Plea, sentencing negotiations fail in dog-fighting case
PLEA and sentencing negotiations between the state and three of 10 men charged with illegal pitbull fighting in Plettenberg Bay failed, the Knysna Regional Court heard on Monday.
The blood sport is big business, with the puppies of champion fighters easily fetching more than R10,000 each.
Defence attorney John Gillespie, acting for Mr Marais, Anthony Blake and Ferdinand Endemann, said on Monday his clients had rejected, on the advice of an advocate, an offer from the state and would stand trial with their co-accused in February next year.
Mr Marais, 23, a former chef; Mr Blake, 41, also of Plettenberg Bay; and Mr Endemann, 40, of Somerset West, were not in court and a warrant for their arrest was held over.
The other accused are Donald Wall, 37, of Victoria Park in Port Elizabeth; Rudi Wall, 51, of Queenstown; Peter Wall, 45, also of Queenstown; Owen Butler, 37, of East London; Yorick Grobbelaar, 30, of East London; Anton van Blerk, 41, of East London; and Johannes Joubert, 43, of Johannesburg.
All 10 accused are out on bail of R1,500 each.
The men were arrested in May last year at Mr Marais’ rented home on a smallholding in Ladywood outside Plettenberg Bay where they were allegedly engaged in an organised pitbull terrier fight.
The fights are organised over the internet. The dogs are divided into weight categories, and grand champions are used to breed the best fighters. The dogs are often fed high-protein diets and train on treadmills to reach peak physical condition.
Money is also generated through high-rolling bets, with individuals putting down up to R2,000 per fight.
The fights are usually brutal and can last up to five hours. In a grand championship, the pitbull terriers are made to fight to the death.
In 2008 already, the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) and police said they were targeting wealthy dog-fighting syndicates that were backed by influential players including government officials and businessmen, with Plettenberg Bay one of the hot spots.
According to Southern Cape police spokesman Capt Malcolm Pojie, KwaNokuthula police were alerted to the fight last May by a member of the public.
Along with animal anti-cruelty organisations, police raided the spot after breaching a locked gate. Capt Pojie said they found the accused in a lounge where a massive cage had been built and two pitbull terriers were fighting.
Both dogs were badly injured and had to be taken to the George SPCA for treatment. Another six dogs were found chained up outside, awaiting their turn to fight.
Capt Pojie said police also confiscated illegal veterinary drugs apparently used to euthanise severely injured dogs.
In February this year, Mr Endemann, who was an official in the Western Cape department of agriculture, was found guilty in a disciplinary hearing of bringing the department into disrepute.
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