Cape Town - With the festive season here, many people are going away for a well- deserved annual break.
However, for many pets, whose owners don't make adequate arrangements for their care while they are away, this is a bleak time.
These pets will likely spend the time in a kennel at an overcrowded animal shelter, or worse, end up being dumped at the side of the road or left at home to fend for themselves with no food or water.
According to Allan Perrins, resource development and communications head at the Animal Welfare Society of SA (AWSSA) in Philippi, the organisation admitted 113 unwanted cats and 288 dogs between January and November this year.
“Every year, the average monthly number of (owned) pets surrendered more than doubles in December,” he said.
Besides the legitimate cases in which heartbroken owners, due to unforeseen circumstances, are forced to surrender their pets, some people hand their dogs in to animal shelters because they can’t afford kennel fees or have not made arrangements for someone to care for their pet(s) while they're away on holiday.
A more sinister reality is that people sometimes surrender their pets because they have outgrown their cute puppy or kitten stage and the novelty of the pet has worn off. Another contributing factor is “a complete indifference, coupled with the desire to obtain a new cute kitten or puppy”, Perrins said.
“Since December 1 we have already taken in 33 unwanted cats, some with litters, and 44 dogs,” he added.
“While we are thankful that their owners did not dump, abandon or give them away, this annual increase in admissions at the start of the holiday season exacerbates our workload, congests our kennels and stresses our budget,” he said.
“We always ask the owners why they no longer want their pet(s). This year the most common reasons include: 'We are moving and can’t take our pets with us, and affordability',” Perrins said.
“On the flip-side, if anyone is considering adopting a pet (especially this time of the year), they will be spoilt for choice.
"Every animal admitted is given a second chance. All pets adopted out are healthy, sterilised, fully vaccinated and microchipped, and available for adoption at a realistic and comparatively affordable fee,” he said.
Perrins added that the current crisis of abandoned and unwanted pets was 100% preventable.
He advised pet owners to sterilise their pets because of the rapid rate of proliferation, especially among dogs roaming the streets, and cats, which were harder to contain.
The society's kennel manager, Christine Leonard, said: “I don't believe in giving an animal as a gift. They must not be treated as a piece of property. Careful consideration should always be given to adopting an animal because having one is a full-time job. If you take an animal into your home (it is as if) you are taking a child into your home, so you should be prepared to look after it for the rest of your life,” Leonard said.
On pets being surrendered, she said: “Some turn and watch their owner leave and then cry; that breaks your heart.”
If you need to surrender a pet or would like to adopt one, call Christine or Lawrence on 0216922626.