28 February 2013

Namibia: Struggling SPCA Forced to Close Welfare Clinic

THE Windhoek SPCA has been described as a "sinking ship" by outgoing chairperson Debbie Gibson, and the first casualty is its welfare clinic, which will close its doors tomorrow.

Gibson made an urgent appeal to the newly elected committee at the annual AGM last week to focus on more fundraising efforts to save this animal shelter, which is about 50 years old.

The Namibian understands that expenses, which include running the pound and clinic and paying a veterinarian, are approximately N$150 000 a month.

"It's been costing us. We are very grateful for the few thousand dollars from members and good Samaritans, but it is a far cry from what we need to keep our heads above water," the SPCA's general manager, Hilary du Plessis, said.

According to her, the income is getting less on the one hand and running costs are increasing on the other hand. The SPCA needs at least N$200 000 a month to survive.

"We also don't charge people who bring their animals here. They think because we are a charity organisation that we don't have costs," she said.

An annual report of the SPCA presented at the AGM highlighted the financial challenges and a plea was made to the City of Windhoek to assist the struggling dog pound with a higher annual grant. Last year Windhoek granted N$150 000 to the SPCA - which is equivalent to one month's operational costs.

"We need more. We are always helping the city with strays and abused animals and taking care of the city's animals - all year round," Du Plessis said, adding that the State Veterinary Services should also support the SPCA since it took on the responsibility to help the pets of underprivileged people at its welfare clinic.

Drastic cutbacks were made, which means taking in fewer animals and closing the clinic. Last year, the SPCA took in 2 138 dogs - 270 more than the previous year. Of these 1 014 were surrendered by their owners. Many of these animals had to be put down because the SPCA cannot afford to keep more than 150 dogs and 130 cats at a time on the current premises, which are old and cramped.

"Unfortunately more animals have to be turned away, and when we take more animals we have to evaluate which ones are worth keeping and which are not. Even with the clinic, we had to turn sick and injured animals away, which was very sad," said Du Plessis.

The untimely closure of the welfare clinic due to financial constraints, limited facilities and work overload on resident vet Dr Simone Herzog have come as a shock. The clinic, which helped pet owners with low or no income, was swamped with wounded, sick and dying animals on a daily basis. Only extreme emergencies and the euthanasia of old or extremely sick animals will still be attended to.

"This is hopefully only temporary as we try and find a solution. The clinic will be closed to the public but will still serve the SPCA's animals," Du Plessis said.

Gibson made an urgent appeal to the public to help with donations to restart the clinic and enable the employment of a second veterinarian.

There is talk about selling the current premises and moving the SPCA to the outskirts of Windhoek, where there would be more space. The current premises are too small and too expensive to maintain. The last valuation of the premises was about N$18 million.

"The public are called to assist where they can. They can become members at merely N$100 per year, or they can donate to us, which we will be very grateful for. Give us names and contacts and help out with fundraising events. Any help is welcome," urged Du Plessis.

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