Animal cruelty

Phillipa Peterson, Killarney Gardens

On Sunday January 28, I went to fill my car at the BP garage on Sandown Road at midday and was waiting at the petrol pump only to witness a car-wash attendant using a sickly but still moving rat as a soccer ball and clearly enjoying his sick game.

I immediately ran over yelling for him to stop. I managed to rescue the little critter that was injured and squealing in fear and pain, and, in doing so, had attracted the attention of the car-wash manager and other attendants around me.

I wanted to know why he (the manager) thought this behaviour towards an animal was acceptable.

I was met with sneering and laughing by the attendants and manager who said, I quote, “It’s just a rat; we don’t want them here, and it’s dying anyway from poison so what’s the problem?”.

The manager and the staff were clearly enjoying my anguish.

I went into the shop inside, looking for the owner. There I was again met by the car-wash manager and the shop manager. She immediately became defensive and rude and sided with the other manager reiterating that there was no problem with the attendants’ behaviour because they didn’t want the rats around.

I witnessed the whole incident, the car-wash manager didn’t. By this stage, my frustration with the lack of assistance had made me so upset.

The shop manager could have diffused the entire situation by firstly coming out of the doorway of her office and being professional, listening to me, then offering a solution, seeing as the owner was not there.

Instead she instantly became rude, which made the situation much worse and has now escalated to this point.

No one wants to have rats around; that was never the argument. I was quite clear it was the attendant’s abusive behaviour that was the problem.

Wild rats can be destructive and a pest. However, torture of an animal is inexcusable and worse when perpetrated in full view of customers with their children.

I had my young daughter in the car witnessing this horrific behaviour. The staff clearly knew it was dying, so why not just leave it alone, instead the mentality was to hurt.

I would never stand by and condone cruelty towards any living animal, no matter how small. I’m horrified, BP, that your management, who should be setting an example for other employees, treated me, a paying customer, with such disrespect in front of everyone.

These people are representing your business and brand. I’ve been using this garage for many years, but from now on, my family and I will be going elsewhere.

I contacted the head of DART animal rescue who showed incredible compassion and took the rat into her care immediately. The SPCA has also been notified.

Melanie Govender, owner of Sandown Road BP garage, responds:

We would first like to emphasise that we do not condone animal cruelty. We can understand that the customer was upset at what she perceived to be unnecessary violence towards the rat.

We have spoken to the car-wash attendant who was involved, and he apologised profusely saying that he was trying to move the half-dying rat away from the customers that were at the car wash. There appears to be a cultural issue in how he dealt with the rat, and it stems from his fear of rodents.

He did not want to touch the rat, as he was scared that it would bite him, so he tried to kick it out of the way. We have spoken to him about his instinctual reaction and advised him to rather ask for help instead.

The rodent problem has been exacerbated city-wide by the drought, and we have had to install numerous bait stations to prevent food contamination and disease.

We are audited every quarter to ensure that we are compliant with regards to food-safety policies, so we need to be extra vigilant.

We have now provided the staff at the car wash with a broom and a box to deal with the rats more humanely, should they encounter such an issue in the future.

Our office manager said she tried to apologise to the customer and explain to her the requirements of health and safety, but there must have been a communication breakdown and she further apologises for any misunderstanding.