Animal Welfare in South Africa
The majority of not for profit organizations (NPOs) are largely donor dependent facing significant declines in available donor funding accessible to NPOs, especially now following the nationwide lockdown and subsequent economic and socio-economic impact. Lack of resources and capacity remains a recurring theme throughout, and many of the NPOs barely have sufficient resources to cover their immediate operational cost.
There are currently 228 822 registered not for profit organizations (NPOs) in South Africa of which 23 492 are located in the Western Cape. In Cape Town only, 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.
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. Over and above the latter, the effect of lockdown, short time and rising unemployment have put an increased strain on the animal welfare system. We are now starting to see a further increase in cases in people who are no longer able to access care in the private sector 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.
Cape Town, A 150 year legacy in Animal Welfare
Cape Town, also known as the Mother City, is the second-most populous city in South Africa, after Johannesburg, and is the largest Western Cape Province city. 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 fifty years in existence, the end to end operations of the Cape of Good Hope SPCA include an Inspectorate, a multidisciplinary Hospital, Pound, Farmyard, Wildlife, Horse Care and Education Unit, and a fully-fledged rehoming service overseeing animal adoptions as well as four mobile clinics.
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 (Approx. 1240 ml. This area of operation includes the Cape Town Metropole of 2 400 square kilometres (Approx. 930 ml²) and the Stellenbosch municipal area of more than 800 square kilometres (Approx. 300 ml²), stretching into the Cape Wine lands.
As the leading Animal Welfare organization, The Cape of Good Hope SPCA is a high-volume animal facility in the country and sees on average 45 000 cases per year of which more than 60% present as moderate to severe cases. Treatment cost can quickly escalate over ZAR 850 (Approx £41) 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
Our 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.
Lower cadre paraprofessionals are a significant cost-saving strategy in terms of professional time and contribute to job creation and career pathing for young adults with a credit-bearing qualification. Para-Veterinarians are registered with the veterinary council under the supervision of the Chief Veterinarian practising per the Veterinary and Para-Veterinary Professions Act 19 of 1982. They assist with administering injections, taking blood samples and doing blood smears, administering specific tests, and compiling the clinical information for the Veterinarian to make diagnoses and prescribe treatment. Para-Veterinarians manage mundane tasks that free up the Veterinarian’s professional time to focus on complex clinical procedures and surgeries, a unique differentiator in our ability to handle the volume and optimize service delivery in a manner not attainable by other animal welfare organizations.
Top surgeries and causes
Each Veterinarian can perform between 15 to 20 surgeries on an average day per. “These surgeries can range from bones stuck in the abdomen, which is quite an invasive procedure to cut those bones out and also requires an extended hospital stay to aid recovery and monitor for postoperative complications. Another example is a blocked bladder caused by stones that formed in the bladder, also an invasive procedure to enter the bladder and remove those stones to clear obstruction so that the animal can urinate again”. – said, Dr Chatry.
Bite wounds are quite common; we get dozens of them, says Dr Chatry. She lists her top five surgeries performed daily as 1) Bite wounds, 2) Sterilizations, 3) Lump removals, 4) Lacerations; and 5) Removal of foreign bodies from the digestive tract.
Facing the Socioeconomic impact of lockdown in Cape Town
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, the lockdown in South Africa has made it even harder for people to enjoy basic needs and amenities such as food, water and 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 problems are poor living conditions and 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 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 in 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 disease such as canine parvovirus while our Mobile Clinics are a critical component of our commitment to deliver care to those most in need. 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. Their continued support is even more critical in our most incredible time of need.
- Animals Protection Act 71 of 1962. Available: https://www.gov.za/documents/animals-protection-act-22-jun-1963-0000#:~:text=The Animals Protection Act 71,prevention of cruelty to animals.
- Department of Social Development on its registration process, funding, monitoring and evaluation of NPOs: PMG. 2020. Available: https://pmg.org.za/committee-meeting/30312/#:~:text=There were 228 822 Non,compliant with the relevant legislation.
- Veterinary and Para-Veterinary Professions Act 19 of 1982 Available: https://www.savc.org.za/pdf_docs/act_19_of_1982.pdf.
- The relationship between domestic violence and animal abuse: an Australian studyU.S. National Library of Medicine. Available: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18326483/.
- Person & reporter, W. 2020. Pets, the overlooked victims of domestic violence witness. Available: https://www.news24.com/witness/news/pets-the-overlooked-victims-of-domestic-violence-20201106.
- Societies for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act. Available: https://www.gov.za/documents/societies-prevention-cruelty-animals-act.
- The Socio-Economic Rights Impact of Covid-19 in Selected Informal Settlements in Cape Town. Available at: https://dullahomarinstitute.org.za/socio-economic-rights/research-and-publications/publications/report-on-the-impact-of-covid-19-in-informal-settlements.pdf