Legal dog racing mooted to curb vagrant dogs

The Eastern Cape Red Meat Producers’ Organisation (EC RPO) believed that the legalising of dog racing will put the brakes on the increasing problem of vagrant dogs killing and maiming livestock.

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Pieter du Plessis of Burgersdorp has killed 104 stray dogs since June last year that had attacked sheep on his farm. The dogs don’t always kill the sheep, but leave them for dead. Another farmer, Trevor Stötter of Indwe, lost 650 sheep last year due to vagrant dogs. 

EC RPO chairperson, Dr Pieter Prinsloo, said the problem persisted, especially on farms close to towns and informal settlements. “The possible re-opening of the debate on legalising dog racing in SA will be discussed at our next meeting.
“Grassroots community structures have pledged their unconditional support for an initiative of this nature, which has vast rural upliftment benefits. Funding earmarked for policing purposes could be generated through government-controlled gambling on legal dog races in urban and peripheral areas,” said Prinsloo.

“Essentially, we don’t see any difference between racing horses and dogs, while dogs are much easier to keep and care for. Previously disadvantaged people have shown great commitment to making the transition from the chasing of live prey in the veld to chasing lures on monitored dog tracks, which in effect means that dogs will not be allowed to roam freely, but rather be entered into dog races where they can generate income for their owners,” said Prinsloo.

“This will be of great benefit to many farmers, and our informed advice to farmers is to support the legalisation of dog racing and to encourage the formation of grassroots control structures which will, to a large degree, take control of dogs and associated breeding.” 

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Currently, municipalities were not taking responsibility for the vagrant dog problem due to a host of financial constraints. At a meeting of the Eastern Cape Stock Theft Forum, the SAPS explained that the responsibility lay with municipalities to apply the by-laws in place regarding the controlling of unwanted dogs. The municipalities, however, explained that there were insufficient funds to appoint inspectors to police the relevant by-laws.

Burgersdorp farmer John Forbes told Farmer’s Weekly that he had to move his sheep from camps near the township to ones further away, after losing hundreds of sheep. “I have shot many dogs on my farm, but this does not stop others from coming. Moving my animals to other camps is putting those camps under a lot of stress,” he said.

The municipal manager of the Gariep Municipality, Thembinkosi Mawonga, told Forbes’s legal representative in a letter that it was the farmer’s responsibility to fence grazing land and the municipality would not accept responsibility for any alleged damages. Du Plessis said that in the past few months he had lost more than 40 ewes, many with unborn lambs, and 18 lambs, while at least 80 other sheep were maimed but still alive.

“These dogs attack the animals just because they can, and want to. Very seldom you will find that they ate one. Something must be done to stop this,” he said. Joffie du Plessis of the farm Ezelsfontein outside Phillipstown in the Northern Cape lost 142 sheep last year. Police investigated the cases, but no perpetrators were arrested, while Pieter van der Merwe, of the farm Somerlus in the same district, lost 147 lambs and 63 ewes last year.