BELLVILLE – 16 March 2022 Magistrate Davahna handed down judgement in favour of the Cape of Good Hope SPCA this afternoon in the State vs Schlechter matter. Johannes Schlechter was convicted of a criminal offence for contravening the Animal Protection Act and declared unfit to own any animals for a period of three years. He was denied custody of the three dogs confiscated by the SPCA in September 2021.
The Pug named Buddy, who was beaten and kicked on CCTV footage at Agrimark in Durbanville, has been in the custody of the Cape of Good Hope SPCA for safekeeping since the incident. Buddy and two other dogs received care to value of nearly R80 000 for medical and boarding expenses. Buddy is now available for adoption at the Cape of Good Hope SPCA.
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Schlechter, who pleaded guilty, was represented by private counsel. His attorney, Brundson, called the accused and a character witness Jacques Kies to testify. In his defense, Schlechter stated “The dogs are like my children and they are well taken care of. On the day the dog ran through Agrimark upsetting customers and made its way towards the main road and traffic. I understand what I did was wrong and I am sorry”
State prosecutor Davids asked Mr Schlechter, “If the dog is like one of your children, why did you treat the dog in that manner?” Schlechter replied “Nobody helped me and when I eventually got to the dog, I was stressed, angry and overwhelmed emotionally”. Davids then posed two more questions “If you were stressed, angry and overwhelmed emotionally, what will happen the next time you are stressed or overwhelmed?. Schlechter told the court that it was an isolated incident and it won’t happen again.
SPCA argues aggravation
The State called Chief Inspector Jaco Pieterse to the stand. Pieterse rebutted the defense with a 25 minute long testimony of events and wherein he repeatedly told the court “we are not here because the animals were in poor condition or kept in a bad state. We are here because the accused repeatedly hit the dog in the face with his fist, pinned him to the ground, picked him up by his hind legs, dropped and kicked the dog.”
Sentences for a breach of the Animal Protection Act currently cannot exceed a prison term of 12 months (in terms of offences in respect of animals) and 2 years (in respect of animal fighting). Each of these sentences exists in the alternative to an unspecified fine alone. In terms of the Adjustment of Fines Act of 1991, that effectively means a maximum fine of R40 000 and R80 000 respectively. Discretion on the part of the presiding Magistrate, in handing down a sentence for animal cruelty, is limited to only reducing a sentence and not increasing a sentence to beyond the prescribed maximum.
Schlechter was found guilty on all charges in the judgment stating “the accused is sentenced with a fine of R6 000 or 12 months imprisonment wholly suspended for a period of five years on condition the accused is not convicted of cruelty to animals during the period of suspension. The accused is declared unfit to own or be in charge of any animal for a period of three years