. The witness calculated from the bloodstains that it had been dragged about 2km.
Dhanpal called the police, who arrested the driver. He also summoned the NSPCA, which later euthanised the severely injured dog.
“I was shocked when (Dhanpal) reached into my car, switched off the car and took away my car keys.
“I thought I was being hijacked,” Hariparsad told the Daily News.
“He told me a dog was tied behind the car. I was shocked to see the dog in that state. Max looked at me and I patted him and then he sat down,” he said.
“I’m not cruel to animals. I didn’t know he was there. We love animals. This was a mistake.”
Hariparsad claimed Dhanpal was very aggressive towards him and had not let him touch his dog further, or let him take it to the vet.
An NSPCA inspector who arrived told him he was taking the dog away and asked him to sign a form, he said.
When he was taken to the Chatsworth police station, he said he was held for a few hours before he was charged with animal cruelty and released on warning.
His family said they were devastated by the incident, which they described as an accident.
“He (Max) was our baby,” said his daughter-in-law, Priyanka Hariparsad.
She said she had received the dog as a gift from a friend two years ago. “My friend’s dog had puppies and she gave Max to me. I would often send her pics (pictures) of him,” she said.
Priyanka said that if she had gone with her father-in-law on Monday afternoon she would have seen Max tied to the car and would have released him.
She said that when she contacted the NSPCA on Tuesday morning to say Max was her dog, she was told Hariparsad had signed a form stating that Max was an unwanted dog and would be put down.
She was apparently told to come to the SPCA offices, but when she called a second time, she said she was told that Max had already been euthanised.
The family said they were offended by the discussion on social media sites accusing them of animal cruelty.
They said a website link to the Daily News story had been circulating via Blackberry Messenger and they had been receiving nasty telephone calls from people.
“People are getting the wrong impression,” said Hariparsad.
Police released Hariparsad on Monday, ordering him to appear in court next month – or pay a R500 admission-of-guilt fine by February 10.
However, he said he could not afford it.
“I’m a pensioner, receiving a disability grant. I don’t have this kind of money. I don’t know what to do,” he said.
Durban and Coast NSPCA spokeswoman, Caroline Smith, said Hariparsad had not informed the inspector at the scene that he would like to take the dog to his own vet for treatment.
She said Hariparsad willingly signed over the dog.
“The dog was in dire need of immediate veterinary attention. Our clinic supervisor’s decision to euthanise the dog upon admission to the SPCA was made in order to end the dog’s terrible suffering,” said Smith.
Meanwhile, Dhanpal who came to Max’s aid, has been hailed a hero.
He was on Wednesday presented with a cheque for R5 000 by Pietermaritzburg businessman Yusuf Kajee, who said he was so touched by his efforts that he decided to reward him for his good deed.
Kajee, the director of Amalgamated Tobacco Manufacturing, said the feedback on social network sites on the incident showed the compassion people had for animals.
Dhanpal said he appreciated the gesture and would use the money to repair one of his car rims that was damaged when he tried to get the driver of the vehicle dragging the dog to pull over.
He said he had been waiting at an intersection in Crossmoor, Chatsworth when he saw the dog bouncing along the road.
Dhanpal said he was overcome with emotions and had to be stern with the driver.
“My main concern was to get help for the dog and for police to investigate he matter,” he said. - Addtional reporting by Zainul Dawood