Draft pet policy up for input

Cleo is a re-homed, 26 year old Timneh African grey. Cheeky Beaks Parrot Rescue is advocating for better welfare regulations for birds in the City’s draft animal keeping policy.

The plight – or quality of life – of pets is currently under the microscope as the City of Cape Town updates its animal keeping by-law.

The public only has until Monday May 17 to comment on the proposed changes.

The City instituted its first pet policy in 2005.

The new draft policy acknowledges that the ownership and use of animals carries with it a responsibility to ensure their welfare.

One notable change is that the City wants it to become law to sterilise all pets by the age of six months.

Already in effect is compulsory registration of pets with the City.

The City says it was important to ensure that the keeping of animals does not lead to public and environmental health issues and that animals are not a source of danger or nuisance.

Unregulated breeding is a major issue and poses a number of issues for animals in terms of genetics and threats to health.

The City acknowledges that the number of animals being born exceeds the number being adopted or purchased and that unsterilised strays aggravate this situation.

Therefore, breeders who not want their animals sterilised must now apply for a permit from the City.

A strong plea was made to include regulations for birds, especially parrots, that have the same intellectual abilities as children, but often suffer extreme neglect and/or abuse.

Spokeswoman for Cheeky Beaks Parrot Rescue, Kathleen Boshoff, said the organisation was excited to see any legislation promoting animal welfare, even if it did not pertain specifically to birds.

“Often the issues affecting one group of pets are universal to all species and addressing these issues helps all animals no matter how strange or unique they may be – for this we compliment the City of Cape Town on its proposed policy.“

She said Cheeky Beaks would, however, like to see some changes for the welfare of birds.

With regards to the policy directive 8.1.1, which says all animals must have sufficient accommodation and food, she said: “When it comes to exotic animals such as parrots, to say ’food’ is too vague – a person could feed their parrot only bread or only sunflower seed and be considered a good owner by this definition; while they are in fact starving the animal of essential nutrients leading to an early death and a variety of health problems.“

Policy directive 8.1.2 deals with any form of animal cruelty, neglect or torture. Ms Boshoff said that with parrots, torture included psychological aspects.

“A parrot kept in a cage that is too small without any means to entertain itself will develop behavioural problems such as biting, screaming, and even self-mutilation. We submit that keeping a hyper-intelligent animal in such conditions constitutes torture and should be provided for in the legislation.”

Because birds were so often misunderstood, they were frequently re-homed, surrendered or worse, she said.

“There is no recommended way to sterilise a bird, but we advocate for the control of breeding nevertheless. We would like to hold bird breeders to the same standards and have them apply for a permit for breeding,” she said.

Cheeky Beaks Parrot Rescue would be prepared to work with the City on public campaigns to educate the public on good bird keeping, she said.

Backyard breeding is being tackled in the City’s draft animal keeping policy. Have your say before Monday, May 17.

SPCA spokeswoman Belinda Abrahams said the Cape of Good Hope SPCA commended the City for driving change in the interests of improving the welfare of animals through a collaborative policy process.

“The SPCA offers sterilisation at very affordable rates for those who qualify for welfare service. Our policy on domestic pets strongly discourages the keeping of pets by individuals who do not have the appropriate amenities, time, monetary resources or level of interest necessary to ensure a satisfactory standard of care and husbandry for animals,” she said.

The SPCA’s mandate is to enforce the Animals Protection Act No. 71 of 1962 (APA)

This act is, however, not prescriptive in terms of feeding and only requires that animals be fed and given access to water.

The SPCA is opposed to the keeping of exotic and wild animals as pets because they feel it is impossible for the animals to experience natural behaviour or fulfil their basic needs in artificial circumstances.

“While frowned upon, contraventions of the APA will have to become apparent for the SPCA to act with regards to exotics, and the SPCA can only strive to create awareness in this regard,” she said.

“The SPCA would like to see every pet with a family who recognises that they are valuable, irreplaceable and a privilege to share our lives with,” she said.

Wendy Scheepers, a spokeswoman for The Emma Animal Rescue Society (TEARS) said that, in general, the draft policy was making sterilisations more accessible.

“It remains unclear who will help enforce these new laws and if there will be back-up support from law enforcement. We do hope that there will be financial support for the owners who are not able to afford to have their pets sterilised, but again, there is no mention of this. Tears hopes that sterilisations will be subsidised in order to make the requirement attainable by all,” she said.

She said the proposal gave Tears the power to enforce sterilisations in low-income communities where backyard breeders were ruthlessly breeding for financial gain to the detriment of the animals’ well-being.

Ms Scheepers said exotic pets such as parrots should not be kept in cages or in captivity unless for veterinary reasons or rehabilitation.

“Avian veterinary experts should be assisting in writing the policy regarding food requirements, and also requirements for mental and emotional needs of these special creatures,” she said.

The draft policy is online on the City website and at local libraries and sub-council offices.

Submit your comment online, at your local sub-council office or contact Leon Wentzel at 021 444 0231 or animalkeeping.policy@capetown.gov.za