Cape Town, 080208. RECOVERY ROOM. Pet owners wait for their dogs to recover after a mass sterilisation in Khayelithsa by volunter vets. Picture Mlondolozi Mbolo.

Cape Town - The City of Cape Town draft animal welfare policy, which makes sterilisation compulsory under certain conditions, is a “quantum leap” for the well-being of the animals, says Allan Perrins, chief executive of the Cape of Good Hope SPCA.

Perrins is also the chairperson of the Cape Animal Welfare Forum, which is recognised in the by-law as the representative body of all animal welfare organisations.

“Being able to force backyard breeders to have their animals sterilised is something that we have been advocating for years. Controlled pet population growth is a must in any civilised society,” he said.

But he said the by-law, which is open for public comment, did not deal with wild or roaming animals, and offered no protection to wild animals such as baboons. The policy dealt with the welfare of domestic companion animals and working horses.

“Legal definitions would be very helpful, as the Animals Protection Act only deals with animals that are under the custody, charge, control or possession of a person,” Perrins said.

Paul Hoffman, director of the Institute for Accountability in Southern Africa, said under the constitution animals were entitled to dignity, psychological integrity, freedom from violence and other rights.

He said all policies dealing with animals needed to recognise them as “sentient beings whose treatment by humans reflects the nature of the value system in place”.

While the city has a by-law for the management of animals and the permits required, it does not have a policy on animal care and welfare. This is also not regulated in national laws.

The mayoral committee member for health, Lungiswa James, said: “Animal rights need to be balanced with the potential effect that animals may have on humans.

“The city has the difficult task of considering any health, nuisance, economic, tourism and safety risks and ensuring that it has legislation and policies in place to protect residents and animals.”

The by-law will recognise the Cape Animal Welfare Forum as the representative body of animal welfare organisations. A dedicated animal control unit is to be set up to enforce the by-law.

Members of various non-government organisations will also be accredited to enforce the by-law.

The responsibility for enforcing the duties of the pound master and advertising animals before they are put down will fall to the safety and security directorate. The city’s health directorate will allocate funds for registered animal welfare organisations.

The policy’s guidelines will also refer to pet shops, animal pounds, the way animals are slaughtered and provide best-practice criteria for euthanasing problem animals.

Perrins said the draft by-law would go a long way in improving conditions for animals. The keeping of hens in battery facilities, for example, would be contradictory to the animal welfare policy.

But entrenched bad behaviour, unacceptable and cruel practices and the massive pet over-population were some of the challenges the city may encounter when it came to enforcing the by-law, said Perrins.

Residents have until October 11 to comment. - Cape Argus