Cruelty to animals could attract prison term, says attorney

2010-11-17 00:00

CRUELTY to animals should be punished to the full letter of the law even if this means the perpetrator spends time in prison.

This is the opinion of local attorney Vincent van der Merwe who has expressed his anger at cruelty to animals that is not adequately punished.

Among the reasons he cites this is what he calls “the pathetic attempts of the police to investigate reported cases of animal abuse”.

Van der Merwe was speaking in response to a recent report of a Port Edward man who shot off the leg of his son’s dog when it ate his chickens’ eggs.

The dog, which was feeding puppies at the time, was put down due to its severe injuries.

Van der Merwe says a crime like this could carry a jail sentence of up to five years if it was investigated and prosecuted properly in a court of law.

He says he has a case that has been open for more than a year and cannot proceed because the police have still not completed their investigations.

In documents he showed The Witness, the crime he has been trying to bring to court goes back to September 2009.

Dr Hildi Nel’s cat was shot by a pellet gun and she approached Van der Merwe. He is still waiting for a full police investigation to be completed.

Van der Merwe says it is only when severe penalties for animal cruelty are imposed that these heinous acts will stop.

“It seems to be the norm to charge people who shoot animals with only cruelty to animals and not more serious charges.

“In terms of Section 120 of the Act, any person who causes any damage to another person’s property [pets are regarded as property under SA law] by way of a pellet gun, contravenes the Act and must be charged under the Act,” he says.

“The consequences are far more serious and far-reaching than the mere slap on the wrist of animal cruelty.

“Our law further regards it as theft should an owner’s pet die as a result of such actions by third parties — and can and should carry a jail sentence.”

Lieutenant-Colonel Zandra Wiid of the SA Police Force in Port Shepstone said: “After inquiries I established that this docket is now with the public prosecutor for his decision.”

She said that the investigation was completed at the end of October and that it was the ballistics report that had come from Pretoria at the end of October that had caused the delay. Wiid explained that there were often delays with ballistics and forensic reports.

She said Van der Merwe was welcome to approach the Port Shepstone station commander to discuss the matter.

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