Capital Faces Overpopulation of Domestic Animals

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By Frederick Philander WINDHOEK Windhoek residents were yesterday warned against a potential explosion of domestic animals if the breeding habits of dogs and cats are not drastically curtailed. The warning came from the manager of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA), Erica Hecker. “Since the beginning of the festive season in December, we are sitting with an overload of hundreds of stray, mishandled and surrendered dogs and cats in our limited number of kennels. We are still anxiously waiting on people to come and collect their domestic pets. Otherwise, we will have to euthanize them,” said Hecker, who has been managing the SPCA for the past 15 months. According to Hecker, wrong breeding methods, especially of late in the western suburbs of the capital, cause the most problems. “Many of the informal settlements have become the breeding ground for a large percentage of all domestic animals in the capital, in most cases with two litters of puppies per year. “There is a tendency among dog and cat owners not to have their animals vaccinated or castrated to keep breeding in check. Many of these animals are brought to the SPCA as mishandled animals by the public and the City Police,” she said in a New Era interview. At the time of the interview, members of the City Police brought to the kennels one such stray dog from Eldorado Park. Presently, the SPCA has 16 sick and neglected dogs in its medical care suffering from tick-bite fever. “Treating these stray animals medically costs money, something we don’t have. We operate on an annual shoestring budget consisting of a limited amount of money basically to pay for electricity owing to the City Council. As charity workers, the bulk of our financial support normally comes in by way of donations from the public,” she said. Last year alone, the SPCA had to cope with more than 1ÃÆ’Æ‘ÀÃ…ÃÆ”šÃ‚ 300 stray and surrendered dogs and more than 600 domestic cats. “We basically receive up to 120 stray dogs and 50 cats per month, with a 25% increase in December due to the summer holidays. You know, everyone coming to buy one of the animals from the SPCA normally asks for a big watchdog, but many people neglect to properly look after these dogs. People go on holiday and these pets become stray animals, a very sad situation,” she asserted. In her view, one way of curtailing the possession of domestic animals in the capital is to increase the cost of dog ownership licences. “This is the only way the boom in domestic animals will probably be controlled. My staff and I, primarily animal lovers, do not have the capacity to cope with all these stray and sometimes cruelly-treated animals,” said Hecker, who revealed that the SPCA in the past also had to deal with wild animals and ill-treated horses brought in by farmers or members of the public. Since the organization’s inception in the 1950s, the SPCA from time to time launches campaigns to inform the public on how to treat animals as pets. “Other than a small grant from the Windhoek Municipality, we are solely dependent on the goodwill and the generosity of the public and the funds we can raise from our boarding kennels, providing a haven for thousands of animals that would otherwise be on the streets reproducing, starving and dying. The SPCA has no fixed monthly income in its ongoing challenge to help more animals. That is why we need the support of the public,” Hecker concluded.