Premier Helen Zille Hosts Animal Welfare Summit
On Tuesday, 31 January, Premier Helen Zille hosted a summit with Western Cape animal welfare organisations, working with domestic animals as part of an effort to ensure an integrated and coordinated approach to promoting animal welfare and ensuring the humane treatment of domestic animals in the province. Attended by close to 80 delegates representing around 30 animal welfare organisations, the Animal Welfare Summit was a consultative engagement platform, along the lines of previous events like the Premier's Health and Wellness Summit and Provincial Housing Indaba.
These engagements have aimed to forge strategic partnerships and multi-stakeholder commitment to joint action to address challenges when it comes to the care and welfare of domestic animals, underpinned by the Western Cape Government's philosophy that effective progress and results are achieved "better together", ie when all roleplayers - public, private and non-profit - are mobilised to work together in successful partnerships.
Both the City of Cape Town and the Western Cape Government opened the summit by making presentations on their constitutional mandates and strategies in relation to domestic animals. The provincial government's key role is disease prevention and management through instituting appropriate policy and regulatory frameworks while the city's key role is in implementation through by-laws and local policing.
The Western Cape is, and must remain, a rabies-free zone. Central to achieving this is controlling stray and feral animal population sizes through sterilisation, known as the "Delhi model", which has previously been implemented in the Indian capital and found to be effective. The Western Cape Department of Agriculture believes that sterilising 70% of the stray and feral animal population in the province will apply a brake on their breeding rate and minimise the adverse effects of such domestic animal populations on communities and public health.
Organisations in attendance gave brief presentations of the work they do, their areas of operation and the challenges they face. Common areas of work among many of the organisations were sterilisation, vaccination, de-worming, placement of animals in permanent and foster homes and provision of shelter and outreach to underprivileged communities through mobile animal clinics. Key challenges highlighted by organisations were shortage of funding to carry out the full of scope of work to meet demand, unreliable and outdated statistics about animal population sizes and lack of enforcement of animal legislation by the police, in particular, investigating cases of animal abuse, sometimes to the point of being actively unco-operative, as well as lack of support from government.
Premier Helen Zille proposed a way forward comprising a range of positions and action steps:
- The Western Cape Government and City of Cape Town will continue to engage with the range of organisations through the Western Cape Animal Welfare Forum as a sectoral body. This will ensure streamlined processes yet incorporates a diversity of views and voices. Animal welfare organisations that are currently not members/affiliates of the forum indicated that they would attend meetings in the future in order to take part in these discussions.
- The Premier will investigate the feasibility of appointing an Animal Welfare Champion in the Premier's Office, similar to the Human Rights Champion currently in place, who will act as the Premier's representative on the Western Cape Animal Welfare Forum and ensure that strong links are maintained with animal welfare organisations in outlying, rural areas of the province.
- A three-pronged operational framework for a joint action programme between the Western Cape Animal Welfare Forum, the Western Cape Government and the City of Cape Town was agreed to as follows:
a) Sterilisation will be prioritised as a key intervention and some level of cost subsidisation/funding will be provided by the provincial and local governments to fund the most cost-effective model. This is likely to begin as a series of localised test pilots in different areas and partnerships with local and provincial government will be built.
b) The Western Cape Government will follow up on lack of enforcement by the South African Police Services (SAPS) of animal legislation in fulfillment of its monitoring and oversight duties. In this regard, the Premier requested that full details of cases involving animal abuse and where no progress has been made by SAPS must be forwarded to her office.
c) The rolling out of education interventions to teach learners about the importance of the humane treatment of animals will be supported. These interventions will be implemented primarily in the Mass Participation, Opportunity and Development (MOD) Centres and also partly through the integration of relevant education into the Life Orientation curriculum at schools across the province.
Premier Helen Zille closed the summit with a word of thanks to organisations for their input and engagement as well as a pledge saying, "Please accept the Western Cape Government's commitment to the rights of all living creatures". A follow-up meeting is planned for a month's time at which draft action planning for a joint programme will begin.
The Western Cape Government is encouraged by the undertaking made by animal organisations to put any differences they have aside in order to work with the city and the province to come up with solutions to the current challenges facing the welfare of domestic animals in the province.