Durban - Confusion reigns over a new standing order from eThekwini Metro Police which ordered that specialised police dogs that are injured or too old to work should be put down, a decision that has outraged dog handlers and animal rights activists.
In the past, boarded dogs could be bought by their handlers.
The order, which had originally emanated from Metro Police logistics head Innocent Chamane, has now been put on hold by the council and contested by the force’s deputy head, Steve Middleton.
According to Chamane, police dogs should be viewed as “an asset” and, as such, ought to be destroyed when they are no longer able to work.
In an e-mail seen by the Sunday Tribune, Chamane insists that boarded dogs and horses from the mounted unit should be destroyed.
“In the absence of the mentioned pieces of confirmation, it will not be proper to rule out the possibility of putting both the dogs and the horses down.
“I understand the issue of personalising assets, but we must be careful about using emotions against the act.”
In the e-mail, he outlines that the SPCA will be the organisation to be tasked with putting down the animals.
“In terms of disposal, you cannot dispose of the item and then use it again for the same purpose,” he said in the e-mail.
“I did tell the dog unit and horse unit staff that disposing means that you are making that particular item unusable.
“This means that you cannot dispose of a horse and then give it to someone to ride again, or dispose of a dog and give it to someone to use it again for the same purpose,” he said.
Middleton contradicts Chamane, insisting that there is a tariff in place that allows officers to purchase their old service dogs.
“We have members deployed with dogs that move as a team, and this team builds a very unique bond with each other.
“There comes a time when, even though a member can carry on working, the dog comes to the end of its operational deployment life.
“The tariff was instituted to allow the respective handlers to buy their dogs to take home ultimately, so they could enjoy the rest of their lives in comfort with families that they knew,” Middleton wrote in an e-mail to Eugene Nzama, head of the Metro Police, asking for him to intervene.
“Thus, I am refreshing your memory about why this tariff was instituted and authorised, and I am sure you will not allow the alleged instruction (to destroy the animals) to be followed through,” he wrote.
One officer, who could not be named because he is not authorised to speak to the media, said the bond between humans and dogs was special.
“We spend years working with our one dog, and we develop a bond.
“I know that my dog is like a child to me, and I care for him just like he does for me.
“Now all of a sudden I am told that when he is too old to work, or if he gets injured, he will have to be put down. That is something that I will never accept,” the officer said.
But Chamane defended his stance, saying the asset disposal policy of the city was clear, and that he was simply following it to the letter.
“All that I am doing is following what is prescribed in policy, and that is that. In terms of the disposal of the animals because they are assets, that will be handled by the SPCA.
“The city will under no circumstances sell these animals. They will be given directly to the SPCA,” he said.
However, after the Sunday Tribune intervened, the city seems to have changed tack.
Communications director Tozi Mthethwa said that handlers would be able to keep their retired dogs.
“According to current Metro Police standing orders and tariffs passed by council, at the end of a dog’s operational life, it may be taken over by the handler in order for the dog to retire in the hands of someone with whom it is emotionally connected,” she said.