Outrage as police fail to act on dog fight

Vicious tussle between pitbulls in Helenvale street captured on video

A Helenvale resident captured pictures and video footage of this illegal dog fight in Fitchard Street, Helenvale, on Tuesday
A Helenvale resident captured pictures and video footage of this illegal dog fight in Fitchard Street, Helenvale, on Tuesday
Image: Allister Makomo

The failure by the police and municipality to act against a pitbull owner caught on video allegedly inciting an illegal dog fight in Port Elizabeth has enraged animal welfare organisations.

The Facebook video posted by Helenvale resident Allister Makomo, 34, had already been viewed by more than 400 people within 24 hours of being posted on Tuesday.

The sickening 135-second video shows a group of residents gathering around two pitbulls that day.

One of the dogs, referred to as “Tiger” in the video, can be seen viciously shaking its opponent by the skin of its neck.

Yet neither the SAPS nor the Nelson Mandela Bay Metro Police have taken any action so far against the Helenvale resident allegedly involved in the dog fighting or the onlookers.

Animal Anti-Cruelty League (AACL) inspector Beverley Rademeyer said the pitbull owner and residents watching the fight – which took place in Fitchard Street around midday – should be arrested as they, too, allegedly incited the dogs to fight and promoted illegal dog fighting by failing to intervene.

Makomo said he, too, was outraged by the SAPS’s failure to act against the pitbull owner.

“I was in my room when I heard the commotion,” he said.

“I came out and saw these people gathering around the dogs.

“I immediately started taking photos and video, but the people didn’t care.

“I called the police, who told me to call the AACL – who had to call police back for back-up.

“When they arrived, the fight was done so I took them to where the dogs were being kept.

“The owner immediately started telling her [Rademeyer] and the SAPS off.

“She couldn’t do much besides take the injured dog because the owner refused to give the other one – but the police just stood there not saying a word or helping at all.”
Marizanne Ferreria, of Pitbull Rescue, said the video was disgusting and strong action should have been taken against the alleged perpetrators, if anything as “a show of force to make people aware this will not be tolerated”.

According to Rademeyer, “they [SAPS and Metro Police] did not give me the back-up I needed – they basically just stood there.”

The owner of the pitbull claimed he had simply been walking his dog when the other dog escaped from a yard nearby and attacked his dog.

Rademeyer said the other dog was in the AACL’s care and was being treated for bite wounds to the neck and ear.

Uitenhage District SPCA chairwoman Deirdre Swift said she could not understand why the police did not act despite witnesses being present and the incident being reported.

The Animal Anti-Cruelty Act provides for a maximum two-year prison sentence for illegal dog fighting. It also provides for the prosecution of spectators.

However, police spokesman Captain Johan Rheeder said it was not that simple to arrest offenders as “there needs to be substantial evidence, including proof that money is involved, and that it is an organised event and so on. Because, sometimes, dogs get out of a yard and charge others walking in the street.

“Then the dogs are fighting – we can’t arrest them [owners] for something that dogs do naturally.

“We need to prove that the dogs were, in fact, made to fight, and that is very difficult.”

Metro Police chief Yolanda Faro referred all questions to the SAPS, saying it had dealt with the complaint. “Metro Police’s role was back-up,” she said.

Rademeyer said dog fighting occurred all over the metro but was particularly prevalent in the northern areas, notably in Helenvale, where it happened on an almost daily basis. An investigation would be conducted by the AACL of Tuesday’s incident.

“I can’t just take the dog because the threats that were being made by the owner and his friends is that I wouldn’t be allowed back in the area, which I can’t afford because there are so many more animals that need to be saved,” she said.

Rheeder said no case had been registered with the police, but he believed that the AACL was carrying out its own investigation into the incident.

Municipal spokesman Mthubanzi Mniki failed to respond to questions regarding the consequences of illegal dog fighting and how the municipality planned to curb it. – Additional reporting by Zizonke May