Over the past few weeks, there have been reports of dog fighting rings operating in different locations in the greater Durban area. This comes after several dogs in different parts of the city have been reported missing and some allegedly stolen in the past few months.

Some of the areas reported to have dog fighting rings include Chesterville, uMlazi, Merebank, Phoenix, Mariannhill, Hammarsdale, Pinetown, Mayville, Hillcrest and other suburbs. Special Investigation Unit manager at NSPCA, Wendy Willson said that dog fighting is not only specific to Durban, however, it is prevalent throughout the country and is certainly happening in KZN. She said it is a fast growing crime which has a significant negative impact on the community because of its violent nature.

“Dog fighting is often linked with other crimes particularly interpersonal violence and control crimes such as woman and child abuse. It is seen worldwide as a predictor of future violence towards people and as an indicator of concurrent violence in a community,”Wilson said.

She said that dog fighting is particularly detrimental to children who are often exposed to this crime, in children it erodes empathy and can lead to future violence. “Dog Fighting affects a whole community, allowing dog fighters to live in your community means that the crime rates go up, your interpersonal violence crime statistics go up and your youth get involved in violence and crime from a very young age. Communities should stand together and speak out about these criminals so that they can be removed from society,” warned Willson.

She said although public perception believes that every dog stolen is automatically taken for dogfighting there are in fact many other reasons that dogs are stolen such as to sell as security dogs or for puppy breeding and selling purposes

According to Wilson, the dogs used for dog fighting are almost exclusively American Pit Bull Terriers, however at the less sophisticated dog fighting levels the perpetrators may also use similar breeds such as Bull Terriers or Staffordshire Terriers. At this low level of dog fighting, the dogs are often sourced from “free to a good home adverts” or stolen from pet owners to be used as fighting dogs.

“Smaller breed dogs are not used for dog fighting. Despite a large amount of media attention the use of bait dogs is very rare. It is not a commonly used method of training and serves little purpose in training fighting dogs. It is far more likely that small dogs are stolen to be used for breeding purposes.”

Willson advised owners to protect their pets.”There are many ways owners can protect their pets. The best way to prevent Pit Bull’s or similar breeds being stolen is to have them sterilised. Dog fighters make most of their profits from breeding the winning fighting dogs and selling the puppies, having your pet sterilised prevents this and therefore makes your dog less of a target.”

She added, “Where possible, keep your dog out of sight of the road and in a secure yard. If people don’t know they are there, they are less at risk of theft. Remember Pit Bull dogs can jump very high and can often escape gardens with low walls. Allow your dog to sleep inside at night. Most thefts happen at night when there is little risk of a person being in the garden. Keeping your dog inside at night makes it harder for people to steal them.

“It also serves the added purposes of strengthening your bond with your dog, reducing the risk of poisoning and improving security for you. Never leave high risk dogs unattended in vehicles (even when well ventilated and not hot) or outside shops. When you go on holiday, employ a house sitter who can stay at your home or take your animals to a secure and recognised boarding kennel.”

Willison said perpetrators of dog fighting face many years of imprisonment and heavy fines as well as additional penalties such as the loss of your personal assets and denial of future animal ownership.

“There is a reward for information that leads to arrest and prosecution. The amount depends on the number of people caught and the level of sophistication. All reports of animal cruelty are anonymous. A person does not have to provide their name to report cruelty. If anyone has information and is still scared to call it in or send an email in person they can drop off information at the SPCA itself in an envelope or on a memory stick,” said Willison

To report any case of dog fighting please call the NSPCA Special Investigations Unit on 011 907 3590 or email information to nspca@nspca.co.za.