Port Alfred K9 unit

Bonzo and his handler, Warrant Officer Tertius Neethling, from the Port Alfred K9 unit. Image via Twitter @SapsEC

Port Alfred K9 unit: End of the beat for top dog Bonzo

Brave Bonzo from the Port Alfred K9 unit was put to sleep on February 7 after losing his fight against cancer.

Port Alfred K9 unit

Bonzo and his handler, Warrant Officer Tertius Neethling, from the Port Alfred K9 unit. Image via Twitter @SapsEC

Bonzo the police dog had lots of bark and even more bite when it came to apprehending baddies on his beat.

When the rottweiler was just a tail-wagging youngster, his potential to serve in the Eastern Cape’s Port Alfred K9 unit was recognised by his then owner who donated him to the SAPS. A picture of vigour, endless energy and an inquisitive mind and nose, Bonzo was the perfect four-legged recruit.

And during the six years that Bonzo served alongside his handler, Warrant Officer Tertius Neethling, he truly earned his officer’s badge with many criminals not being able to escape the long leash of the law.

Crime-fighting canine Bonzo’s list of achievements:

  • He helped collar 49 fleeing/hiding suspects;
  • Due to his actions, stolen property to the value of R1 025 900 was recovered;  
  • He apprehended two abalone poachers who were hiding high up in the dunes; and
  • Recovered abalone to the value of R51 600 and diving gear valued at R40 000.
A proud Bonzo after a successful operation. Photo: Supplied

According to Neethling, the fearless patrol dog put his life on the line without any hesitation.

“He was kicked and attacked by suspects, but always managed a successful arrest.”

Bonzo’s canine partner in crime-fighting, Belgian shepherd Ounooi, was stabbed by a suspect in August 2019 and was left fighting for her life. The stab wounds damaged muscles close to her heart.

Hanging up brave Bonzo’s leash

On 22 August 2019, Bonzo still assisted in the arrest of a housebreaking suspect in Bathurst, earning the praise of the community.

Officer Bonzo, however, had a long history of gastric problems which made him tire easily and he was withdrawn from duty due to these medical reasons at the end of 2019.

The process of boarding started in January 2020 and on 4 February, the 11-year-old Bonzo officially retired. Neethling purchased Bonzo from the SAPS, so he could spend his retirement at his handler’s home. 

Neethling said that on Friday 7 February, his family noticed that Bonzo had difficulty lying down and standing up. He was also not able to ingest anything and they immediately took him to the vet where he was diagnosed with a growth on his pancreas.

“The vet suggested the removal of Bonzo’s pancreas to prevent the cancer from spreading, but when she operated on him, she discovered that his body was riddled with cancer and all of his organs were affected,” Neethling said.

“There was nothing she could do for him and he was in severe pain. She stitched up his wound and woke him up so we could spend some time with him and bid him farewell before he was put to sleep.

“This was one of the saddest days of my life. Bonzo was not just my partner, he was a hero and a true friend, I will miss him,” said an emotional Neethling.

A private prayer service was held for Bonzo on Tuesday 11 February, with Port Alfred cluster commander Brigadier Morgan Govender saying: “Farewell brave colleague. You were a warrior and loyal to the SAPS. You will always be remembered for your courage loyalty and dedication. It’s your time to rest. We will miss you!”