Jail time for Dobsonville dog fight spectator - owners punished too

21 February 2019 - 16:19 By TimesLIVE
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Image: NSPCA

A precedent has been set in SA with the first direct jail term meted out to a spectator of an illegal dog fight. Two dog handlers have also been imprisoned, with a Johannesburg court denouncing the violence inherent in the crime.

This is according to the National Council of Societies for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (NSPCA), which said in a statement on Thursday the sentences showed the increasing seriousness with which the courts were treating dog fighting.

Retshidisitswe Steve Mohoyo, who pleaded guilty to watching the fight in Dobsonville, Soweto, in August 2016, was sentenced to 10 months by the Roodepoort Regional Court, and an additional period of suspended imprisonment that comes into effect if he is caught offending again.

Fortis Security controller Teboho Godfrey Tabethe, 36, and mechanic Bongani Cullen Radebe, 23, were both sentenced to 32 months' imprisonment and a further period of suspended imprisonment, said the NSPCA. Additionally they were declared by the court to be unfit to own any species of animal in the future.

During aggravation of sentence, Senior Inspector Wendy Willson of the NSPCA Special Investigations Unit testified that two of the men had "dragged the bleeding, dehydrated dogs, both of whom were grievously injured and suffering from broken bones, a distance of nearly 2km through the veld" in an attempt to evade arrest.

During the raid with police, Willson's unit had seized nine dogs in Dobsonville. Some had to be euthanised due to their injuries. Ten suspects were arrested. 

In 2017, three of them were sentenced in the Roodepoort Regional Court to five years' imprisonment, suspended for five years. The three also received an additional sentence of two years' house arrest under correctional supervision. They also had to complete 16 hours of community service per month at a welfare organisation that does not handle animals. The trio were further ordered to attend a mandatory course in life skills at a correctional facility.

The courts have been handing down stiffer sentences in dog fighting cases.

In November 2018, two men were jailed for two years for organised dog fighting in Atteridgeville‚ Pretoria. The NSPCA and police had rescued 14 dogs during the June raid.

Last April, four men were sentenced to two years in prison for dog fighting, following their arrest for organised dog fighting in Tsakane‚ Ekurhuleni‚ in November 2013. Ten others were found guilty of being spectators and sentenced to two years correctional supervision (house arrest) and 360 hours of community service. They also had to pay the NSPCA R50‚000. Another accused was sentenced to pay R20‚000 or 20 months’ imprisonment suspended for five years if he does not reoffend.

The Tsakane raid was described as the biggest dog fighting raid in 18 years when it occurred.

Magistrate Juan Voogt said the human race should ensure that animals were unharmed and that dog fighting tore at the moral fibre of society‚ because the violence was abhorrent and reprehensible.

Handing down the sentences, Voogt said: "All it takes for the triumph of evil is for good people to do nothing‚ but in this case a lot of good people chose to do something."

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