Durban – Dog-fighting rings are operating in at least nine locations in the greater Durban area, with owners in three suburbs appearing to be at risk of having their pets stolen for use in fights which can command bets of up to R300000.
This is according to sources familiar with the matter after the Daily News’s report on the theft of dogs in the city on Tuesday.
Chesterville, uMlazi, Merebank, Phoenix, Mariannhill, Hammarsdale, Pinetown, Mayville, Hillcrest and other suburbs are apparently havens for dog-fighting rings, said animal rescuers.
David Hardwick, a partner at Serendi- Pitty Rescue, said dog-fighting had become more frequent and took place mainly on the weekends in places not easily accessible to the police.
“There are three levels of fighting. The entry level is your kids in uMlazi who get dogs and make them fight near a tavern. They are usually promised cellphones, airtime or a pair of takkies.
“Middle level depends on the type of dogs used. They usually take place on a sports field in Merebank and bets are between R1 000 and R10 000. Then there is top level fighting which happens in warehouses and imported dogs could be used. Bets can be between R50000 and R300000,” Hardwick said.
He said from what he knew, a syndicate leader would alert people to when and where the fights were taking place.
“Dog-fighting rings are set up, usually in a pit of 5 metres by 5 metres in a confined area,” he said, adding the practice was not confined to any one race.
A woman who would not be named, and who works to combat dog-fighting, said they had tried to infiltrate the rings but the dates and venues of fights changed regularly.
She said dogs stolen from Chatsworth were taken to Welbedacht, Phoenix dogs to Bhambayi (Inanda) and Westville dogs to Chesterville and Mayville.
Meat was used with chloroform and thrown to targeted dogs, while male dogs could also be lured with the use of a female dog in heat, she said.
“We took all the information we had to the National Council of SPCAs, but were told they did not have manpower to address the matter,” she said.
She said pupils were used to steal dogs, some of which were kept on school grounds, which could also sometimes play host to the dog fights.
“When rescuing, we have to be in disguise and sometimes have to pay R100 or R200 for the dogs.”
A stolen bull terrier can fetch from R3000 to R8000, and a pit bull can cost between R1500 and R3000, she said.
The NSPCA’s Nadia Hansa said it always acted on information about dog-fighting. Sometimes investigations took a long time because of the underground nature of the crime. While it always followed up on complaints, not every complaint had sufficient information to open an investigation.
“Unfortunately, sometimes we are provided with very vague leads which have been embellished. Sometimes the public’s perception of what constitutes dog-fighting is misguided,” she said.
Hansa said dog-fighting whistle- blowers could receive a reward for information that led to an arrest and prosecution, and those found guilty of involvement in dog fighting could be sentenced to two years’ imprisonment per charge.
Metro police spokesperson Senior Superintendent Parboo Sewpersad said they were aware of dog-fighting involving pit bulls and bull terriers. He said videos of fights had been circulated by members of the force’s K9 unit. No arrests had been made, he said.
Suspicions can be reported to the NSPCA Special Investigations Unit, 0119073590, or email firstname.lastname@example.org