Burning of live cat sends shockwaves

2018-03-15 06:00

The Mdzananda Animal Clinic in Khayelitsha witnessed one of the most severe cases of animal cruelty ever experienced when they encountered a cat that had been set on fire alive.

A staff member saw this from a few metres from the clinic, as he was driving to attend a mobile outreach clinic.

“I passed what appeared to be a burning animal on the road ... I turned back to see what it was, and saw a woman from the community prodding at the animal with a stick.”

The man said he immediately climbed out of his vehicle in a bid to rescue the animal.

But it was too late, as the cat had died.

After confronting the alleged culprit, the man then called for help from the clinic staff.

By this time, the culprit and community members had become verbally abusive and could not accept their wrong doing.

Marcelle du Plessis said: “As soon as our staff member called, I ran down the street to where the incident occurred. Three management team members and two other staff members joined me. A group of five ladies were gathered around the body.

The youngest woman, who I can identify and of whom I took a photograph, advised me in the presence of my colleagues and several neighbours that she had burnt the cat,”.

Du Plessis is the Fundraising and Communications Manager.

“When asked her why she had burnt the cat, she first said that it had been sitting on her roof for two days making a noise and that she could not sleep.

When we asked why she hadn’t called on us to help with the problem, she then said that it was looking at her with “snake eyes” and that it was evil. She said that people in the community are using cats to do witchcraft to destroy people’s lives,” du Plessis added.

“Township environments come with a large history of cultural beliefs.

“I understand that the community that we work in have deeply ingrained cultural beliefs, many of these not based on scientific fact. I by no means want to insult people’s beliefs as I have my own cultural beliefs too, but when your belief clashes with the law, you cannot act on your belief.

Our law is written to protect the people of this country as well as our animals and we need to respect the law.”

Even as du Plessis told the culprit that legal action would be taken against her for severe animal cruelty, she seemed unperturbed, saying she would be just as happy if the police prosecuted her, that she would do it again.

As the Mdzananda Animal Clinic works closely with the SPCA Cape of Good Hope, the chief inspector was called immediately.

Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals(SPCA) inspectors have legal capacity to prosecute animal cruelty cases.

“We have a very good relationship with the SPCA and the inspectors are always ready to help when we need their assistance,” said du Plessis.

Afterwards, the dead cat was then removed and kept in the care of the Mdzananda Animal Clinic until an SPCA staff member arrived.

A laboratory report has indicated that the cat was burnt alive. A case of animal cruelty has been opened and the SPCA will be taking this case to prosecution.

“This case is heartbreaking, but what is most discouraging is that no amount of education will change such deeply ingrained beliefs that run for generations.

We will continue to educate, but what will really make the difference is if people from the community, who know the truth and do not agree with such beliefs and treatment of animals, start standing up and telling their fellow community members to stop the cruelty,” says du Plessis.

Through educational interventions the Mdzananda Animal Clinic will continue their outreach to the community. Such education will also include discerning between normal animal behaviour (for example a cat on heat) versus a cat showing witchcraft behaviour). “Even if the latter is believed, the law is against animal behaviour and we cannot break the law,” says du Plessis.

The Mdzananda Animal Clinic appeals to community members to stand up against animal cruelty and to report any signs of animal abuse or neglect. Mdzananda can be reached on 021 367 6001 or 082 251 0554.


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