In South africa we live in an unusual First World, Third World mix of society. For our animals this means that a lucky few are treated well, fed daily and accepted as members of a family, while others are neglected, starved and abused. Some pets vacation in air-conditioned hotels with home cooked gourmet meals and daily grooming (even massages), where others are chained to back-yard fences eating potato peels, unstimulated and unloved.
In urban areas animals are generally used for companionship, protection, to work or as a status symbol. In more rural communities animals are a source of food, labour and income. Whether we are looking at dogs and cats, or horses, cows, sheep and pigs, their welfare is always an emotive issue. The neglect, abandonment and abuse of animals is often as a result of poor education and financial constraints. There is of course, always the malevolent, spiteful cruelty to animals, but in my opinion this is less common than abuse because of ignorance.
In South Africa, hundreds of animal welfare organisations of all sizes and convictions, strive to protect animals from neglect and abuse daily. They provide information, education, medical care and often food and basic needs. They run sterilisation campaigns to help curb the rapid growth of especially the dog and cat populations in previously disadvantaged communities, and the subsequent abandonment of hundreds of puppies and kittens annually. They focus on the responsible rehoming of abandoned or confiscated animals to ensure a safe future for them. This is a mammoth task, often done by volunteers who give their time, money and resources to help these unfortunate, helpless creatures who would otherwise have a fairly dire existence.
Some of the larger organisations are fortunate in that they benefit from Lotto Income, but these are few and far between. By in large, animal welfare organisations in this country depend on the generosity of the public, international aid contributions, bequests left in deceased estates and donations from big business. Some of the pharmaceutical companies also occasionally donate vaccines and medication as part of their annual welfare budgets.
As members of the public we often wonder how we can make a real contribution to the welfare of animals in this country. It seems so overwhelming, but I am convinced that if we all play a small role, we can have a big impact.
Here are some ideas on how you can make a difference:
- Educate your own children and all members of your own household on responsible animal care. Visit the library, use the internet, share responsibility, practice kindness
- Ask your school to include basic animal welfare in their curriculum. Surely there is time in a term to squeeze in a lesson on animal care. Some of the larger animal welfares (like the SPCA and the PDSA) have staff who will come and speak at schools if invited
- Encourage a Civvies Day at your school in aid of your local animal welfare. A R5 donation to wear your pyjamas. End of term is perfect!
- Donate money and not only at Christmas. Start a debit order to a reputable organisation of your choice. It doesn’t need to be big to make a difference
- Leave some money to a trustworthy organisation in your will?
- Offer to volunteer your time and do it often. It is difficult for organizations with limited resources to continually train new people to perform a task, so commit for a school terms, 6 month, a year. It feels good to be involved in such a tangible way
- Speak out against animal abuse when you witness it. Call the SPCA and their inspectors for back-up if you need to
- Don’t buy dogs on the street. I know that this is difficult! Unfortunately this only encourages the breeding of more puppies to sell. Rather call an inspector to come and confiscate the dogs and then adopt for the local animal welfare. This makes a much bigger impact
And although I may be asking you to conquer the world, remember that it all starts in your circle of influence. If you don’t have time or resources for anything more, just look around your own life and see where you can make a difference: walk your elderly neighbours dog who doesn’t get out much. It’s a start…