Psychological trauma can be one of the reasons behind the high prevalence of dog fighting orchestrations in the Western Cape.
The Cape of Good Hope SPCA said it received 28 reports of dog fighting as of the end of August.
Part of that number includes the arrest of five children who were arrested in Grassy Park last Thursday for orchestrating a dog fight between two pit bulls.
Belinda Abraham of the SPCA said although there is prevalence of dog fighting in the province, “This is the first time we find children this young involved in such a violent and horrific crime”.
Abraham said the five children, aged between 10 and 12, were taken to the police station for their own safety and were not arrested.
“The Department of Public Protections will have to decide on whether or not the matter will be heard. If so, it will likely be in the children's court, something which the SPCA is not opposed to as this will involve social worker support and evaluation. The most beneficial outcome for the children and every animal who crosses their path in the future would be for these children to be rehabilitated,” she said.
Abraham further said the Cape of Good Hope SPCA and City of Cape Town Law Enforcement joined forces in 2021 in a quest to eradicate dogfighting activities in Cape Town.
“The partnership has joint responsibility with the SPCA as custodian of the Animal Protection Act and Law Enforcement as the custodian of the City by-laws, which both govern and impact on issues pertaining to dogfighting. The partnership also ensures a close working relationship to educate and raise awareness to stop dog fighting,” she said.
Allan Perrins, spokesperson of Animal Welfare Society of South Africa (AWS SA), said dog fighting falls squarely within their mandate and scope of operations.
“Sadly, many minors within our primary area of operation, the Cape Flats, appear to lack compassion, are raised in dysfunctional homes, and fail to appreciate the sentience of animals.
“These children witness atrocities on a daily basis, and often use violence as a means to an end because they lack proper coping skills and parental or adult guidance. This makes them victims of a society with a broken moral compass, but should never be considered an excuse for such gross anti-social or criminal behaviour.This is not to say that they cannot be rehabilitated and become kind and caring members of society.
“To place them behind bars or impose a fine will serve little purpose. An alternative punitive sanction could include diversion, a form of restorative justice rather than retribution, but this would mean them having to show genuine remorse, and they would also need to freely admit guilt.
“That being said, we fully endorse our SPCA colleagues’ actions and follow-through. Dog fighting is one of many social ills in many parts of the Cape Flats, and we have a zero-tolerance attitude towards anyone involved in this barbaric blood sport.” he said.
Perrins said since the start of the year, AWS SA’s Inspectorate has responded to over 900 cases of animal cruelty, several of which included incidents of provoked and unprovoked animal-on-animal attacks.
“And we have notched up a proud record of rehabilitating many of these animals and, in some instances, also succeeded in rehabilitating their once cruel and indifferent owners,”.
Lindokuhle Hlatshwayo, a registered social worker in the Western Cape, said a child’s environment and the level of abuse experienced by the child could play a role in a child orchestrating acts such as dog fighting.
“I obviously have no background of the minors. These things differ on a case by case basis. But usually, for a child to take part in such acts, there is a level of trauma and violence that they may be exposed to. It’s like a bully. They thrive in enforcing power on a weaker person because of their own insecurities and scars. What could possibly make a child assert power over a dog and enforce a violent act amongst them? There must be something to be looked into in that,” she said.
Captain F.C. Van Wyk from SAPS confirmed that a case was opened regarding the five minors.
“Kindly be advised that a case of dog fighting was opened for investigation at Grassy Park SAPS, following an incident on 2023-08-31 at about 18:00 at corner of Faulman and 6th Avenue. Case is under investigation, no arrest yet,” he said.