The petition, signed by over 130 000 people, “comes as other countries, [such as] Russia, Finland, Denmark, the UK, Portugal and parts of Germany, parts of China, parts of Brazil and parts of Australia are also in the process of banning or [implementing] restrictions on ownership of the breed or its importation.”
The lobby group stated that pit bull owners’ defence of the breed’s attack on humans was largely that these attacks were due to how a dog had been raised, and not the breed itself. However, according to the lobby group, this did not hold water, and a ban was needed to “prevent further attacks and unnecessary deaths”.
In response to the petition, Didiza said that government was working to resolve issues with this type of breed. The work included a comprehensive DNA analysis of pit bull and pit bull-type dogs, to assist with the correct identification of problem animals unique to South Africa, and to assist in identifying the pit bull and pit bull-type dogs that could be developed through indiscriminate crossbreeding.
The department was also working with the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development to amend the Animal Matters Amendment Act of 1993 to ensure that citizens were protected from any harm caused by animals and that owners of such animals were held accountable for damages.
Key role players in the private sector, namely the Pit Bull Federation of South Africa (PBFSA) and the Centre of Applied Pet Ethology, had joined hands with the department to create a joint task team to identify short-, medium- and long-term approaches to promote the safety of people living with pit bulls and pit bull-type dogs.
Lehanda Rheeder, media liaison of the PBFSA, told Farmer’s Weekly that the PBFSA was one of the oldest dog breeder associations in South Africa, and had been actively involved in educating owners on the right way to manage pit bulls. The PBFSA was also involved in public education to address the negative stigma associated with the breed.
She said that DNA testing would help identify whether pit bulls were actually responsible for these attacks.
“People often blame the breed, but more often than not, the responsible dog was not a pit bull. DNA analysis might also identify whether certain genes can be associated with aggression to guide future breeding selection strategies.”
Rheeder said that people who owned pit bulls needed to familiarise themselves with the breed.
“These dogs are people pleasers, so will do anything for their owners. They are also working dogs, so need to be trained and daily worked to prevent them from getting bored and frustrated. If they are not worked, they can become mischievous. For this reason, they should also not be chained down or kept in small spaces.”
She added that pit bulls did not make good guard or attack dogs.
“These dogs will be happy to go with a farmer to make his rounds, but could become unpredictable and difficult to manage if they are taught to attack people.”
In November last year, the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) put out a press statement in which it said that it did not support the banning or outlawing of pit bulls.
The SPCA argued that in many instances, aggressive animals had been subjected to extreme abuse and cruelty in the manner they were kept and trained, and that aggression was thus not a breed-specific problem.
The SPCA, however, called for stronger regulations, such as compulsory sterilisation to prevent power breed puppies from being accessible to irresponsible people, and compulsory permitting, to hold power breed owners accountable for the actions of their dogs.