South Africa deals with a vast overpopulation of dogs and cats - many stray, and some owned but not looked after properly. The result is a self-perpetuating cycle of over-breeding, neglect, abuse, and the spreading of disease. Working in the area around Stellenbosch, near Cape Town, the Animal Welfare Society of Stellenbosch (AWSS) works to fight these issues by offering free veterinary services, spreading education, and rescuing and homing street dogs and cats. Photographer Anna Lusty volunteered her time to document an outreach day recently, and we asked AWSS’s Jessica Perrins for some background information on their work.
Images by Anna Lusty
What is the issue you’re addressing?
“Pet overpopulation is a chronic, serious issue in the Western Cape, in particular the impoverished communities. According to Stats SA (2011), 13.6% of households in 2011 lived in informal settlements/dwellings (shacks) in South Africa. In Stellenbosch alone, over 155,000 people live in informal settlements - and these numbers are growing on a daily basis.
Residents living in these informal settlements live in conditions of deprivation and poverty and the animals found in these areas often bear testimony to this. These communities have limited access to transport and are mostly unemployed. They battle to provide the basic human needs for themselves, let alone the animals found roaming and inhabiting these areas.
We believe that pet over-population and the ensuing neglect, abuse, surrenders to animal shelters and subsequent euthanasia, are preventable problems with a rational solution.”
What is your approach to tackling this rather overwhelming problem?
“Over the past 64 years we have persistently carried out our mission to recognise animals as living beings with the right to a good quality life. We have achieved this through veterinary care, inspectorate (enforcing the law), education, and running a successful adoption programme that places hundreds of animals in loving homes every year.
In addition, we are being proactive by recognising the cause rather than the symptoms of the dire state of dogs in Stellenbosch by funding and implementing sterilisation and humane education campaigns. We think that ongoing mass sterilisation campaigns will over the longer term be the solution to the problem and offer some relief to other welfare organisations as well.”
How do the outreach programs work that Anna photographed?
“Our clinic team visits the surrounding communities to provide primary veterinary healthcare. We offer animals basic care, including vaccinations, flea and tick treatments, and deworming. There is no charge to pet owners, and they line up to make use of the services. We also offer free sterilisations, but this can only be done at our clinic, which animals can be booked in for. We give more than 250,000 ZAR (about $16 000 USD) in free veterinary services to our community.
We believe our five-point outreach protocol of pet sterilisation, vaccination, dipping, deworming and humane education provides a major benefit to both the animals and the human community, as it reduces the transfer of shared diseases (zoonosis). We are virtually eliminating the risk of rabies, scabies, ringworm and leptospirosis and the transfer of intestinal worms, which is a threat to especially children, as it can impair their mental capacity.
The effect of zoonosis is a reality that we observe during our township outreach programmes. The children are often visibly affected by parasites and infection. It is no exaggeration to say that this work is a great benefit to community health.”
Any specific accomplishments worth mentioning?
“ We’ve achieved the following;
1166 animals have been adopted into loving homes
Our incredible foster parents saved 332 lives
87 lost animals were reunited with their owners
We vaccinated 5537 animals
We sterilised 2730 animals
We conducted 1454 clinic consultations
On average, we rescue two unwanted cats and three unwanted dogs daily.”
How can people help?
Grants and donations fuel the largest part of community programs. Donations of any size are welcome! For South African donors, you can make a contribution using this donation page. For international donors, please use our GivenGain campaign.
If you are interested in seeing more of Anna's incredible work, check out her website! Visit Anna Lusty - madeinmycamera to learn more. (Really you should, she's seriously talented!)