Cape Town’s stray dog problem

Mary-Anne Gontsana
A stray dog goes through rubbish in search of food. Photo by Mary-Anne Gontsana.
Mary-Anne Gontsana

He limps as he quickly crosses the busy road of NY 1 in Gugulethu, probably injured by another dog who is in the same position as he is. No home, no food, no care.

This is just one of thousands of stray dogs in Cape Town’s townships.

Communications, resource development and education manager of the Cape of Good Hope SPCA, Lise-Marie Greeff-Villet, said dog and cat over-population was a huge problem in the City of Cape Town and the Western Cape.

“We receive the largest percentage of stray animals collected by law enforcement officials and animal groups. As the de facto pound for the City of Cape Town this is an issue of serious concern for the Cape of Good Hope SPCA. Unfortunately there is no way to estimate the number of stray pets in the City of Cape Town as a census has never been undertaken to determine this for the entire city.”

The SPCA will collect a stray dog in response to a call for assistance from a member of public. However the primary responsibility for stray pet collection rests with the City of Cape Town’s Law Enforcement Division. As the enforcers of the relatively new animal by-laws, they may also remove stray dogs that roam the streets, although the majority of collections are in response to a public request or complaint,” explained Greeff-Villett.

A city employee who wished to remain anonymous because he is not a mandated spokesperson said the number of dogs collected by law enforcement was about 30 a month, but varied. “We don’t just go around and collect dogs. We must get a call from the community to do so. The number which is very effective for this is 107,” he said.

Nomalizo and Patrick Dladla live in Kanana, an informal settlement in Gugulethu where stray dogs are rife. They are married but they have different views about these animals.

“There are a lot of these dogs here and obviously there is that fear that they might bite our children and infect them with some diseases or fleas, but I have no problem with them, as long as they stay away from my home,” said Nomalizo.

Her husband on the other hand said he was tired of them and wouldn’t mind if the city would just collect them all.

Just last month it was reported that four people had died in Kwazulu-Natal from rabies after being bitten by dogs.

“Luckily rabies is not prevalent in the Western Cape, however it is an issue in other provinces and the Provincial Department of Agriculture sees the prevention of a rabies outbreak as a priority and regularly carries out rabies vaccination campaigns and makes rabies vaccines available through animal welfare clinics at no cost,” said Greeff-Villett.

She said the most common issue they dealt with when stray dogs were brought in was mange and tick and flea infestations. Many of the dogs came in very weak. They often carry diseases that are not immediately prevalent. She explained that a high percentage of puppies admitted did not survive because of their weak immune systems and were susceptible to infection. On average approximately 250 to 350 dogs and cats are admitted to the SPCA as strays each month.

“Work has begun on a mass pet sterilisation pilot project, which aims to sterilise and vaccinate 70% of the total pet population living in Kayamandi in Stellenbosch by end of March 2013. Together with a dog and cat rabies vaccination campaign, the sterilisation project will benefit both animals and people living in the community, by reducing the spread of zoonotic diseases (i.e. diseases transmitted from animals to humans) such as mange and worms,” said Greeff-Villett.

The City’s confusing Animal Bylaw 2010

The City’s Animal Bylaw 2010 left GroundUp journalists perplexed.

The City’s website says, “The City of Cape Town would like to remind all pet owners to register any additional pets they might have (in excess of the prescribed maximum number per property - see below for the table showing these) as set out in the City’s Animal Bylaw 2010 before 31 July 2012. There is no charge involved and pet owners who register before 31 August will automatically qualify for permission for extra animals being kept. The final deadline for registration is 30 September 2012. Thereafter, owners may be fined for non compliance, excess and/or unidentifiable (chipped, tattooed or collar tag) animals.”

Our reading of this is that only pet owners who currently have more the maximum limit of allowed pets on their properties must register their pets. Also, all animals must be identifiable either with a microchip, tattoo or collar.

But lower down on the same page it states, “The pet registration process is in line with the City of Cape Town’s Animal Bylaw of 2010 which stipulates that instead of buying an annual dog licence, pet owners are simply required to register all of the cats and dogs kept on their property. There is no charge for registration.”

That seems to imply that all pets must be registered.

We first phoned the offices of a popular city vet. The receptionist said, “We’re boycotting the process.”

So we phoned the City to clarify and the person we spoke to said that all pets must be registered, whether or not you exceed the limits.

The bylaw sets limits on the maximum number of dogs and pets on a property. For example the limit in a flat is two dogs and four cats, but for a large house (more than 600 square metres) it is four dogs and four cats. On agricultural land this goes up to six dogs and six cats. However people who exceed the limits get an exemption from the city.

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