Animals organisations urge people to adopt a pet as 3.4 million dogs and cats are homeless in SA

Up for adoption: Weighing a mere 14kgs when rescued, Nikolai has transformed from a bag of bones to a 32kg lapdog! He’s a humble, easy-going guy who adores attention. Can you be the one to make his rags to riches story complete? Photo: TEARS

Up for adoption: Weighing a mere 14kgs when rescued, Nikolai has transformed from a bag of bones to a 32kg lapdog! He’s a humble, easy-going guy who adores attention. Can you be the one to make his rags to riches story complete? Photo: TEARS

Published Apr 21, 2024


The high number of surrendered animals has concerned most animal organisations, especially during the adverse weather across the country in recent weeks.

The Cape of Good Hope Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) said its dealing with an unprecedented influx of animals, not only from people who can no longer keep them but also from multiple shelters across the Cape metropole.

Many organisations are no-kill shelters, however, the animals do get sent to the SPCA for euthanisation.

SPCA spokesperson, Belinda Abraham told IOL the SPCA is extremely overburdened.

Up for adoption: At 11, this distinguished gentleman seeks a tranquil haven. Catsanova is a connoisseur of catnaps and cuddles, and ready to grace your home with his regal presence and unconditional love. Photo: TEARS

“This isn’t a naming and shaming exercise, this is about the fact that the animal welfare sector is overburdened and that the SPCA by nature of our open admissions, non-selective admissions policy is bearing the brunt of this.

“This is a cry for help from the SPCA which is shouldering the responsibility of animal surrenders, not only from the public, who for any number of reasons can no longer keep them but from various shelters across the Cape metropole, including organisations who market themselves as no-kill to win public favour,” Abraham said.

Based on current trends, she said the SPCA will admit around 20,350 surrendered and stray animals to its facilities this year alone.

“Approximately 2,300 of these animals will come from other animal welfare organisations including those who call themselves no-kill. And while no-kill is certainly attractive to animal lovers, it creates a very misleading narrative about animal welfare realities,” Abraham said.

Up for adoption: Gabriel has been waiting for over 1,000 days to be noticed. Picking up a host of frequencies with his radar ears, his favourite is when you whisper sweet nothings. Photo: TEARS

In a report undertaken by Mars, State of Pet Homelessness, a bleak picture is painted for the animal welfare sector.

According to the report, in South Africa, as many as 3.4 million dogs and cats are estimated to be homeless. Only 9% of dog and 19% of cat owners choose to adopt from animal shelters.

Animal organisations are faced with being overwhelmed by animals while struggling with limited resources.

It is further estimated that 15% of dog and 13% of cat owners are considering to give up their pets in the next year.

The report further estimates that 15% of dog owners and 13% of cat owners are considering giving up their pets in the next year. Based on estimated owned animal populations of 14 million in South Africa, around 2.1 million animals will be handed into shelters around the country in the coming year while backyard breeding continues.

Up for adoption: Lia is a gentle princess on a quest for a forever kingdom to call home. This demure purrer is looking for patient companionship to help her blossom. Can you be her fairytale ending? Photo: TEARS

The current state of animal welfare makes euthanasia unavoidable, Abraham said.

“We see it on social media all the time, ‘don’t take animals to the SPCA, rather support no-kill’ but the no kill organsiations are dropping off animals at the SPCA, and while they are selling the public a lie they are also affirming an undeniable truth that euthanasia is unavoidable given the current state of animal welfare.

“We do want an acknowledgment of this and an equitable distribution of the euthanasia burden currently born by the SPCA amongst all shelters in the metropole. No animal welfare organization serious about making a difference to the current state of animal welfare should be operating without on.

“The SPCA doesn’t want to euthanise animals any more than any other organization, we didn’t dedicate our lives to animals to euthanise them but the reality is that there aren't 5.5million people in SA looking to adopt a pet and that's the number we are up against,” Abraham said.

She said the SPCA cannot rescue its way out of an animal overpopulation crisis and people are breeding faster than they can rescue.

“Please spay or neuter your pet, it is the law in Cape Town, stop breeding animals and selling them to irresponsible owners and if you are looking for a pet, please, please adopt,” Abraham added.

According to TEARS Animal Rescue, all unwanted, abandoned, stray, seized, confiscated and impounded cats and dogs from the greater Cape Town area are admitted to the Cape of Good Hope SPCA as the official “pound” in the Western Cape. TEARS admits animals to its kennel and cattery based on our adoption rates and shelter capacity.

When asked how much animals they can facilitate before animals are taken to the SPCA to be euthanised?

TEARS responded: “We can hold 16 strays once we are over capacity (in our stray runs) but we have no alternative to transfer all strays that are admitted to TEARS to the Cape of Good Hope SPCA if we are over capacity. We work hard to ensure that our adoption rates remain as high as possible as each adoption creates room for another pet in need”.

The organisation, which is pro-life, said it doesn’t euthanise any of its shelter animals who have been admitted to its kennels or cattery unless for inoperable or extreme medical reasons, or in the case where an animal has proven to be a danger to people and pets.

“Since January 2024, we haven't had to euthanise any of our shelter animals. However, the TEARS Veterinary Hospital has euthanised 272 dogs and cats since January 2024, most of which relate to medical emergencies where the injury the animal has sustained is too extreme to support a successful intervention, fatal diseases, or due to other severe medical cases where veterinary intervention or treatment was unfeasible due to the level of suffering or poor prognosis,” TEARS said.

Currently, TEARS has 363 pets of which 75% are adoptable while the remaining 25% are in its rehabilitation programme either convalescing from illness, injury, and/or abuse; or are too young to be adopted and are still with their mothers or being bottle-fed via its Puppy Foster Programme.

“In some instances where we have new admissions, they will only become available for adoption after undergoing our standard two to three-week quarantine period to ensure they aren’t harbouring any contagious and/or fatal diseases,” TEARS said.

Organisations continue to urge animal lovers to adopt.

“Adoption is a beautiful journey that not only changes an animal's life but also enriches the adopter. Every pet has its own unique story and by adopting, you're not just providing a home and becoming a part of their healing process, you’re helping create space to give another vulnerable pet a second chance at a happier life.

“TEARS is founded on the premise of second chances and we’re proud of rehoming over 22,522 vulnerable pets since our launch in 1999.

“Adopting a pet is not only about finding a pet - it's about saving a life, making a lifelong best friend and experiencing the joy of unconditional love,” the organisation added.

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