Mobile clinic for pets in South Africa
Animal welfare in Cape Town’s biggest township
Approximately one million people live in Khayelitsha, a chaotic and makeshift village on the outskirts of Cape Town. It is one of the biggest townships in South Africa with a great number of pets. It is impossible for the two only vet clinics to treat all those animals and most pet owners are not able to visit the clinics due to a lack of transportation. The mobile animal clinic for pets of the Welttierschutzgesellschaft (WTG) and their local partner organisation Mdzananda Animal Clinic (MAC) does not only offer basic veterinary treatment, it also functions as an animal ambulance, collecting injured animals from community owners.
All these activities are also used to educate people and advocate for a permanent improvement of animal protection and welfare.
Cape Town, South Africa
On the outskirts of South Africa’s popular holiday destination Cape Town, one of the biggest townships in the country can be found. One million people and a vast number of pets are living in an area of approximately 40 km². There are two vet clinics offering their services, however, the number of pets in need of treatment are too numerous to be covered by only these two clinics. A mobile animal clinic for pets tries to fill the gap and provide education to sensitise the locals for animal welfare.
Not far away from the city centre of the popular holiday destination Cape Town, numerous settlements with shacks made out of tin, wood or cardboard can be found. Since not all of those housings are registered as official villages, it is unclear how many people actually live there. Poverty is visible everywhere. Crime rates are high and criminal acts are part of peoples’ daily life. According to estimates 330,000 animals, mainly dogs but also cats, are living in this area.
Since 1996, MAC has been active in promoting the welfare of these animals.
The work started with one township resident going from door to door with a bucket full of water and some food for the animals. It did not take long for volunteers to join him and in 2001 the dedication of only one person led to the founding of a stationary animal clinic, which offered treatments at reasonable prices. Until 2015 the clinic was the only place in the township where you could go to with a sick or injured animal.
Mobile animal clinic for pets
Even though a second vet clinic has settled in the township in the meantime, many animals are still not receiving the treatment they need. Therefore, with the help of WTG, a mobile animal clinic offers veterinary services on three days of the week. Equipped with a car, an animal trailer and a medical tent and equipment, two of MAC’s paravets and one driver visit the areas of Khayelitshas where their help is needed the most. All animals who are brought to the mobile clinic receive free treatment against parasites and get all essential vaccinations as well as a check-up. To make sure that every animal owner understands the necessity of basic veterinary treatment, MAC staff make the effort to explain every step of the treatment. Additionally, the paravets inform owners about animal welfare aspects like feeding as many animals are given corn porridge which is typical for the country, natural needs like regular physical exercise and also how to deal with injuries and sickness. Seriously ill or injured animals are taken to the stationary animal clinic at the end of each day where the patients can remain until they have recovered.
Only few animals are neutered. This does not only lead to uncontrolled reproduction, it also causes the animals to sustain injuries during their search for mating partners. To prevent unnecessary animal suffering, the paravets take the animals to the clinic to have them neutered. They also explain the advantages and the necessity of this procedure to the animal owners.
Extending educational work
As veterinary treatment by itself is not enough to make people fundamentally rethink their behavior towards animals, education about animal welfare is a core aspect of the shared project. On the two remaining days of the week the team seeks individual conversations with the animal owner. In the areas where the mobile clinics are active, the team goes from door to door to ensure that they reach all animal owners and their four-legged housemates. In addition to feed, animal needs and dealing with injuries and sickness, they talk about/discuss the shared living situation and how to make it more suitable for the animals. On this occasion, the team also informs about upcoming appointment dates of the mobile clinic.
With the support of WTG, the educational work is now being improved and extended. Among other things, new educational material is being developed to address the most important topics. It can be handed out to animal owners after individual consultations. As part of regular staff workshops, team members are trained on a new range of subjects. With the help of role plays, they can practice how to impart their knowledge about animal protection and welfare to others.
There for the animals – also in case of emergency
Whenever an animal is in need of urgent help, the mobile clinic unit also serves as an animal ambulance and will collect the patient to bring it to the vet clinic for further treatment. Locals do not only call the team for their own pets, but also when they spot someone else’s animal, for example, if an animal has been hit by car.
Due to the strong historical bonds between the MAC and the Khayelitsha township, as well as the fact that 17 of the 22 employees are rooted in Khayelitsha, our partner organisation and their animal welfare work is a natural part of the local’s daily life. As such it is gladly welcomed and accepted –true to the motto: Animal welfare starts with humans.