The Socio-Economic Reality of Animal Welfare in Cape Town

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The Cape of Good Hope SPCA recorded a more than 22% increase in the number of cases over the period between November 2020 and January 2021 and the numbers continue to increase daily.

According to a recent report by the Dullah Omar Institute titled The Socio-Economic Rights Impact of Covid-19 in Selected Informal Settlements in Cape Town, lockdown in South Africa has made it even harder for people to enjoy basic needs and amenities such as food, water & sanitation, information, transportation, employment and health.

If our most vulnerable populations are struggling to meet their own basic needs for survival, how are they meeting the needs of their animal companions?

In this context, the Cape of Good Hope SPCA does not only see animals; we also see the owners of those animals.

The most pressing socio-economic issues are poor living conditions, high levels of crime and social disturbance. Also, many areas within the Cape of Good Hope SPCA’s operation area are notorious for its gangsterism and violence. Several studies have found a connection between violence and animal abuse, where more than 70% of those who are perpetrators of violence are likely to abuse animals.

Would it be fair to say we are amid a triple burden in Animal Welfare?

The Current Landscape

South Africa has one of the largest global Gini-coefficients, a division between rich and poor with more than 70% of the population falling within the lowest rung of the economic pyramid.

An estimated 82% of South Africans access health services in the public sector (HWSETA, 2018).

We can infer that the same population is likely to access veterinary care from the NPO sector.

Moreover, the effect of lockdown, short time, and rising unemployment have put an increased strain on the animal welfare system.

We are starting to see a further increase in cases of people who are no longer able to access care in the private sector, now turning to the welfare sector for their veterinary needs.

The full extent of the socio-economic impact and the ripple effect thereof is only starting to manifest now.

There are currently 228 822 registered not-for-profit organisations (NPOs) in South Africa of which 23 492 are located in the Western Cape.

In Cape Town alone, more than 200 of those registered NPOs are Animal Welfare Organisations. This demonstrates the dire need for aid and quality interventions in animal welfare to alleviate the burden on and migrate our most vulnerable towards improved access to quality veterinary care.

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The need for continued service delivery

Daily, our Inspectors face challenging, intimidating, and often threatening situations where animals are at risk or in distress. However, we must keep our Inspectors on the road and on the frontline of the fight against animal cruelty.

Our Hospital continues to perform pioneering animal orthopaedic surgery and ongoing clinical interventions to mitigate as well as treat life-threatening diseases such as canine parvovirus while our Mobile Clinics are a critical component of our commitment to deliver care to those most in need.

Mobile Clinics

Operating in the informal settlements around Cape Town, the mobile units provide primary veterinary care including dipping, de-worming and administering vaccinations.

Animals in need of sterilization – and those that are ill or injured – are transported to our Animal Hospital for further treatment, and returned to their owners after treatment.

The Cape of Good Hope SPCA is not Government funded, and our work on the front lines in the fight against animal cruelty would not be possible without the support of our donors. 

A 150-Year Legacy in Animal Welfare

The Mother City, Cape Town is the second-most populous city in South Africa, after Johannesburg, and is the largest city in the Western Cape Province.

The Cape of Good Hope SPCA, governed under the Society for the Protection of Animals Act (Act 169 of 1993), enforces the protection of animals under the Animals Protection Act (Act 71 of 1962). One hundred and fifty years in existence, the end-to-end operations of the Cape of Good Hope SPCA include an Inspectorate, a multidisciplinary Hospital, Pound, Farmyard and Horse Care Unit, Wildlife Facility,  and Education Department, and a fully-fledged rehoming service overseeing animal adoptions.

The 24-hour service Inspectorate with its 21 strong staff complement consists of 13 Inspectors, 3 Trainee Inspectors, 2 Field Officers and 3 Collection Officers who service an area of more than 3 200 square kilometres. This area of operation includes the Cape Town Metropole of 2 400 square kilometres and the Stellenbosch municipal area of more than 800 square kilometres, stretching into the Cape Wine lands. 

The Cape of Good Hope SPCA is a high-volume animal facility seeing on average 45 000 cases per year of which more than 60% present as moderate to severe cases.

Treatment costs can quickly escalate over R850.00 per animal per day in those moderate to severe cases. At the heart of this significant caseload, the hospital, our veterinarians and animal welfare assistants demonstrate the capability to scale, oversee, manage and execute high volume operations without compromising quality.

Quality of care

Quality of care is maintained at a high clinical standard aligned with international best practice. The animal hospital has a capacity of several hundred cages overseen by four veterinarians. Each Veterinarian can manage 80 to 100 cases per day, of which 15 to 20 are surgeries. “We are fortunate to have a lower cadre of Para-Veterinarians and assistants that help free up our professional time” – says Dr Stephanie Chatry.  


  1. Department of Social Development on its registration process, funding, monitoring and evaluation of NPOs: PMG. 2020 
  2. The relationship between domestic violence and animal abuse: an Australian study
  3. Pets, the overlooked victims of domestic violence 
  4. Societies for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act
  5. The Socio-Economic Rights Impact of Covid-19 in Selected Informal Settlements in Cape Town

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