An X-ray taken of the dog, showing the bullet in its neck. The bullet entered the nasal cavity, passed through the nasal bones and muscle of the head and neck and stopped near the fourth cervical vertebra in the neck. Photo: Louis Trichardt SPCA.
Date: 22 January 2021 By: Andries van Zyl
In what looks set to become yet another high-profile case for the Louis Trichardt SPCA, a state veterinarian, who is also a deputy director for animal health in the Vhembe region for the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF), recently appeared in court on a charge of animal cruelty.
Dr Tambudzani Albert Rhangani, a state veterinarian from Sibasa who also runs a private practice after hours, appeared in the Mutale District Court on 2 December on a charge relating to a violation of the Animals Protection Act, Act 71 of 1962. Rhangani had allegedly caused a dog unnecessary suffering by shooting and wounding it. After wounding the dog by shooting it in the face, the dog fled and Rhangani allegedly made no attempt to find it and put it out of its misery.
The case relates to an incident at Mulodi village in Mutale on 13 November 2019. The help of a community-service veterinarian on a 12-month contract with the DAFF was called in by a local dog owner who said his dog, a large Boer Mastiff (Boerboel) crossbreed, had bitten his son and the dog was suspected to be suffering from rabies. The dog owner also stated that he used to be able to handle the dog, but that he could not touch the dog at that time without its trying to bite him. The dog owner gave the community service veterinarian verbal consent over the telephone to euthanise the dog as he and his family were feeling threatened by it.
Upon arriving at the dog owner’s home, nobody wanted to restrain the animal for it to be euthanised and as the community-service veterinarian did not have a dart gun, blow dart, catch pole or pole, he asked Dr Rhangani for assistance. They agreed to return to the dog owner’s home after 17:00 that day.
The community service veterinarian returned to the dog owner’s home at 17:00 and he noticed that the dog was outside the yard but then managed to sneek back into the yard. He phoned Dr Rhangani, who was still en route, and told him to be cautious and to rather dart the dog from the safety of his vehicle. Upon arrival, Dr Rhangani allegedly walked up to the gate of the dog owner’s house. The community-service veterinarian said he saw the dart gun’s case open on the back seat of Dr Rhangani’s vehicle and approached him with the medicine needed to dart and immobilise the dog.
According to the community-service veterinarian, the dog saw Dr Rhangani and approached him cautiously. When the dog was about a metre to a metre-and-a-half away, Dr Rhangani suddenly produced a pistol and shot the dog in the face. The dog howled and jumped backwards, fleeing the premises. Dr Rhangani then instructed the family members to go find the dog. The dog could not, however, be found and the community-service veterinarian allegedly asked Dr Rhangani what they should do next. He said he was told by Dr Rhangani to leave the dog as it would probably die from the gunshot.
The community service veterinarian was, however, not so sure that the gunshot had been a fatal one. The next morning, he got a call from the dog owner telling him that the dog had returned and was still alive. The community-service veterinarian returned to the scene, where he found the dog and finally managed to euthanise it. Samples of the dog’s brain were sent to the state laboratory to be tested for rabies. Astonishingly, after everything the dog had been subjected to, it tested negative for rabies.
“I do not have a problem using a firearm to shoot a dog with rabies, but I do have a problem with the manner in which he did it. My case is based on his using a firearm and wounding and maiming the dog without killing it. If the dog were killed with one shot, there would be no case, because the animal did not suffer. In this case, the animal suffered immensely,” said senior inspector Lawrence Khodobo of the local SPCA, who brought the charges against Dr Rhangani.
Upon enquiry, Ms Mashudu Malabi, liaison officer for the Director of Public Prosecutions in Polokwane, confirmed the case against Dr Rhangani. She added that the case had been postponed until 19 March this year for further police investigation. The newspaper also asked both the provincial and national office of the DAFF for comment on the incident and whether they were aware of the charge against one of their senior members. At the time of our going to press, they had yet to respond.
Andries joined the Zoutpansberger and Limpopo Mirror in April 1993 as a darkroom assistant. Within a couple of months he moved over to the production side of the newspaper and eventually doubled as a reporter. In 1995 he left the newspaper group and travelled overseas for a couple of months. In 1996, Andries rejoined the Zoutpansberger as a reporter. In August 2002, he was appointed as News Editor of the Zoutpansberger, a position he holds until today.