A dispute between the City of Cape Town and the Domestic Animal Rescue Group (DARG) about an outstanding water account placed 275 animals at risk when the water supply to the shelter was cut on Wednesday last week.
As a result, 180 dogs and 95 cats were left vulnerable as this did not only mean no drinking water but also prevented employees from cleaning cages and treating sick animals.
Following an urgent High Court application by Darg lawyer, Craig Assheton-Smith, on Thursday July 21, Judge Vincent Saldanha came to the shelter’s rescue ordering the City to immediately restore the water supply and not to disconnect the water supply again until the dispute regarding the account was resolved.
The water supply was restored later that day around 4pm. Mr Assheton-Smith said queries about the dispute of an outstanding amount of R127 746.32 had previously been raised with the City since 2011.
According to an affidavit presented to court, he made several attempts to speak to senior officials in the City’s water department but was unsuccessful and was told that his query would be attended to within 48 hours.
“In disconnecting the water supply, the City did not follow its own procedures that prohibit the disconnection of water supply where there is a dispute,” he said.
But according to Deputy Mayor, Ian Neilson, the account has been in arrears since August 2003 due haphazard payments, meaning the accounts are not paid monthly or on due dates.
According to Mr Neilson the total debt outstanding on the account is R152 511. 35, with the bulk of the debt being water charges of R114 580. 60.
Mr Neilson said the City can confirm that it is in receipt of the court order and in the process of preparing a report that would initiate the discussions between the City and Darg’s legal representatives.
The outcome will be presented to court in September.
Darg employee, Faustina Gardner, said although she was not present during the time the water was cut, water supply is vital to Darg’s functioning.
She said in addition to the cleaning of the cages, washing of the blankets and providing drinking water to the animals, sick animals in Darg’s care also need water.
During the Sentinel’s visit to Darg on Wednesday, she pointed out two dogs that were kept in quarantine due to sickness. The one suffered from leptospirosis, an infection of bacterial spirochetes, which dogs acquire when the bacteria penetrates the skin and spread through the body via the bloodstream.
“Dogs suffering from leptospirosis needs to drink a lot of water. If you observe her, you will see she runs back and forth to her water bowl often,” Ms Gardner said.
The other dog suffered from a skin condition and as part of her treatment, she needed to be dipped on a regular basis.
“If there is no water, she cannot be treated,” Ms Gardner said.
Darg office administrator, Oriana Lovato, also said the organisation can’t function optimally without water.
She said having no water made it difficult for the public who was visiting Darg at the time to make use of the toilet facilities.
“We also have a clinic here where we treat sick animals. We need water to clean the tables and the clinic and to wash our hands to keep it hygienic,” she said.
Mr Assheton-Smith said thankfully the animals suffered no harm as a result of the disconnection of the water supply.