It is an unusual affair that ended up hoisting itself into the columns of the most serious newspapers in South Africa. In late April, a court in Roodeport, near Johannesburg, sentenced a man to eight years in prison for raping a dog. A sentence of unprecedented severity in the country, underlines the weekly Mail & Guardian which recounts the long legal battle of a Soweto family determined not to let the crime go unpunished.

The case dates back to 2020. One evening in November, Fred Sithole is awakened by a neighbor who alerts him to the presence of a man in his garden. The father surprises the individual alongside a puppy he has just given to his 15-year-old daughter. Escorted by residents to the police station, the man was released when the police refused to register the complaint. “It shocked us. For them, it’s just a dog”, tells the owner of the animal in the Mail & Guardian.

Eighteen months of battle

In the process, he takes the puppy to an associative veterinary clinic. Founder of Claw (Community Led Animal Welfare), Cora Bailey makes the promise “to obtain justice” and warns him about the risk of seeing the man who attacked his animal attack vulnerable individuals, such as children.

The association contacts the NSPCA, the equivalent of the SPA in South Africa, which has its own investigation unit. The organization examines the animal that suffers trauma. Investigative cell manager Wendy Willson collects evidence before taking the puppy back to the police station to obtain DNA samples. She also warns against the risk of acting out on fragile people. He will have to fight eighteen months before obtaining a trial.

“No distinction should be made between the rape of an animal and that of a human being. Courts have a duty to protect animal victims and impose appropriate penalties and prevent people from taking the law into their own hands,” finally considered judge E. Van Niekierk to justify the heavy sentence. “This is the first time that such a sentence has been pronounced in the country, it shows the severity of this sexual abuse which cannot and will not be tolerated”greets the investigator Wendy Willson.

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