Covid-19: Link in dogfighting surge, Newsline

THE upsurge in the number of dogfighting cases may be a result of Covid-19, the Animal Welfare Society of South Africa (AWS) said.

Spokesperson Allan Perrins said the increase presented an opportunity for illicit gambling at a time when unemployment is at a record high following the negative impact of Covid-19.

“Based on ongoing reports received we strongly suspect that dogfighting is rife throughout the Cape Metro. We also strongly suspect that the statistics are grossly understated as many incidents go unreported.

“Whilst we have the utmost respect for our legal justice system, our courts must desist with issuing diversions for those involved with this heinous blood sport. It is utterly ineffectual and a punishment unbefiting of such a serious crime,” said Perrins.

He said dogs are groomed to kill opponents through all methods which are torturous and “grossly cruel”.

“Treadmills are a favourite piece of equipment to physically condition dogs for the ring. These dogs are cruelly restrained to the treadmill and made to run until they drop from exhaustion. Weight-pulling is another technique with dogs made to pull excessive loads that can cause them serious injuries or even death,” said Perrins.

He said 1 298 animal cruelty cases had been investigated in 2018, 1 345 in 2019 and 1 459 this year.

“Hanging is yet another technique where dogs are forced to bite into and dangle from a car tyre for hours. Puppies are conditioned from the time their eyes open.

“Many suffer hours of cruel torment causing them to become intolerant and aggressive. They are then rewarded for these modified negative behaviours.”

He added that the breeds that are most commonly used for dogfighting are pitbulls or pitbull-crosses because they have a bone-crushing bite and can survive incredible deprivation and hardship.

“They can be found on just about every street corner of the Cape Flats and our observation is that they outnumber all other breeds in many parts of Cape Town,” said Perrins.

Hot spots for dogfighting include Ocean View, Delft, Elsies River, Hangberg and Maccassar.

The Cape of Good Hope SPCA has asked animal-loving Capetonians to step up to stop dogfighting by signing up for the Sanlam Cape Town Virtual Marathon which takes place on the October 18.

“Sixteen participants can take up either the 21km or 42.2km entry pledged to raise a minimum of R1 500 towards the Cape of Good Hope SPCA’s efforts to stop dogfighting in Cape Town. Our runners will receive an SPCA-branded running T-shirt and exercise mask and will have the satisfaction of knowing that their race has made a difference in the lives of animals who are forced to fight,” said CoGH spokesperson, Belinda Abraham.

Twelve members of the SPCA’s inspectorate team, who see the devastation caused by dogfighting first-hand, are also taking part in the upcoming virtual marathon.

Abraham added that some dogs are trained using “cat mills”, which consist of a rotating centre point and poles that harness the dog just out of reach of a small creature such as a kitten or rabbit, forcing them to chase after it relentlessly.

“At the end of the session, the smaller animal is usually given to the dog as a reward and to increase its blood lust. If a dog shows reluctance to fight, it is used as a ‘bait dog’ – a particularly cruel practice whereby the animal’s jaws are taped shut before it is thrown to other fight dogs to be used as a training tool, sometimes up to eight times over,” said Abraham.

“Dogs are frequently draped with heavy chains and pumped with steroid-like substances to increase body strength and build muscle,” she said.

South Africans Against Dog Fighting, a community programme said all bull breeds are at risk.

“What we don’t understand is they steal all dogs and if they can’t be used for fighting they are used as bait dogs. It is a horrible circle of tragedy.”