What is the SPCA?
Whenever we think of animal protection organisations, one group always comes to mind – The SPCA. In countries around the world, this group has become a byword for animal rights and ethical treatment. You would think then, that the question – What is the SPCA? Would be an easy one to answer. Weirdly though, there is a lot more confusion surrounding the group than one might think, and a substantial proportion of the population is still quite fuzzy on the finer details. That being the case, perhaps it’s time we shed some light on the inner workings of this organisation. Maybe it’s time for us to ask – What is the SPCA really? What do they do for animals? And what kind of powers do they actually have?
The acronym SPCA refers to the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
Although the name is often used as a type of umbrella term to refer to multiple SPCAs located throughout the country, it is important to note that each SPCA is actually a singular entity and is not just a branch office of a larger organisation.
In other words, when we talk about ‘The SPCA’ as a group, we’re actually referring to a collection of individual animal protection groups rather than one big organisation.
We should also differentiate these SPCAs from the NSPCA which stands for the National Council of Societies for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. This group is a statutory body which supervises and governs the various SPCAs throughout the country in accordance with the SPCA Act of 1993.
Put simply, when we talk about a specific SPCA, we’re normally referring to a local animal protection agency which is distinct from different SPCAs in other parts of the nation. Each SPCA is usually an autonomous non-profit animal welfare organisation which is governed by the regulations of the SPCA Act as administered by the NSPCA.
What does the SPCA do for Animals in South Africa?
Most people think of the SPCA as a place that just takes in stray animals. In reality, however, SPCAs offer a wide variety of services which seek to better the welfare and treatment of animals across the board. Some of their main services include –
|Shelter – Most SPCAs boast a large number of kennels which are used to shelter lost pets and strays. These animals are kept safe for a period of time which gives the owners time to come and reclaim them. If these animals are not reclaimed in time, they are put up for adoption Animals which cannot find a home are usually put down. |
Animal Clinic – Many SPCAs feature a dedicated animal hospital and veterinarian to treat sick and injured animals, or to provide healthy animals with things like sterilisation. SPCAs which do not have the funding for these features will often utilise the services of a local, private veterinarian instead.
Proactive Investigations – SPCA investigators are often sent to areas where animals are being housed, bred, slaughtered, etc., to ensure that these procedures are being carried out in a humane fashion. This process generally applies to places like farms where the potential for mass mistreatment is far higher than normal.
Reactive Investigations – SPCAs also send investigators out to respond to reports sent in by concerned groups. These instances, for example, can involve minor disputes in which a neighbour or passerby believes that an animal is being mistreated and requires aid.
Community Outreach and Education – Both the NSPCA and local SPCAs host a wide array of outreach projects which seek to educate the public and promote responsible pet ownership.
Animal Testing/Research – Special elements of the NSPCA conduct routine checks on groups that keep animals for scientific purposes to ensure that their practices are in keeping with the current laws. Additionally, the NSPCA works to improve legislation standards with regard to animal research.
Training – The NSPCA provides specialised training for SPCA inspectors and field officers to ensure that a high standard of professionalism and expertise is maintained.
Obviously, because each SPCA is unique, there are going to be different services available at each location. Hopefully, though, this list gives you a general idea of the services offered by these groups.
What can I Do if Someone is Abusing Their Pet?
If you believe that an animal is being abused, you should immediately report the matter to your local SPCA. If it is an emergency, you can use their emergency numbers to receive a faster response.
If you can assist the animal immediately without putting yourself in danger, the NSPCA encourages you to do so. That said, you should always show an abundance of caution in these scenarios as altercations with abusive owners may result from your actions.
Is it Illegal to Feed Monkeys in South Africa?
Monkeys are wild animals and receiving free food from humans tends to alter their natural foraging habits. This can lead to increased dependency on handouts from people and can increase the likelihood of monkeys becoming a danger or a nuisance in the area.
Can the SPCA take my Dog or Cat?
The Animals Protection Act states that an SPCA inspector (who has received magisterial authorisation) has the ability to do the following –
- Enter a premise for the purposes of investigation into the animal’s living conditions, so long as they have received either consent from the occupant/owner or a warrant.
- Arrest (without a warrant) an individual whom they believe has committed a violation as stated in the Act if they believe that the ends of justice will be defeated in the time that it would take to receive a warrant.
- Seize the animal following the arrest.
- Destroy the animal within the same parameters as those given to police officers.
The SPCA and the NSPCA also have the legal authority to bring criminal charges against offenders.
In Conclusion – What is the SPCA and What kind of Powers do they have?
The SPCA (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) is a term often used to refer to multiple animal welfare agencies throughout the country. It is important to note that each SPCA is an autonomous, non-profit protection group and not actually linked with other SPCAs located in different areas.
These various SPCAs are governed by the SPCA Act of 1993 which is administered by the NSPCA (National Council for Societies for Prevention of Animal Cruelty).
Because each SPCA is different, they will have different services available, chiefly due to their relative funding. Most SPCAs provide shelters for lost and stray animals which enable them to take care of the animals until they are claimed/reclaimed.
Pets are normally kept for around 1 week so that they can be reclaimed by their owners. If their owners do not fetch them within that period, the animals are usually put up for adoption and/or eventually destroyed.
Certain SPCAs also conduct routine investigations and check-ups into facilities in which animals are kept, such as farms and research centres. They may also begin investigations after receiving reports from concerned citizens.
Some SPCAs come equipped with animal clinics and resident veterinarians while others rely on the resources and expertise provided by local, private vets and clinics.
If you believe that animal abuse is taking place, it is recommended that you contact your local SPCA as soon as possible and allow them to conduct a thorough investigation. You can do this by email, but, in an emergency, you may want to use one of their emergency contact numbers to receive a faster response.
Certain SPCA officials have been officially authorised with powers similar to those of the SAPS when dealing with cases of animal mistreatment or cruelty. In special scenarios, they may be able to seize and impound the distressed animal before bringing criminal charges against the guilty party. If you believe that an animal is being abused and that you can help it without putting yourself at risk, you are encouraged to do so. That said, individuals are advised to act with caution as abusive owners can often respond violently when confronted.
Generally speaking, it is legal for you to feed wild animals, however, most experts believe that you should probably avoid doing it, as it can disrupt the natural foraging processes of those wild animals and result in an increased dependency on humans for their sustenance.
Disclaimer LAW101: All of our posts are for research purposes only. Law 101 aims to assist its readers with useful information on the laws of our country that can guide you to make decisions in line with the South African Governmental Laws currently in place. Although our posts cite the constitution in many instances, they are intended to assist readers who are looking to expand their knowledge of the law. Should you require specific legal advice we advise you to get in touch with a qualified legal expert.
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