Weight pulling as a sport for pit bulls is a growing trend, with the dogs pulling as much as 5.5 tons.
The sport, often the main attraction at pit bull shows, has been around for some time, but animal welfare experts say it is becoming more popular. It is also considered more acceptable than dog fighting.
Usually, weight training is used to build stamina and make dogs more powerful for fights. But weight training has now become a sport in itself – with events taking place at least once a month around the country.
An animal welfare organisation, which cannot be named to protect its staff, submitted a 50-page report to the director of public prosecutions calling for stronger prosecution for people in conflict with the Animals Protection Act.
At one show in July, a dog had to pull 5.5 tons of concrete slabs on a trolley. The event had to be stopped when the trolley was no longer secure.
At a previous show, the same dog only managed to pull 1 180kg while another dog pulled 5 700kg.
“We have noted with great concern the development and popularisation of weight pulling as a sport among pit bull terrier owners and breeders,” said the animal welfare expert who compiled the report.
“Weight pulling consists of the dog being harnessed and attached to a railway-type trolley, loaded with weights, which has to be pulled 15 feet (4.5m) in less than 60 seconds. Weights are added and the heaviest weight pulled determines the winner,” he said.
In August, a dog weighing 26kg had to pull 5 800kg. This meant the dog pulled 223 times its own weight.
The animal welfare expert said weight pulling events were both morally reprehensible and in contravention of the Animals Protection Act.
In his report, he included opinions of three independent veterinarians and a professional dog behaviourist.
One doctor said: “The potential physical damage to these dogs is very real, particularly since they are excitable, strive to please their owners and are very competitive.
“The conditions most likely to be caused by the activity would be muscular straining with tearing (and) lactic acid accumulation with degenerative changes of muscle fibres.”
He added that tendon ruptures and a variety of conditions such as heart and kidney failure could be exacerbated by excessive exertion.
Another veterinarian said: “These dogs will most likely suffer from severe osteoarthritis in all joints, especially the forelegs and neck, which will lead to pain and discomfort.” - Cape Times