Animal cruelty on the rise

Four puppies which were found dumped on the roadside in Phoenix. Pictures: Supplied

Four puppies which were found dumped on the roadside in Phoenix. Pictures: Supplied

Published Mar 7, 2024


Animal welfare and rescue organisations have called on communities to become more active and harsher punishment, as cruelty against animals continues unabated across the province.

The Durban and Coast Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) revealed that it investigated between 1 500 and 2 000 abuse cases each month.

Animal rescuers are feeling the pinch as cases of animal cruelty including abuse, neglect and abandonment soar, resulting in exorbitant vet bills - some as high as R200 000.

Zoey Arran, a director of the Phoenix Animal Welfare: Animal Rescue Unit South Africa (Paw Arusa), said they dealt with animal cruelty cases daily.

The non-profit organisation rescues, rehabilitates and rehomes animals, including dogs and cats who have been abused, neglected or abandoned from areas such as Phoenix, Chatsworth, Verulam, Tongaat, Isipingo, Pietermaritzburg, among others, as well as Gauteng and Cape Town.

“Animal cruelty is steadily increasing and the types of harm inflicted on animals is despicable. Just some of the recent cases will make one question, what type of society are we living in? We had to rescue dogs that were left behind on rented properties, while others were found tied to street poles on the freeway or left on the beach.

“We often find puppies and kittens, some in sealed boxes, left in bushes or on the side of the road. One of the most heartbreaking cases was when a dog had been placed in a sealed crate and dumped in a sugarcane field. A passer-by had heard the dog’s weak cries and contacted us. But, it was too late – the dog could not be saved,” she said.

Arran said there were various reasons why people abused animals.

“ We find that dogs are kept on short chains - less than a half-a-metre. This in a bid so that the dogs don’t play with their owner’s children, grab the clothes from the washing lines, or from scratching their vehicles or urinating on the tyres.

“In another case, a pitbull was left to run on the highway and was knocked, losing one of its legs. The owner couldn’t care for it anymore and wanted it ‘gone’. A dog was also hit with a panga because it was not listening. We have had a dog which was used for fighting and when it was injured, and could not fight anymore, it was dumped. There are just too many cases of cruelty, and so many people go unpunished for their actions,” she said.

Arran said owning a dog was a long term commitment.

“It is the same as having a child, do you just dump them at child welfare when you can no longer take care of them? Animals have feelings too, and when they are abandoned, they can become depressed and withdrawn. They don't want to play, eat or even drink water. They cry, get sick, and sometimes die, ” she said.

Arran said use of animals for fighting or as bait was also a growing problem.

She said pet owners needed to sterilise their dogs and cats to prevent over-breeding.

“This is one of the main reasons we see animals being dumped. Owners don’t want to pay the small fee for sterilisation, so when their pet has a new litter, the easiest thing to do is to put the newborn puppies or kittens in a basket or box, even a plastic packet, and dump them.”

Arran said laws must change around animal rights.

“It is the same as a person being killed, either murder or a hit-and-run, the perpetrator will face the law and if convicted, a harsh sentence will be imposed. So why can’t the same apply to animals that are violated?”

Neeri Naidoo, co-founder of Phoenix Animal Care and Treatment (Pact), said apart from rescue, their focus was on sterilisation and education.

The non-profit organisation has assisted over 70 000 animals, since its establishment in March 2012.

“Animals are no different from humans, they differ only in how they look and communicate. They also have feelings.”

She said one of the organisation's core functions was sterilisation.

“We believe sterilisation should be, and more often is, the essential goal of most animal welfare organisations. The problem we are faced with - which results in animal cruelty- is due to overpopulation because of lack of sterilisation. To reduce this, people are taking the matter into their own hands by abusing and neglecting animals, which is wrong and an offence.

“To curb this, we go out into the various areas with our mobile veterinarian, where it is most unlikely that an owner would take their pet for its vaccinations or to be sterilised. We also educate communities, as we believe it is the only way to break the cycle of abuse. We found that a lot of animal cruelty cases are based on ignorance, as well as a lack of resources and education. Through education, we believe that we can create a better life for animals,” she said.

Neeri Naidoo

She said the areas where they offered services included Phoenix, Amouti, Inanda, Zwelitsha, Riet River, Parkgate and greater Durban.

Naidoo said they were faced with exorbitant fees of about R200 000, owing to various veterinary and sterilisation clinics, as well as kennel facilities they utilise

“This is apart from the amount we spend on food - as we feed up to 600 dogs a day. Most of our debt is due to after-hours treatment needed,” she said.

Naidoo said while there was the Animal Protection Act, it needed to be upgraded.

“The Act was last updated in the 60s, and it is not 100% relevant to the day and age we live in where the animal welfare and landscape has changed.

“However, we do celebrate the small victories of justice for animals, but a lot more needs to be done. There is a need to change the culture of communities, from ‘I am not getting involved’, to ‘I have seen this, I am going to do something’.

“Let us not be the type of people that sit back and let things happen in our communities be it a human or animal, we need to speak up about it. We also urge people to report animal cruelty to the various animal organisations, but mainly the SPCA, which is governed by the Animal Protection Act. Together we can make a difference, “ she said.

Reshani Garib, an animal activist, said she was also called to help daily.

“I receive calls from people from across the province, such as Phoenix, Chatsworth, Verulam, and Tongaat. I go wherever the need is.

“Just last week, I received a call about four puppies in a shopping basket that had been left on the side of a busy road in Phoenix. Someone had left them to die. They had a high temperature and had to be rushed to the vet.

“Animal abuse is on the rise, and it is getting worse every day, and that is because of negligent owners. Many don't realise it is a big responsibility and life-long commitment. I always advise people not to get a pet, if you can't look after it.

“Furthermore, animal abuse and abandonment is a criminal offence and you will be prosecuted. To owners, if you can’t care for your pet anymore, then call the SPCA, they will come and take the animal away safely. To the community, you need to be our eyes and ears and help us in this fight against animal cruelty, ” she said.

Tanya Fleischer, marketing manager for the Durban and Coast SPCA, said on average, they investigated between 1500 to 2000 cases of animal cruelty a month - some of which have resulted in successful convictions.

“In June 2020 we received a complaint about a dog, Shadow, who was injured and had received no veterinary treatment. Shadow had been handed over to a third party, but fortunately his new location was provided and our inspector was able to remove him.

“Upon assessment by our veterinarian, he found that the dog had a non-weight bearing lameness of the left front leg, there was a distinct hard swelling just above the elbow and the leg was painful when the elbow and bones above it were manipulated. He was also sent for x-rays at a private clinic, which revealed an old, non-healing fracture of the distal humerus of the left front leg.

“In June 2023, our veterinarian and two inspectors testified in court and the accused was found guilty. He was sentenced to a fine of R3000 or 12 months in prison and was deemed unfit to own any animal for five years,” she said.

Fleischer said the SPCA was active in creating awareness and tackling animal cruelty.

“Our education officer provides talks at schools and do outreach projects. Our inspectors attend to all complaints and also do proactive inspections.

“However, we appeal to the public to please call us timeously to enable us to make a meaningful difference in the lives of abused and abandoned animals. We also remind the community that the SPCA will take in any pets which can no longer be taken care of.

“As long as the SPCA is here, there is never justification for acts of cruelty to rid oneself of the responsibility of pet ownership,” she said.


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