The National Council of Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (NSPCAs) would like to open eyes to the broad scope of animal welfare work undertaken and to emphasise how helping animals uplifts the welfare of people. This element is often overlooked yet people and animals go together. Where there are people there are animals. The NSPCA serves to protect all species.
The NSPCA was founded in 1955 as the federation of Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCAs) to provide a forum to bring uniformity to welfare legislation and standards in South Africa. Over 90 member SPCAs in South Africa are governed by the SPCA Act 169 of 1993 which is administered by the NSPCA, thus constituting the NSPCA as a statutory body.
The SPCA Act also, and very importantly, establishes in law the locus standi of the NSPCA and its member societies to act on behalf of animals in South Africa.
The NSPCA Inspectors are authorised in terms of the Animals Protection Act 71 of 1962 (as amended) and the Performing Animals Protection Act No. 24 of 1935 (as amended), undertaking approximately 93 percent of all animal welfare investigations and prosecutions. This means that in terms of both the Acts mentioned above, qualified inspectors with magisterial authorisation have the powers of a police officer.
Wildlife Protection Unit
The establishment of the Wildlife Protection Unit came at a time when South Africa’s growth as a destination for eco-tourism and sports hunting led to the necessity of issues needing to be addressed: wild animals being sourced for or used in circuses, zoos, game ranches and private collections for the entertainment industry.
Issues and problems are addressed through physical inspections of game auctions and game capture operations, wildlife rescue operations, lobbying to outlaw unethical practices and the monitoring of conditions in zoos, sanctuaries, rehabilitations centres and ‘petting’ operations.
The preventive element is important. Intervention by the NSPCA led to the planned baboon abattoir near Bela Bela in Limpopo being brought to an end.
It is not only rhinos that are being poached nor is it only lions being canned hunted. The NSPCA investigations, intervention and ongoing skills development of personnel at ports of entry and exit are having an effect and prosecutions have resulted. There are 60 ports of entry and exit on land alone so this is a considerable yet essential task which is ongoing as large numbers of animals enter and leave the country daily, legally and illegally.
Farm Animal Protection Unit
This is a nationally operational unit and regular projects include monitoring the welfare standards at farming establishments, including intensive farms and emerging farms (government-established and backed developmental/employment projects).
Intensive farming in South Africa includes crocodile breeding farms, dairy and chicken farms plus equine establishments.
Intervention at livestock sales has resulted in the improvement of conditions for animals being traded which in some instances did not even have access to drinking water. Reactive work has included the court case against the company who dumped newborn chicks in a disused dam and also intervention at crocodile breeding farms. This included the recent case of thousands of crocodiles being washed from a farm into the Limpopo River. NSPCA’s role was to monitor the capture and to ensure satisfactory methods were used.
It is noteworthy at this point to emphasise outreach projects which uplift the welfare of working donkeys. Especially in impoverished rural areas, donkeys are used as transport not only to carry food and water but also to take children to and from school as well as being utilised as ambulances. Ill-fitting or damaged equipment (harnessing and bits) is replaced and at the same time, owners receive skills training to enable them to care for their donkeys and this in turn ensures that the transport is efficient and humane.
South Africa is vast and there are particularly rural and impoverished areas without animal welfare organisations and no veterinarians, either state or private. Projects are undertaken: a team goes to the area to provide on-site veterinary services including sterilisation, treatment, vaccinations and education on animal care. The health status of animals can impact on human health. An animal vaccinated against rabies poses no risk to the human population. An animal free of ticks, fleas and lice poses no risk of these parasites being transmitted to humans.
Animals in South Africa are used for scientific purposes in medicine, biology, agriculture, veterinary and other animal sciences as well as industry, teaching and education. The NSPCA’s Animal Ethics Unit is opposed to animal experiments that involve unnecessary repetitions or are for scientific trivial ends or which involve techniques to which satisfactory and humane alternatives have already been adopted.
The focus of the unit is towards the total replacement of animals, reduction in animals and refinement of animal use. A programme of national inspections takes place as well as the NSPCA staff serving on over 30 Animal Ethics Committees and actively promoting the use of alternatives to the use of animals by undertaking road-shows and giving presentations including at universities.
Delegates from SPCAs throughout South Africa attend courses at the NSPCA’s custom-built training centre which opened in late 2012 to qualify as field officers, inspectors and senior inspectors. Delegates from other southern African countries have attended from Zambia, Namibia, Zimbabwe and the Seychelles.
The Tuli Elephant Case
Arguably the most notorious widely publicised issue was when criminal charges were laid against Riccadro Ghiazza/African Game Services in what was to become known as the Tuli Elephant case. Thirty juvenile elephants had been forcibly removed from their natural herds in the Tuli area of Botswana. They had been transported to South Africa and were being trained using a circus elephant and individuals who had come out from Malaysia to do so.
The tenacity of the NSPCA in the face of criticism and hostility is the principle reason the case eventually reached Court and a guilty verdict given. The case was more than the cruelty. It stood as a test case of training methods, the ethical issue of removing wild animals from natural environments to captivity and the intended end-use of them.
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