SPCA expresses concern over high volume of surrendered animals

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The Cape of Good Hope Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) shoulders the responsibility of animal surrenders, not only from the public, who for any number of reasons can no longer keep them, but from various shelters across the Cape metropole, including organisations marketing themselves as “no-kill” shelters, and claiming to have 100% adoption rates to garner public support.
Unprecedented Burden

The SPCA is dealing with an unprecedented influx of animals, not only from people who can no longer keep them but also from multiple shelters across the Cape metropole.

“We are dealing with an extremely complex challenge” says Belinda Abraham, spokesperson for the Cape of Good Hope SPCA.  “The SPCA is a non-selective open admissions facility. This means our doors are open to the animals nobody else wants, including those surrendered to us by other organisations because they are not good adoption candidates”.

The situation has become so dire that we have a designated drop-off bay specifically reserved for vehicles from other entities coming to the SPCA to drop off animals The SPCA’s commitment to the welfare of these animals is resolute, but the burden on organisational resources and the emotional strain on our team is extremely heavy.

Based on current trends, the SPCA will admit around 20 350 surrendered and stray animals to our facilities this year alone. Approximately 2 300 of these animals will come from other welfare organisations.

“Just by the nature of our non-selective open admissions policy and the resultant influx of animals to the SPCA, we are unable to operate responsibly, sustainably or compassionately without a compassionate euthanasia policy” says Abraham. “Pet overpopulation, resulting from uncontrolled backyard breeding and a lack of adequate law enforcement resources to enforce the Animals Keeping By-law, together with irresponsible pet ownership creates a vicious cycle with no end in sight. There is a crisis in the animal welfare sector, and a responsible and humane euthanasia policy has to be embraced by all animal welfare organisations. No organisation serious about making a meaningful difference to the current state of animal welfare can operate without one”.

The SPCA’s commitment to the welfare of animals goes far beyond shallow marketing tactics. The SPCA considers not only the welfare of any animal subjected to indefinite confinement but also the practicality thereof.

“We cannot rescue or warehouse our way out of this crisis” says Abraham.  “Keeping companion animals in confinement for indefinite periods and ignoring the mental and emotional suffering that results, is not only unkind, it is undeniably cruel”.

Aside from this, there’s the costs of care to consider.

“We rely solely on public funding. There is no government support for our work.  We owe it to our supporters to use the funds they entrust us with in a sustainable, practical and ethical way. Our emotions will always demand of us to save a life at all costs and this is what makes our work in the sector so difficult” she continues.  “We have to be level-headed if we have any hope at all of continuing to operate in the sector.   Throwing thousands of Rands at a single animal rehabilitation is easy, considering the impact of that decision on the animals yet to come is the difficult but crucially important part”.

The “State of Pet Homelessness report” undertaken by Mars alongside leading animal welfare experts and organisations across 20 countries paints a fairly bleak picture for the animal welfare sector.

With millions of cats and dogs [1] estimated to be homeless in South Africa, the reality is that many of these animals suffer on the streets, facing starvation, disease, and cruelty. Adoption rates from shelters remain low, leaving many animals to face a life of confinement.

“According to the report, as many as 3.4 million cats are dogs are estimated to be homeless in South Africa” says Abraham “and with only 9% of dog owners and 19% of cat owners choosing to adopt from animal shelters, we all face being overwhelmed by animals while struggling with limited resources”.  

The report further estimates that 15% of dog owners and 13% of cat owners are considering giving up their pets in the next year. “Based on estimated owned animal populations of 14 million in South Africa, that means around 2.1 million animals will be handed in to shelters around the country in the coming year, and this while indiscriminate backyard breeding continues” she says.

Serving a Higher Purpose:

When an organisation that considers and describes itself as “no-kill” offloads animals at the SPCA, knowing full well that their fate may be euthanasia if they cannot be placed in a suitable home, they are selling the public a lie and reinforcing an undeniable truth. Euthanasia is unavoidable given the current state of animal welfare in South Africa.  “Nobody wants to talk about euthanasia and the public would rather donate to an organisation that appears to be rehoming all animals in need” says Abraham. “In truth, these organisations are helping fewer animals and placing more strain, financially and emotionally on the SPCA. This is patently unfair and unjust”.

The SPCA is often publicly criticised for our euthanasia policy. We have been incorrectly and unfairly labelled as a “kill shelter”.  We are a pro-quality of life facility making difficult but compassionate choices in the face of a dire situation. As a responsible and accountable organisation, the SPCA can never be anything else but an ethical organisation and transparent in all our dealings. We will never try to convince the public that we are anything other than that.

“We aren’t trying to discount the work of any other organisation in the sector” says Abraham. “We are extremely supportive of the many private and public rescue groups that have emerged in Cape Town. We share the services of our Inspectorate and make veterinary care accessible at welfare rates to them via our animal hospital.  We’re hoping for the same courtesy by way of an equitable distribution of the unavoidable emotional burden that is euthanasia”.

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