After a long life of service in the eThekwini Metro Police in Durban, South Africa, Butch, the police dog, was no longer fit to work.
His handler hoped to take the old German shepherd home, where he could live out his final years in love and comfort, according to South African politician Dianne Kohler Barnard.
Instead, on Friday, Butch was put down, provoking indignation among many South Africans. One of the last photographs of Butch, taken by a journalist, showed him gazing out of a cage with a concrete floor.
The dog’s handler was “heartbroken,” Kohler Barnard said. She told The Times that old dogs in the eThekwini municipality police were destroyed “because the man who runs it considers dogs to be property to be destroyed when old.
“When they are 8 to 10, they stop them working and leave them to rot in what become concrete coffins,” she said.
Kohler Barnard said police had claimed in comments to her that the dog was aggressive, but Butch’s handler denied he was unfriendly.
Tozi Mthethwa, a spokeswoman for eThekwini Metro Police, said in a statement Friday that police dogs were well looked after, inoculated and had enough food and medical supplies.
She said the municipality sought the help of the animal welfare group the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals to put down a dog that was “old and ailing.” An SPCA spokeswoman told local media the dog had hip dysplasia.
The Metro Police logistics head, Innocent Chamane, provoked a storm in 2014 when he said that old police dogs and horses were “assets” and should be euthanized at the end of their useful working life, warning that there was no point in getting emotional about it.
In a leaked internal email published in a Durban newspaper last year, Chamane wrote, “it will not be proper to rule out the possibility of putting both the dogs and the horses down. I understand the issue of personalizing assets, but we must be careful about using emotions against the act.”
Kohler Barnard learned of Butch’s fate during a visit to the dog unit in Durban last week after news reports saying police were short of dog food and shampoo and dogs had not been inoculated because police hadn’t paid their veterinary bill.
Kohler Barnard told local media a police directive had been taken “equating the dogs to filing cabinets, to be destroyed when no longer of use.”
“Knowing that the dog one has raised, trained, worked with, and which has probably saved one’s life, will be thrown aside like a piece of trash when it is considered old - between 8 and 10, has destroyed morale and has top crime fighters brought to their knees.”