The City of Cape Town is proposing updated regulations to its Animal Keeping Policy and has asked for public comment on the proposed new rules for pet owners.
The changes come as the City says it’s spending a large amount of money on animal welfare and safety programmes while the number of animal welfare complaints and cases continues to rise in the Western Cape. “The city and animal welfare organisations are increasingly spending huge amounts of budgets on health and safety programmes dedicated to animals,” said chairperson of the city’s Safety and Security Portfolio Committee, Mzwakhe Nqavashe.
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“We have also seen an increase in the number of complaints around animal welfare, which is placing immense pressure on the SPCA and other organisations in the animal welfare sector, but also the city’s Law Enforcement Department.”
First introduced in 2005, the Animal Keeping Policy regulates rules pertaining to pet owners and welfare, more specifically:
- The principles of animal welfare
- Responsibilities of pet owners and the public at large
- Complaints relating to animals
- Partnerships between the city and pet owners
- Animal keepers
- The animal welfare sector, among others
Proposed Changes to the Animal Keeping Policy
The proposal outlines the mandatory basic duty of care for animal owners. This includes:
- Animals must have sufficient accommodation, food, water and shelter “as per the animal keeping by-law and other relevant legislation as determined by the authorised official who may consult with animal welfare inspectors.”
- Any form of animal cruelty, which includes but is not limited, animal-fighting, neglect, frightening an animal, torture or violence towards an animal and neglect of animals is illegal
- Provision of access to an environment that is conducive to animal care like public spaces where animals can be exercised, such as free-run public spaces for dogs and public spaces where horses are permitted to be ridden. These public spaces should be clearly signposted and must form part of the urban landscape.
- The locations of these public spaces should be communicated on a regular basis via the city’s communication channels to the public.
- Dogs are required to be on leashes or under the control of owners, who are 18 years and above, in public places to avoid causing nuisance or danger to other residents.
The city said that pet registration is important in order to monitor animal populations and gather important data to improve animal-related interventions and make sure that inspections can be carried out. It also enables the city to reunite pet owners and lost pets, or assist when pets have been stolen.
“Registration is required to ensure that pets can be reunited with their owners in the case of separation,” the city said.
“In the case of a stray animal, the first step in the process is for the animal to be reunited with his/her owner, this will be done by accessing the registration data by the welfare organization. If the pet is not registered and the owner cannot be found, the pet will be put up for adoption.”
Therefore, owners of certain pets will be required by the city’s by-law to register their pets including dogs, cats and horses. Registration may be done online via the city’s website, or by submitting a registration form to a city office.
Noise and nuisance
While the city does have a responsibility to attend to matters of noise and nuisance, the draft document states that ‘neighbourly living’ can first be applied in cases that are not severe. Neighbourly living means attempting to resolve or mediate issues between residents amicably.
- In the case of a noise or nuisance complaint regarding an animal, the affected neighbour may approach their pet owner neighbour to resolve the matter as an alternative to an enforcement related resolution.
- If this does not work, the complainant may also approach the street committee, neighbourhood watch or a body corporate.
- Alternative resolution of the complaint through neighbourly living (communication and or mediation) is preferred. However, the complainant is not precluded from approaching the City for direct enforcement intervention.
- In cases where neighbourly living attempts have failed and a complaint has been lodged with the City, an authorised official may investigate the nuisance situation and severity of the nuisance caused.
- In cases where neglect or cruelty is suspected, the city said that an authorised official may issue a written compliance notice, fine, Section 54 summons or impound the animal.
It added that the level of care exercised by the pet owner will be assessed by the following evaluation:
- Whether an accommodation is appropriate for the animal
- If there is enough room for the animal to move around comfortably
- The quality of water and food offered to the animal is not rancid
- That the owner provides required daily care for the animal
- If it is found that the owner is not providing adequately for the animal, the owner may be prosecuted, and the animal may be removed for its own protection.
Owners of animals or pets that have been declared dangerous by authorised officials should take all reasonable precautions and comply with any conditions set out in compliance notices. If a cat is known to scratch, bite, injure or attack a person, the cat should not be allowed to roam free outside the premises where it are being kept.
The following dogs should also not be allowed to roam freely in public or onto other private premises, even if they are humanely muzzled:
- Declared dangerous
- Have a history of biting or attacking people or other animals
- Have previously been the subject of complaints relating to biting or attacking
- Where previous compliance notices or fines were issued