• Georgia Carter

The Battle of Grahamstown SPCA

Updated: Feb 20, 2019

Sitting on the outskirts of Grahamstown is the base of the strong-minded and hardworking employees of the SPCA. They stand against animal cruelty and fight for the rights of all animals. Their work is challenging, with many obstacles thrown towards them, but their dignity and determination push them onward and upward.

The SPCA (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) is a non-profit organization empowered to manage animal cruelty and the freedom of animals, working across boundaries for all animals. Their aim is to alleviate the suffering of animals, prosecute those who are involved in animal abuse and promote animal kindness to the community. The animals helped are farm, wild, and companion animals, such as cats, dogs, cows, and elephants to name but a few. The SPCA started in the early 1800s in the United Kingdoms. 150 SPCA branches opened in South Africa in 1872. Now, there are only about 80 branches left standing because of the decrease in funds. One of these branches is located in Grahamstown, Eastern Cape.

The Grahamstown SPCA was built in 1967 and is currently under the management of Mark Thomas, who works with five other local employees. With a catchment area of 1000kms in every direction, including Patterson, Bathurst, Cradock, and Peddie, the SPCA is extremely busy. With a large amount of heartbreaking work, and a small amount of funding, the SPCA is working in a grim reality. However, the passion from the employees ultimately drives the organization to do their best for the animals.

These animals arrive at the SPCA base for various reasons. Either a collarless dog has wandered from its home, a stray cat is about to give birth, or an attack on a donkey has been reported. Any animal that the SPCA takes into their care is sheltered, fed, and looked after by the humble SPCA recruits. With the help of volunteers, the animals are exercised, loved, and entertained. Thomas likes to say that the SPCA acts as a ‘bus stop’ for the animals who are awaiting their journey to a new loving home. The SPCA has rehomed 250 animals in the last 12 months, and are working towards increasing that number.

Mark Thomas has incredible plans for the updating and renovating of the Grahamstown SPCA. The SPCA has already installed borehole water, creating a self-sustaining environment which improves the lives of the animals as well as the surrounding suffering areas, such as the farms. Further improvements Thomas wishes to make on the SPCA plot is the upgrading of the office and reception area, as well as the addition of a grooming room and a surgery room. The SPCA is working towards creating a more visitor-friendly space, which includes a coffee shop and a thrift shop. These spaces are not only to be enjoyed by customers, but all the money will go to the improvement and functioning of the SPCA.

There are also plans to renovate the kennels to create a cleaner, more efficient and happier space for the animals while eliminating infections and diseases from spreading. Thomas also plans to organize a portable clinic as a form of outreach for the wider community and monthly sterilizations at the SPCA Centre. This clinic will perform vaccinations, de-worming, dripping, and act as a general clinic for numerous animals in the township areas. The Grahamstown SPCA currently owns only one truck for all catchment areas and errands that need to be done. Thomas hopes for another truck, and the extension of a segregated horse box for transportation.

However, these projects, as well as the general running of the organization, requires funding. As a non-profit organization, the SPCA relies on donations given by the community, and it is one of the biggest and most fragile challenges. The Makana Municipality gave their responsibility of running a pound to the SPCA but stopped payments for this necessity many years ago drastically affecting the SPCA funds. In this way, the municipality has made the choice to not perform the tasks the law stipulates. Thomas believes that R40 000 a month is needed to run a pound, money that the SPCA simply does not have. Any donations the SPCA receives goes towards the prevention of animal cruelty, and if any of the donations pay for the running of the pound, it would be considered fraud.

Unfortunately, the municipality hamper’s the SPCA’s ability to function as they should. With many problems, such as electricity cuts and lack of safe running water, refusing to collect waste, and failing to assist is the removal of sewage from their skeptic tanks, the SPCA has had to compromise these basic fundamental services themselves, which has cost them more money than it should. There is only so much the employees of the Grahamstown SPCA can do with the money they receive, which in turn creates the perception that the SPCA does not care about certain animal concerns. One truck and limited funds hinder the SPCA’s vitally important operation. The battle continues as the SPCA fights against the disruptions that disable them to achieve their goals, including successfully prosecuting and holding 9 individuals in the last 12 accountable for the animal cruelty they perpetrated.

In spite of the complications, the Grahamstown SPCA are intent on creating awareness in their need for donations in order to help the animals. The SPCA holds regular events such as themed dog walks, bake sales, and quiz nights to raise funds. Mark Thomas often holds meetings for the community where he presents the upcoming projects and clears out any misconceptions about the SPCA. These meetings extend to schools, which the SPCA can present in 5 different African languages. The school children are taught about the care of animals and the knowledge of the SPCA. This is to ensure the next generation's understanding towards animal abuse and in turn the prevention of future animal problems.

The battle continues through jarring municipality mayhem, merciless animal abusers and a frustrating lack of funds, but the Grahamstown SPCA is unswervable. Their compassionate and undaunted nature allows them to continue their honorable work to the best of their ability. The future is bright for the animals and the community surrounding the Grahamstown SPCA.

-By Georgia Carter


© 2018 by Georgia Carter.