South African Spotlight: Working Through Strikes, Raids and Corruption

We come to learn from the journalist that after the raid, the policy promptly left the journalist standing outside the tavern with a group of angry Nigerians and a very frightened rottweiler left locked up inside the premises.The little dog who was supposedly stealing chickens and was tied up with an extremely short chain.

Episode I Visiting the International Fund for Animal Welfare Dog & Cat Project in Johannesburg is always something I look forward to for many reasons, but especially because a person can never know what situation one will be immersed in whilst accompanying the project’s Director, Cora Bailey, on her daily work in the south western townships of Johannesburg. We arrived very early Monday morning and before we could contemplate what the day had in store for us, we had ended up in a Johannesburg City Council meeting; a "Consultative Process on a Safe Joburg, Responsive to Vulnerability", part of a Growth Development Strategy Outreach Programme taking place during Community Safety Week. The young female rotty who was rescued from the tavern standing with Toby, an IFAW assistant. Cora had been invited to the meeting to highlight the various animal welfare challenges which the Johannesburg Cat and Dog project faces in providing veterinary services to many of the communities within Soweto, including the lack of assistance from the police services and other governmental bodies. One of the challenges, being the illegal selling of Aldicarb poisoning or "two step" which results in our project staff having to treat dogs on a daily basis brought into the clinic after either ingesting the poisoning accidentally or being intentionally poisoned. We were also informed that there was a strike taking place outside the facility where the meeting was being held.

Ironically, a few hours later we are accompanying Cora on a rescue of a journalist and a young female rottweiler from a Nigerian owned tavern which was raided for drugs by police. We come to learn from the journalist that after the raid, the policy promptly left the journalist standing outside the tavern with a group of angry Nigerians and a very frightened rottweiler left locked up inside the premises. The journalist refused to leave the tavern until the dog was rescued and needless to say, both the police and emergency medical services guys were not concerned about the dog in the least, and here is where irony is displayed in its best form, Cora had to leave the consultative meeting on safety to rescue the journalist and the dog. It was quite unreal, so I and my colleague were exposed to a strike and a raid all in one morning.

Episode II After an eventful start to our week, we decide to get out of the city and spend most of the next day in a new informal settlement in an area called Magaliesberg, about 45 minutes from where the Dog and Cat clinic is based. This was only the second time Cora had been to the settlement and they are still trying to establish a relationship with the community to earn their trust.

This is very much farming area and so the community is not very trustful of outsiders. De Villiers Katywa from the project accompanies us on the mobile clinic van, we deliver two dogs back to their homes who had been receiving treatment at the clinic and we treat a number of dogs and cats and took some dogs back with us for sterilization. Most of the animals seem in fairly good condition which is a positive sign. However, it was disturbing to see that quite a few dogs are kept on chains, some very short, to prevent them from eating the owners or neighbours chickens, apparently.

We decide to remove one very traumatised and frightened dog from its owner as he has been tied up in a corner with no place to move, no food or water. According to the owner he kills chickens and so he has no option. Cora and De Villiers spend some time speaking to the owners and advising them on ways in which they can continue to have their dogs tied up, but giving them more freedom, using running chains. We brought some wire along with us and we hand over some to the owners to set up running chains. A short while later we visit one particular young girl staying on her own with three dogs, a puppy, two cats, and four kittens as her grandfather is in hospital. She has no money for food or water and tells us that the dogs have no water as the local councilor charges R1 for a 25 litre drum of water. The borehole on the local Councillor's property with the boy in the foreground who had come to buy water and the boy in the background is the councillor's son. When Cora goes to find the local councilor’s wife, she is told by her that the community is lying, they don't charge for water. Less than five minutes later, a young boy comes to get water from the councilor’s bore hole and there in full view of all of us we see him hand R2 over for his two 25 litre drums of water. We learn that the councilor has cut off the municipality water supply and purposefully does not inform them that the community is in need of water so that the community are forced to buy water from him as he has a borehole on the property where he is staying.

This causes a bit of a furor and the councilor’s wife expresses her irritation at us having raised our suspicion as to why the community members have to pay, blurting out very colourful language. We take some water back to the young girl and the dogs lap it up no end. We end up taking the puppy back with us to be re-homed as the girl said she can't afford to have him. Cora will be following up with regards to the water situation as some community members have now been threatened after speaking to us. All in all, just a couple of experiences from two more days working at the IFAW Cat & Dog Project in Johannesburg. -- LCH 

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Cynthia Milburn, Director, Animal Welfare Outreach & Education
Senior Advisor, Policy Development
Jan Hannah, Campaign Manager, Northern Dogs Project
Campaign Manager, Northern Dogs Project
Kate Nattrass Atema, Program Director, Community Animal Welfare
Program Director, Community Animal Welfare
Shannon Walajtys
Manager, Animal Rescue-Disasters