Written by Kristoff Adelbert, Chief-of-Staff, Office of the Executive Mayor of Nelson Mandela Bay
Photography by Mariaan Gouws Browne
Nelson Mandela Bay is home to deeply passionate animal welfare activists; the kind that never give up…
The first step
I contacted well-known animal rights activist Marizanne Ferreira in late 2017 to invite her to City Hall for a meeting about animal welfare. A media colleague of mine, and friend of Marizanne, had described to me the extent to which animal welfare organisations and activists had tried for years to get assistance or support from the Municipality, without success.
It wasn’t long into the discussion when Marizanne said: “Meetings have never got us anywhere in this Metro, so I’m done with them.” I understood why; it was the very reason that attracted me to be part of change in Nelson Mandela Bay.
But that wasn’t the end of the “conversation” – it was the first step in what would become a phenomenal driving force for animal welfare in the Eastern Cape.
Some time after our phone call ended, I received an email with attachments; a tale of frustration, punctuated with solutions. In fact, the Mayor had received numerous pieces of correspondence from animal welfare organisations, requesting meetings and intervention.
No voice goes unheard in this administration, and it was clear that there were many voices that wanted to be heard. The Executive Mayor convened a public meeting on the 6th of December 2017 in City Hall for anyone in the Metro representing animal welfare organisations, or anyone volunteering in the field.
If I took anything out of that meeting, it was that Nelson Mandela Bay is home to deeply passionate animal welfare activists; the kind that never give up. And finally, that perseverance would pay off.
Partners in caring about animals
That meeting triggered a partnership between the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality and the animal welfare collective that saw the establishment of a Mayoral Animal Welfare Committee (MACM), the first of its kind in the Metro.
This forum, through interfacing with the Office of the Executive Mayor, set in motion a movement that has set the tone for government’s role in animal welfare.
Making history with spays
On the 10th of June 2018, over 20 veterinary surgeons, multiple assistants and nurses, and volunteers from across the City called on the residents of the impoverished area of Motherwell (25km from Port Elizabeth) to bring unsterilised female dogs to the NU29 Community Hall for a mass spayathon.
It would land up being the largest and most successful spayathon in South African history.
Under the leadership of the Port Elizabeth Animal Welfare Society, endorsed and funded through a R250,000 mayoral resolution, 215 dogs were sterilised in one day. And another 450 are set to follow.
Donations from SuperSpar Newton Park, SuperSpar Central Distribution, and various members of the public saw food parcels for each owner and their dog, and piles of blankets pour in for the numerous furry patients.
The remaining 450 dogs will be sterilised through a fragmented sector approach with each animal welfare organisation provided with a quota allocation of dogs to have sterilised at local clinics.
The Mayoral Animal Welfare Committee’s work has just begun, with various other animals – cats, cows and the like – set to benefit in a number of ways.
Executive Mayor Cllr. Athol Trollip has set a national trend of delivery and care-centred governance. And this is just the beginning…
THE BIG DAY
By Marizanne Ferreira, Chairperson of the Nelson Mandela Bay Mayoral Animal Welfare Committee
Finally, after months of preparation, planning, and anticipation, the day arrived: Sunday, the 10th of June 2018 – The Big Day; the Day of the MACM Launch; the Day we are going to sterilise 200 dogs.
There was a buzz of excitement as we all gathered at the hall at 07h00; municipal staff members, volunteers, vets and nurses. When the first dog nervously entered the premises and headed for registration, nothing on earth could stop the explosion of hands getting involved.
Many hands make light work
Volunteers were everywhere; some carrying dogs, others wiping tears of the scared young owners, some cleaning up, others taking a much-needed cuppa to another… It was just amazing!
The most breathtaking sight was the theatre area. Can you imagine 19 vets with nurses and assistants, standing shoulder to shoulder, sterilising dogs? It was phenomenal to see; a sight that brought tears to many. It was overwhelming. With so many professionals giving up their precious little free time to be part of this milestone event, it made me burst with pride for my city and its citizens.
Our Mayor arrived, and watching his face as he followed step-by-step, stopping to talk to almost everyone, was heartwarming; respect for our Mayor.
The lucky 215
By 09h00 we had sterilised 50 dogs. Our target was 200, and we were all dead set on achieving this. By midday, the intake of dogs had slowed down, and I was worried that we might not make 200. To our relief, it wasn’t long before owners and dogs began streaming in again.
We had to have a cut-off time and, sadly, had to turn some dogs away. However, their owners’ details were taken and AWS would follow up with them.
We sterilised 215 dogs on The Big Day. To our knowledge, this is a record of the most dogs ever sterilised in one day in South Africa.
The lives of those 215 have been changed for the better; they’ll never have to be at risk of breeding again, and the future has been changed forever.
An amazing achievement
To say that we are super-proud and beyond happy would be the understatement of the decade. What an achievement! And none of it could have been done without everybody involved.
A heartfelt thank you and shout out to every single vet, nurse, vet assistant, volunteer and municipal worker who participated in making this happen.
To our sponsors of blankets, food parcels for the dog owners and food for the doctors, you rock!
And last, but most definitely not least, a huge debt of gratitude goes to the Nelson Mandela Bay municipality, particularly Kristoff Adelbert, the Mayor, and everyone on the Mayoral Animal Welfare Committee.
Please watch this space: we will soon start planning the next Big Day as our DA Coalition government has budgeted for a further R500,000 to be utilised in sterilisation of dogs and cats in our metro.