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Horny dogs hound Soweto

Experts say it’s sex, not viciousness or madness, that has driven a pack of Soweto dogs to maul the people they encounter.

Animal welfare organisations stepped in this week, at the request of community ­leaders and Diepkloof local councillor Vusile ­Mokoena, to stop the cycle of violence between residents and stray or roaming ­canines.They say the urge to mate causes the dogs to gang together at the ­Bapedi Junior ­Primary School in Diepkloof’s Zone 3, where 56-year-old Charlotte Ramotswa was mauled to death and up to 40 people have been bitten in the past fortnight.

Most of the dogs in the area are well-fed, so it is not hunger that is driving them, and tests for rabies have proved ­negative. “The males chase after the ­bitches on heat. They like to gather on the schoolgrounds ­because it is an open, empty space. After a while they start thinking, this is our place, so when people walk past they want to ­protect it,” explains Cora Bailey of Community-led ­Animal Welfare (Claw).

Bailey and members of the Mandela squatter camp’s community ­development forum walked from door to door this week to persuade residents that declaring war on the dogs would not solve the problem. Angry residents have trapped at least one dog in a wire snare and beaten it to death with bottles and lead pipes, while four others have been put down by ­veterinarians.

“These dogs went wild because people ­didn’t care for them,” says ­forum member Miriam Mokoena. “We are telling people not to kill the dogs, but to be their friends and to help them.” Residents started queuing up on Wednesday to have their pets sterilised and ­vaccinated at a temporary veterinary clinic at the Diepkloof Community Centre by Claw and the ­International Fund for Animal ­Welfare.

Nthethe Raditapole, the vet steri­lising the animals, says the objectives of this “blitzkrieg” are to reduce the number of strays running around the neighbourhood and to advise ­people what to do when confronted by aggressive ­canines. “People must remember that the dogs’ ­ancestors are wolves,” he says. “Given the ­opportunity, they will form a pack with a domi­nant male and female at the top of the ­hierarchy.”

Raditapole says the dogs’ “prey-driven ­response” is triggered when they feel their ­territory is being ­invaded, or their resources or offspring are threatened. “If their ‘prey’ starts running, shrieking or waving his arms around, it could be the trigger for an attack. People in this situation must stop, keep motion to a minimum and keep their hands at their sides. Look at the dogs, but don’t maintain eye contact. Then back off very ­slowly until you reach a secure place.”

The Roodepoort SPCA has ­already placed one of the Bapedi school pack dogs in a new home, with a woman in a wheelchair, and has offered to find homes for the ­other unwanted dogs. Claw, which has been conducting pet steri­li­sation programmes in West Rand townships for years, aims to follow up its “blitzkrieg” in Diepkloof with weekly veterinary visits and community education campaigns by ­local volunteers.

Locals queuing with their mutts for treatment praised the effort. “Some say these ­people love animals too much, but that is nonsense,” says Joseph Moloi, who has lived in Diepkloof for 39 years. “They are doing people, as well as animals, a favour here.”

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Fiona Macleod
Fiona Macleod

Fiona Macleod is an environmental writer for the Mail & Guardian newspaper and editor of the M&G Greening the Future and Investing in the Future supplements.

She is also editor of Lowveld Living magazine in Mpumalanga.

An award-winning journalist, she was previously environmental editor of the M&G for 10 years and was awarded the Nick Steele award for environmental conservation.

She is a former editor of Earthyear magazine, chief sub-editor and assistant editor of the M&G, editor-in-chief of HomeGrown magazines, managing editor of True Love and production editor of The Executive.

She served terms on the judging panels of the SANParks Kudu Awards and The Green Trust Awards. She also worked as a freelance writer, editor and producer of several books, including Your Guide to Green Living, A Social Contract: The Way Forward and Fighting for Justice.

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