Pet rescuer off hook on theft charges
Relief for volunteer after good deeds backfire
A case against a Domestic Animal Care volunteer has finally been withdrawn by a magistrate, but not before the Port Elizabeth woman spent more than a year in and out of court, defending claims that she had stolen two pets believed to have been living inside their owner’s broken- down car.Bronwin Meyer, 46, was slapped with the theft charge after she took the cat and miniature Doberman Pinscher into foster care, arranged for the dog to have its teeth cleaned and nails trimmed, be de-wormed and even receive the necessary vaccinations.Meyer works as a rescuer for Domestic Animal Care, a nonprofit organisation caring for disadvantaged and abused animals.Elise Louw and her son, Francois, an ex-policeman, had accused Meyer of stealing her cat and dog on March 8 2018.According to representations made to the senior public prosecutor on behalf of Meyer, the mother and son were living in their broken down Mercedes-Benz in Webber Street, South End, at the time.Meyer became involved in the matter after a peace officer, Lindel Beets, received complaints from members of the community about two adults and pets living inside their car.“It transpired that Louw’s other son lived in a flat around the corner but would only allow his mother and brother to use their bathroom, not to visit or stay with them,” representations drawn up by advocate Hannelie Bakker state.“After Meyer had investigated the situation, she then out of the goodness of her heart offered to have the broken-down vehicle towed to a friend who owns a vehicle repair station.“Louw and Francois accepted this arrangement . . . Meyer then arranged for them to stay in a guesthouse in Walmer and paid for their accommodation,” Bakker wrote.The guesthouse did not allow pets, and Louw’s other son agreed to keep the cat and dog for one night only.Meyer then arranged longterm accommodation for the Louws, but they refused it.She claimed Louw then asked her to take care of the animals until she could find an alternative place to stay.Meyer claimed Louw told her that she had bought the dog, now about five years old, for R3,000 and asked if Meyer would be interested in buying it from her.“Meyer [told] her the DAC [Domestic Animal Care] would only be able to offer her the normal R850 adoption fee.“She then requested that Meyer not sterilise the dog because she intended using her for breeding purposes.”Meyer then consulted with the Animal Anti-Cruelty League and was informed under no circumstances were the pets to be returned to Louw.“She was advised to have the dog sterilised.” The dog was accordingly spayed by a vet.“. . . these animals were never in the foster care of Meyer personally. Louw kept in touch with Meyer and once they had sold the car, she informed her that she had signed a lease and would now be able to take care of her pets.”Meyer informed her that the matter was now in the hands of the Animal Anti-Cruelty League. The league later found the premises to be unsuitable for the pets.“At that stage Meyer and a group of friends involved in the DAC [Domestic Animal Care] entertained the idea of offering Louw R4,000 for the dog, but she refused.“This was the stage when Francois started to send Meyer messages threatening her with exposure on social media. A theft charge was also opened.”While the police had initially indicated that there was no crime because Louw had requested Meyer to take her pets into foster care, a prosecutor had requested that the case first be investigated before the docket was closed.On April 25 2018, the prosecution noted on the file: “No criminal intent here.” On June 21, the senior public prosecutor confirmed the correctness of that decision.However, by November, Meyer was again subpoenaed to be before court. The case was once again withdrawn.“Apparently the district court prosecutor was not allowed to exercise her discretion . . . and the investigating officer was once again instructed to charge Meyer again for December 13 [court date].” Bakker then made representations to the prosecutor but received no reply.This week a magistrate finally withdrew the case.