Pretoria – Owning a pit bull terrier in South Africa should be regarded as being similar to owning an automatic assault rifle and they should either be banned outright or at the very least be strictly regulated by the government.
This sentiment was expressed by Sizwe Kupelo, founder of the Sizwe Kupelo Foundation, who said it was a sad day for the country to have to stand by and watch as more lives were being lost due to a dog breed which had been shown on numerous occasions to have no regard for human life.
This week, the government on its social media platforms urged owners of vicious animals such as pit bulls to take extra care of their dogs.
“It is the duty of every dog owner to ensure that they are always responsible, and that their dogs are never out of control,” read the statement.
Another post read: “Whenever your dog is interacting with other dogs or people, no matter how socialised they are, they need to be supervised at all times.”
Kupelo, who launched a petition in October calling for the ban of pit bulls as domestic pets in South Africa, made these comments following yet another death, this time of a 15-month-old child from East London, who succumbed to his injuries in hospital after he was attacked by a pit bull on Wednesday.
The child, from the Gonubie Farm area in the province, was reportedly playing with the neighbour’s dog when it attacked him.
“How many more lives do we have to lose in this country while we continue to debate the danger that this breed and other power breeds like it pose to humans?
“Whether people like it or not, South Africa is definitely facing a pit bull crisis and we see this by the number of reported attacks that keep growing day by day since the petition was launched.”
To date, the petition by the foundation is standing at 129 400 signatures of citizens who support the bid for the government to consider castrating all male pit bulls and sterilising female pit bulls in the country.
Kupelo said the Department of Health had referred the issue to the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, which had responded positively to the petition.
He said the foundation was in contact with the Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries minister on setting up a date for them to deliver the petition to them on or before December 15.
While the organisation took the opportunity to also commend dog owners who had voluntarily surrendered their pit bulls to the relevant authorities, it chastised dog owners who took to social media to show off their “beloved family members”, as many have remarked, as being insensitive to those who had lost their lives to attacks.
“It’s insensitive when people are worried about this breed and the threat it poses to human life for others to then decide to post pictures justifying keeping them and attacking the foundation as if we targeted anyone in particular. We have not targeted or blamed any single person or organisation.
“Right now we know communities are angry because we’ve seen horrendous acts of people poisoning the dogs or stabbing them, and we agree something needs to be done either through requiring owners to obtain licences or restricting access based on economic status, but we do not advocate for animal cruelty at all.”
Taking economic status into consideration when deciding on the dog’s ownership was important, according to Kupelo, as he explained that the dog required persons who could feed it and provide it with ample space to move around.
Not keeping “power breeds” in an adequate environment often resulted in disaster as the first chance the dog got to escape, it ran rampant in communities, causing untold damage.
The National Council of SPCAs added its voice to the debate, stating that even though it was against the banning of the dog breed in the country, there was certainly an urgent need for the government to intervene in the issue of pit bull attacks.
Spokesperson Keshvi Nair, in a recent interview, said they strongly believed that there was an urgent need for stronger regulations and controls covering the breeding and keeping of these animals.
“Pit bulls do have the capacity to be very loving family pets, but they also have the capacity to do immense damage, as we have seen. Again, we say these dogs should not be owned by just normal people, they need to be owned by people who have extensive knowledge of the breed.”
The Pit Bull Federation of South Africa also expressed concern about the manner in which the media were reporting on pit bull attacks without ascertaining whether the dogs were in fact pit bulls.
“While we have to accept that there are pit bulls attacking and killing people, this does not absolve the media of their duty to report content that is accurate and fair.”
The federation said it would look to approach the Broadcasting Complaints Commission of South Africa, Press Ombudsman, SAPS and the Health Professions Council of SA on the matter. It said police and paramedics were the ones who leaked information about the identification.