• By: Zonnica van den Heever

The NSPCA is trying to stop the Rustenburg SPCA to do regional adoptions, meaning people NOT living in the Rustenburg area are not able to adopt from them.  This will mean that thousands of animals will be murdered in order to make space for the next lot, with no hope to get adopted.

This petition is against the NSPCA trying to force their outdated rules on the smaller branches, who desperately need to rehome these animals, and give them a second chance at life.

The NSPCA descends on the Rustenburg SPCA
At what stage do rules become death sentences?

We live in a world where we all appreciate the need for guiding rules that uphold law and order, and prevent chaos and anarchy. But when the very rules that were put in place to regulate and protect, morph into something archaic, stifling and senseless….we have not created a haven… we have created a monster. It then becomes important for good people to ask the difficult questions.
Rustenburg is a region in our country that has recently been besieged by a variety of socio- economic hardships – these include the mines retrenching staff. As a result, many locals have been forced to change their lifestyles in a number of ways. And inevitably, animals bear the brunt too. The Rustenburg SPCA has seen a steady inflow of abandoned and surrendered dogs and cats over the last year. The numbers are staggering – both in terms of incoming volume, but also in terms of the number of animals who have been euthanased because there is nowhere for them to go. Understandably, the SPCA branch structures (under the helm of the NSPCA) can only keep animals for a certain period of time given the practical constraints of resources, space and time. However, this is only understandable if the SPCA has done everything in its power to ensure that the animals in their care are given the best possible chance of being seen by people looking to adopt, and of possibly finding good homes.
The local Rustenburg SPCA branch in partnership with their management committee has taken various positive strides in the quest to give their orphans a face and a voice. In an age of social media, where we are armed with a number of highly effective ways of reaching thousands at the touch of a button, animal welfare has the best chance it has ever had of improving adoption statistics. Worldwide, animal welfare organisations have started experimenting with mediums such as Facebook, Twitter, websites, and SMS lines. The corresponding growth in public exposure, public awareness, networking, adoption and charitable giving, testifies to the results.
For whatever inexplicable reason, it took South African animal welfare organisations – and in particular, the SPCA’s – that much longer to embrace the notion of social media, networking, and partnership. And I use the term “partnership” specifically in the context of joining hands with the public in a more concerted way, and pooling resources and skills with other animal welfare organisations or groups. Not only does the use of social media help give abandoned and unwanted animals a 2nd chance, the effective use of social media also helps build the organizational brand and helps educate the public. And undeniably, the SPCA structures in this country are in urgent need of a serious rebranding exercise. One can almost hear the creaking of archaic structures and the hollow echo of outdated answers when one engages with members of the NSPCA team. Too many of the rules no longer fit in

a world that has changed, or fit in an animal welfare context that has become a lot more dynamic and accessible to the public.
What is particularly fascinating to note, is that the NSPCA do not regard adoptions or “rehoming” as part of the SPCA’s sphere of responsibility. They will tell you that “the mandate of the SPCA movement is primarily cruelty prevention and law enforcement”. This is a very interesting and very narrow interpretation of the concept of “welfare”. Any system justifies its existence by the fact that it takes inputs, and processes them into outputs. The animal welfare system is no different. Animal welfare and rescue organisations remove (amongst others) dogs and cats (domestic companion animals) from a variety of harrowing or dangerous situations and conditions. These animals are then “processed” in the sense that they are put into places of safety, and where relevant, rehabilitated. In terms of “processing”, the animals should also be given quality care, and these animals should be given a responsible level of exposure via social media and other networking so that they have the best chance of finding good homes.
Surely, the notion of welfare is also to afford an abandoned or unwanted animal the opportunity to have a 2nd chance at a good life? If not, and if adoptions or ‘rehoming’ is not a priority, is the SPCA then a system in which domestic animals are removed from various risky situations, put into kennels, and then euthanased? If so, then serious questions need to be asked about the scope and nature of this “system”. And more importantly, potential donors – both from the public and the corporate environment – then need to ask themselves whether they wish to continue supporting an organisation that does not believe
that rehoming is a key part of their welfare mandate.

Admittedly, the SPCA structures battle with a lack of funding and other resources, and they may argue that they do not have the capacity to deal both with incoming volume, and the aspect of networking and rehoming. But in a world in which synergies lead to wonderful new partnerships, surely the SPCA structures then need to question their stubborn stance of not joining hands with private animal welfare organisations? Private shelters and breed- specific rescue groups have repeatedly offered to assist and support the SPCA’s in dealing with the challenge of domestic animal welfare in our country. In the absence of proper record-keeping systems and reporting, it is estimated that South Africa euthanizes more than 1 million dogs and cats every year. Coupled to that, we have no focused government strategies to support the domestic animal welfare sphere – particularly in terms of regulations that guide the operations of pet shops, and breeders, and that help promote and fund the critical aspect of sterilisation. Surely, against a backdrop like that, it would make sense for the SPCA’s to join hands with other shelters and rescue organisations? Against such overwhelming odds, surely unity is strength? If the SPCA structures believe that they are better geared towards fighting cruelty, surely the other animal welfare structures can then assist with aspects of quality care, networking, doing home-checks against defined standards, and rehoming?

This article argues that the continued divide of the SPCA’s in their corner and other animal welfare groups in the other corner, is short-sighted and foolish. A worn SPCA response to this particular point would be that other animal welfare groups do not uphold the same “standards”, and that therefore, partnerships cannot work. However, many animal lovers across the country will attest to the fact that the adoption application, screening and home- check processes of private shelters and rescue groups, is on par with the SPCA system, if not significantly better. Therefore, it really is time that the NSPCA starts questioning their model and their Constitution, and starts reinventing their brand.
If this article has not as yet caused you to start asking questions of the animal welfare environment and particularly, the role and responsibility of the SPCA structures, then let me conclude with an example. The Rustenburg SPCA branch took the proactive step of joining hands with the public and with the animal rescue network in April this year. This was in response to the avalanche of animals being brought into the SPCA every week, and the urgent need for space. The idea was to put together a “Networking Blitz” and to ask animal lovers to rally behind the branch and their orphans to help boost adoptions. For a three week period, people pulled together and shared the orphans on various social media and email platforms in order to help them with exposure. The results speak for themselves. The Rustenburg SPCA would usually average about 10-15 adoptions a month. With the help of a combined team effort and clever use of social media, 54 orphans were adopted during that three week time period.
Since that “Networking Blitz”, the Rustenburg SPCA has not only positively branded itself in the minds of animal lovers countrywide, but it has enjoyed a generally improved adoption rate in the months that have followed. More and more people from outlying regions have been travelling through to Rustenburg to support a smaller branch and to bless the lives of animals where local adoption rates are generally very low. That is to say – until now. As of the end of October/start of November 2013, the NSPCA has advised the Rustenburg SPCA and its committee that no “out-of-town” adoptions will be allowed. The mind literally boggles that the NSPCA would step in to cut short one of the positive testaments to public/SPCA partnership. Dogs and cats who now find themselves at the Rustenburg SPCA will need to pin all their hopes for a 2nd chance on local adopters. And this despite the many outlying animal lovers who are prepared to make the trip through to Rustenburg because they have fallen in love with one particular little face in their adoptions album. With
hundreds of animals streaming in, and only 10-20 being adopted (at best) by locals, the maths speaks for itself. They are doomed.
Stuck in dead-end cages, for a dead-end fate.

I ask again – at what stage do rules become death sentences?

At what stage is it time for good people to stand up and ask the difficult questions?

Now is the time. It is time for change. This is not good enough anymore.

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