The amount of views a cat video on Youtube racks up helps us realise how much we love our animals. But, as much as we might love them, there are certain laws by which we need to abide if they want to avoid running into trouble with the authorities. The Animal Protection Act of 1962 sets out regulations for all South African pet owners. Those who choose not to follow these rules will receive a penalty fine of up to R4,000 and can even face imprisonment for a period of twelve months depending on the severity of the action.
Understanding the Act
In terms of housing any animal, cruelty is defined by the Act as: “affording inadequate shelter, light or ventilation in which such animal is excessively exposed to heat, cold, weather, sun, rain, dust exhaust gases or noxious fumes”. The act also specifies that “making adequate provision for suitable food, potable water and rest” for the animal is a minimum requirement for pet ownership. It explicitly disallows an animal to be confined by “chains, tethers or secures [...] unnecessarily or [...] in such a manner as to cause that animal unnecessary suffering”.
What this means for you as a pet owner
Well, for starters, it means that if your pet sleeps outside, then you need to provide adequate shelter for it. Most kennels do not offer great protection against the elements. Building an awning and tucking the kennel into a corner underneath the roof is a great way to add an extra layer of protection against rain, wind, and sunshine. As a bonus, the addition adds value onto your home.
The act also prevents you from keeping your pet tied up to a tree or any other tether for extended periods of time. If you have an energetic dog that you’d like to keep at bay when you have visitors over, then it is preferable to put up a fence that gives your pet enough space to run around in while you and your guests gather around the braai on the other side.
Finally, you need to make sure that your pet has access to water throughout the day. If you keep their water bowls indoors to prevent evaporation, consider installing a pet door to allow them access while you’re at work during the day.
How many pets may you keep?
The Act restricts the number of animals you are allowed to keep according to the type of property you own. Each region will have their own by-laws on this, but most subscribe to the following restrictions for dogs over 6 months old: a maximum of two dogs are allowed to be kept in a dwelling unit (a sectional title); three dogs are allowed to be kept in a dwelling house (a freestanding property); four dogs are allowed to be kept in a large dwelling house (a property on a plot exceeding 600m2); and six dogs are allowed to be kept on an agricultural property. For cats, no more than four can be kept on any residential property, and no more than six can be kept on an agricultural property.
What kinds of pets may you keep?
In the interest of public health and safety, if you want to keep a pet other than the usual suspects (cats, dogs, fish, birds, rodents), then you will need to receive a permit by the relevant city council before you may keep it in a residential area.
Why follow the rules?
The sad reality is that too many homeowners have been irresponsible pet owners, which has caused a large number of body corporates to rule against pet ownership in residential estates and complexes entirely. To make sure this decision doesn’t become a wider spread restriction, make the effort to abide by the laws set out by local municipalities.