Call to support IY pets

A cat was found alive after the Imizamo Yethu fire in March.

The Hout Bay-based Domestic Animal Rescue Group (DARG) has slammed the City of Cape Town for providing “no help whatsoever” for the animals displaced by the fire that swept through Imizamo Yethu in March.

In addition, Darg facilitator Ryno Engelbrecht says the City increasingly is ignoring its own by-laws by failing to take action against people accused of abusing animals in Hout Bay or allowing them to roam freely.

In the days and weeks following the fire of March 10 and 11, Darg took in 126 dogs and cats. Some of the animals were sent to be accommodated at the SPCA, reducing the number to 106.

While some animals have been reunited with their owners, according to Mr Engelbrecht there are still 65 requiring care.

“I’m upset because we have been appealing for the City to assist us since the fire, but to no avail.

“One of the big problems is that displaced people being housed at Tent City (Hout Bay Sports Complex) are not allowed to keep animals, so we have to have them at Darg. It is putting huge pressure on us because it costs R65 000 a month to care for these animals. It is only thanks to donations from the public that we’ve been able to manage.”

In a letter to the City, which is in the Sentinel’s possession, the organisation adds:

* At no stage did the City advise Darg of the necessary protocols as to how all parties would work together during the Fire Relief process;

* Darg became a drop-off point for donations for the displaced people as well as animals;

* The owners of the displaced pets have all indicated that they require the return of their pets once they are settled in their houses. Various of these owners take the time to visit their pets at Darg to ensure that their pets remain safe. They have an alluded fear that their pets for some reason will be sent away or put to sleep; and

* The City to date cannot confirm when these owners will be reunited with their pets.

Darg has also accused the City of being lax in enforcing its by-laws, particularly in Hangberg where dog-fighting is prevalent.

“We have been told that Hangberg is a ‘red flag’ area for law enforcement. But this presents a huge problem, because we identify who the people are involved in dog fighting and report them, but nothing happens,” Mr Engelbrecht said.

On April 16, Darg received a badly bitten female pit bull which the organisation found had been involved in dog fighting. After establishing the identities of the people involved, Darg phoned law enforcement which informed it officers were on their way. When no one arrived, three more calls were made but with no response.

Law enforcement officers did arrive a week later to confiscate dogs from the owner, but Mr Engelbrecht felt not enough was being done to stamp out animal abuse.

“The Animal By-law of 2010 is very strict on the keeping of animals, yet these laws are not being enforced. In Hout Bay we have cases where people, horses or other dogs are attacked by vicious animals because they are being allowed too roam freely.”

JP Smith, mayoral committee member for safety and security and social services, said all the City’s current available funds for disaster relief had been focused on providing temporary accommodation and services to the thousands of people displaced by this fire.

“Unfortunately, it is not possible for animals to be permitted in the temporary accommodation area provided for fire victims as there is limited space available and the City is working hard to ensure the safety of residents and the cleanliness of the area,” he said.

“Accommodating multiple animals within an emergency living environment will lead to environmental health concerns. This is not something that the City is willing to consider. This organisation has received considerable support in the form of donations.”

However Mr Smith said Mr Engelbrecht’s claims about law enforcement were inaccurate.

“The City’s Law Enforcement officers have conducted enforcement in terms of the Animal By-law in the Hangberg area and a number of cases have been opened as a result. Impoundments as a result of dog attacks and prosecutions for the maltreatment of pets are examples of enforcement done in this area.”

Mr Smith added there were many cases where complainants were reluctant to follow through with a prosecution because of intimidation, which meant that often conviction of those involved in dog fighting was not achieved.