During “normal” times many animals hope only for food, treatment or rescue, and they rely on animal welfare organisations/volunteers and the public for this.
And even then the challenge is insurmountable.
The main reason being animals’ lack of rights. Some know, many do not, that under law, animals are assets – a “thing”, a “possession” and not recognised as beings.
To add to this burden, only the NSPCA/SPCA are legally recognised and empowered animal organisations.
The other hundreds of organisations forming a large part of and picking up much of the work, are not recognised. Their work is limited and frustrated by many obstacles.
Their success comes only from tenacity and often, self-sacrificing.
Inspectorships are not granted to all. This leaves the animal welfare of South Africa subject to being enforced only by the NSPCA or law enforcement. Contradicting this are laws written for the well-being of these “beings” while being an asset.
The laws are vague, weak and conflicting.
The laws are designed to protect the rights of ownership, while ensuring that only basic needs are met.
Creating a situation where little is or can be done to protect the rights of animals, even making certain unacceptable situations legal.
The lockdown has caused these voiceless “assets” greater hardship.
Even now as Level 4 has been announced, while many sigh relief at the relaxing of the regulations, animal welfare tenses up further.
All sterilisation programmes were stopped under lockdown.
Informal settlements and the poor will have an explosion of animals in the months to come, many will suffer and die. No adoptions have been allowed. A life blood aspect of most welfare organisations’ funding.
The SAPS and law enforcement prevented or fined those working in these fields, disregarding it as an essential service.
Across the country, this caused such havoc that in KwaZulu-Natal an organisation, CatsofDurban, approached the high court and won (case D2718/2020).
The judgment confirmed that feeding stray animals is an essential service.
The posts and reports of hurt, sick and starving animals needing help, along with the obstacles to get that help to them has left many sick to their stomach in lockdown.
Poor people who fed their dogs scraps, no longer do, as they themselves run out of food.
The dustbins and food thrown out from street hawkers, a source of food for many strays, also gone.
Bewildered animals roam the streets, emaciated dogs become pregnant, again. Animals have become a target of anger. Hundreds are surrendered to be killed.
As the lockdown was announced, animal welfare people panicked, scrambled attempting to mitigate.
There have been announcements and articles, about all aspects of the lockdown and the needs of the people.
While animal welfare and rescue has been cast out, organisations are declaring dire conditions, no income and possible closure.
The impact of this will be felt for a long time to come.
Our president is a farm owner and yet he remains silent on aid and relief for these “assets”, and the organisations and hundreds of independent volunteers involved.
An organisation, aptly called Dead Animals Walking, started a petition for the president: “Relief support for animal rescue organisations during lockdown in South Africa”.
Richelle Graham speaks for all when she says: “But every single speech that our president has given, every single measure he and his Cabinet have put in place in terms of risk adjusted strategy to and for a whole list of economic value sectors, has excluded one important sector – animal welfare.”
Mr President, it is crucial that you extend your reach to the animals of South Africa. Because if not you, then who?
* Albers is a human, environmental, animal and legal rights consultant/activist.
By Nanadi Simoné Albers