TO SAVE A BREED Robyn Moll (BVSc II)
(This was sent to me and apparently was featured in Community Engagement Newsletter – Faculty of Veterinary Science, but I have been unable to find the link)
When one says the word ‘pit bull’, one can expect a variety of reactions. Mostly people simply assume that one is referring to vicious, babykiller beasts that are often wrongly labelled in the news.
In collaboration with the Faculty of Veterinary Science and Underdogs South Africa Rehabilitation Centre, the CPE 400 Community Engagement group decided to focus its attention on dispelling the prejudice regarding the American pit bull terrier (APBT).
After months of planning and organisation, the project group held a pit bull and dog fighting awareness talk at the Onderstepoort Campus. Veterinary science students, lecturers and other representatives of animal welfare and the veterinary profession joined them in listening to the talk presented by Underdogs South Africa. Response to the advertised talk was overwhelming, indicating the largely professional interest in the issue. The topics, including the history of the breed, the realities of dog fighting in South Africa, how to recognise the injuries of fighting dogs and how to go about reporting dog fighting, were informative and well received. After the talk, two short demonstrations were given to display the APBT’s use in the South African Police Service to sniff out drugs, and a pit bull pulled a truck to demonstrate its unique strength and desire to work.
Audience members were then given the chance to interact with the dogs and to see the true nature of this strong, devoted and loving breed. The day’s events turned out to be a huge success, generating a fair amount of interest and positive feedback from those veterinary students who attended the talk and have had very little exposure to the breed.
As an added aspect of the project, the students invited a group of Grade 9 and 10 learners from Hoërskool Akasia to join them for their pit bull talk. On the morning of the talk, they were also given a detailed tour of the Onderstepoort Campus, which included a tour of the Onderstepoort Veterinary Animal Hospital and the beagles of the Onderstepoort Teaching Animal Unit.
The project had an impact on the Underdogs South Africa Rehabilitation Centre, the Faculty and learners alike. Underdogs South Africa relies on building awareness and educating people who can help their ause. The opportunity to educate future veterinarians was thus invaluable to the organisation.
Through the project, the project group was also able to donate building materials to Underdogs South Africa that will be used to build kennels to house the dogs rescued from the dog fighting industry. Before this talk, the group members were both ignorant and fearful of pit bulls. However, they have come to realise what devoted and beautiful animals they are. As veterinarians, it is important to understand those animals that man fears, and the students now feel far better equipped to deal with the abused pit bull that may one day walk through their doors.
Finally, seeing the enthusiasm of the high school learners who had never before considered veterinary science as a profession was certainly the cherry on the top of a very successful day. The opportunity to engage with the community and to share some of the knowledge and skills that the students have gained at Onderstepoort served as a very refreshing reminder of the real joy of their proposed career. The project was implemented by Liezle Crous, Debbie van Dyk, Nadia de Beer, Ashleigh Knowles, Jade Clark and Robyn Moll.