Coming across unattended, roaming dogs is a common site when navigating the streets of Grahamstown. Paige Muller investigates this local phenomenon and sheds light on the laws surrounding this issue.
The issue of unattended dogs has long plagued Grahamstown. It’s a daily occurrence to come across domestic and stray dogs walking the streets unsupervised, so much so, that from a sample of locals interviewed, not a single one had not noticed stray dogs roaming the streets. However the question of responsibility was raised when Tessa Rouillard, a local student at Rhodes University, witnessed the attack of a domestic dog, by three other dogs.
Rouillard revealed that the attack occurred late on the night of 6 March, near Kings Gardens. She says she watched as a small dog wearing a collar was attacked by three other dogs. “Two of the [attacking] dogs definitely had collars on as well and were someone’s pets. The third I presume must have been a pet too,” she said. Rouillard reported that she tried to stop the attack, but was too late and the dog had already died from its injuries. She later posted a photograph of the animal on social media hoping to inform its owner. An emotional Rouillard was “really upset that firstly it had happened and secondly that there wasn’t anything [she] could do.”
While this report is sad, the reality of stray dogs on Grahamstown’s streets is such a normal part of life that most locals interviewed admitted to never thinking about the legality of who takes responsibility for these animals as they roam the streets alone. Daniella Broomberg, who lives in town, reported never having really thought about who was responsible for the loose dogs. “[I] always assumed that it was legal for them to be unleashed if they were well behaved,” she said.A view commonly held is that “on the roads you should leash your dog”, but other than that, it is fine as long as they are trained.
However according to the Animal By-laws of 2010, it is illegal to have a dog in “any public street or public place except on a leash and under control unless the dog is in an area designated by the Council as a free running area.” Therefore, according to the local legislation of the province, it is illegal to allow your animal off its leash in public, unless a specific area is allocated for that purpose. ‘The Phoenix Dog Project’, is a project aimed at spaying and sterilizing local street and township dogs so that they cannot breed and create more strays. This project has had slow but notable success in reducing the amount of strays in the Grahamstown area.
A view shared by many Grahamstown residents is that the actions of domestic dogs are their owner’s responsibility.Residents seemed very understanding of the pressures placed on the local animal control services.”There is only so much the SPCA can take on. Pet owners have to take care of their pets and if those pets hurt someone or get hurt the owner must get [punished] not the poor dog,” said William Glendinning, a Grahamstown resident.
The notable lack of awareness of local legislation in this regard has been a hindrance in enforcing the law. The SPCA resolves cases of unintentional neglect “through education” on the issue in concern. In the case of this particular dog’s death, if the owners of both the victim and attackers were to be found, they would be informed of the indiscretion and sent on their way.