Durban - An overpowering stench of death hung in the air as Durban and Coast SPCA inspectors made their way between faeces, dog carcasses and piles of raw meat to rescue 80 dogs from a home in Clare Estate.
The animal welfare organisation said the scene was one of the most horrific they had attended, and described the woman who owned the dogs as a “hoarder” and said her actions amounted to animal cruelty.
However, the woman who lives in the house, who did not wish to be identified, said she had been unfairly targeted and knew the names of every animal on her property.
Caroline Smith, general manager of the Durban and Coast SPCA, said they had received a complaint about dogs at a house on Chiltern Drive, bordering Palmiet Nature Reserve, and applied for a warrant to access the property.
“The inspectors and support team were unprepared for what faced them when they arrived at a Clare Estate house to execute a warrant of seizure.
“The warrant was obtained by senior inspector Candice Sadayan because of concerns regarding the welfare of animals on the property, following a report from a member of the public.
“What they found was a house of horrors. They were at first hit by an overwhelmingly putrid stench caused by rotting dog corpses, debris, filth and dog faeces from corner to corner. They found more than 80 dogs living in a foul and disease-ridden environment, some barely clinging to life and others riddled with parasites, disease and injuries,” said Smith.
When the Independent on Saturday arrived, piles of raw meat, circled by flies, had been left uncovered outside the gate. Several SPCA vans were being loaded with dogs, and a senior inspector was in tears.
A neighbour, who did not want to be named, said they had repeatedly complained to the police and SPCA about the dogs and the woman.
“It’s very sad, she keeps to herself but the dogs are not in a good state. People always come to drop off meat at her house, she said she had between 50 to 60 dogs, but we know there are more.”
Eighty dogs were rescued and more than 20 carcasses of dogs were found inside the house, including the owner’s bedroom and en-suite bathroom, said Smith.
“They were either completely decomposed and now skeletons, or decomposing. Some had clearly only died a couple of days prior to the raid. The animals’ living conditions, their prolonged suffering and deaths, had a profound, traumatising effect on our team. Never in memory has any more horrific scene been dealt with by our inspectorate,” she said.
Many of the dogs had to be put down at the SPCA to end their suffering and it is doubtful that any of them are healthy enough, or socialised enough, to rehabilitate and rehome, said Smith.
“Investigations revealed that the owner allegedly takes in unwanted and stray animals from the community. I would like to send out a very clear message to members of the public who are simply handing over animals to people to care for and ‘rescue’. There is a fate much worse than humane euthanasia. This case illustrates it in no uncertain terms.
“Dogs were left to die slow, painful deaths without veterinary treatment. The SPCA has the experience, expertise and skill to take care of animals. I implore people to hand over unwanted and stray animals to their local SPCA so that they can be dealt with in the best interest of the animal, and to prevent prolonged suffering,” said Smith, adding that they would open a charge to prosecute the woman under the Animals Protection Act.
Some of the conditions the dogs were found to have include emaciation and dehydration, coccidiosis (from eating faeces and exposure to faeces), erhlichiosis (tick bite fever), hookworm and roundworm infestations, blindness, infected bite wounds from fighting among themselves, severe tick and flea infestations, interbreeding and open, foetid wounds on jutting-out bones, said Smith.
Smith also said they had recommended to local police that the woman needed the intervention of social workers to help her.
Meanwhile, the woman said the dogs were “her children” and was pursuing legal action to get them back.
She alleged she had been reported to the local SPCA because it was part of a plot by individuals involved in land invasions to remove her from her property.
“I know every one of my dogs. Each one has a name. They are treated by a vet, and I take care of them, so there is no case of cruelty. The SPCA comes in here and throws things around to make it look messy. They make money from sensationalism. The irony is that this place, after my passing, is meant to go to the animals, for a snake park or an animal hospital, but this is how they treat me. I suffered indignation and disrespect when they used force to access my property, and I will charge them,” said the emotional woman.
She maintained that the carcasses found on her property had been poisoned by people who wanted to hurt her, and that she had been preserving some carcasses for tissue samples to be used in a police investigation.
“There is a bigger reason as to why I am being targeted. It has to do with land invasion. Some of my dogs were old, so yes some of them may not be in good health, but they are old and some are blind. I just want my babies back,” she said.
Satish Dhupelia, communications officer of the Sydenham community policing forum, said he was aware of a complaint against the woman, and was investigating the matter.
He also confirmed there had been land invasions in the vicinity.Independent On Saturday