Animal Welfare

What is Animal Welfare?

World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA) Welfare Guidelines for companion animal practitioners and veterinary teams define ‘animal welfare’ as,” Animal welfare is the physical and psychological, social and environmental well-being of animals”.

In the same guidelines, the three overlapping concepts as defined by Fraser (2008) are:

  1. Physical state and functioning.
  2. Psychological or mental state and
  3. Ability to perform natural behaviours and live according to its natural state.

The guidelines also mention that animal sentience must be considered as an important concept in animal welfare as animals have an awareness of their environment and the ability to make choices (Webster, 2007).

In addition, science can tell us what animals need, while ethics can tell us how we should treat animals, but the law tells us how we must treat animals. Welfare principles are, however, universal, and can apply to any animal species, taking into account its specific and/or varied needs.


Veterinary professionals

Veterinarians are recognised worldwide as the leading advocates for animal welfare and acknowledge the contributions they(animals) make to human society through companionship, food production, education and research (OIE, 2012 and AVMA, 2014.) Veterinarians qualify at the University of Pretoria and are registered with the South African Veterinary Council (SAVC). They are considered a critical skill. Foreign qualified veterinarians are required to write the SAVC examination and once passed and registered with the SAVC, may work in South Africa. Both local and foreign veterinarians perform a year of compulsory community service.

Para-veterinary professionals:

Veterinary nurses, animal heath technicians, laboratory animal technologists, veterinary physiotherapists, and veterinary technologists are all qualified para-veterinary professionals who are registered with the SAVC.

Every group has a different scope of practice-see for details of each group and how they contribute where they work. Animal Welfare Assistants are only authorized with SAVC at this stage until their profession is promulgated.

Animal Inspectors and Animal Control Officers:

This group of people work to uphold the country’s animal protection laws (inspectors) and the municipal by-laws (animal control officers), as well as educate the public they meet through community interactions. Training is done though individual registered animal welfare organizations or individuals.

Dog trainers, behaviourists, groomers:

This group of people have the ability to improve the welfare of animals through the specific services they are able to provide. This may include the rehabilitation of animals which could positively contribute towards their successful rehoming. See for more information.

Agricultural settings:

Food security is paramount, but so too is the humane treatment of animals raised and cared for breeding and slaughter.

Research facilities:

Animals used must be treated humanely with strict compliance with ethical standards approved by research committees. The aim is to always replace, reduce and refine research and limit animal use as far as possible.

Wildlife sector:

The welfare and wellbeing of the multiple species covered here are as important as for the animals in the agriculture, research and companionship sector. Whether for tourism (ideally no-contact interactions), exhibit, breeding, slaughter or hunting, species must be treated humanely and without cruelty.

Animal rights advocates:

Individuals are often involved in the law and work with many stakeholders to address animal welfare and sentience in all animal industries. They promote animal -friendly policies and propose changes to legislation where applicable, through lobbying government.

Why are there so many different Organizations?

Organizations in South Africa who wish to work in the animal welfare sector are registered as either Non-Profit Organizations (with the Department of Social Development) or as Non-Profit Companies (with the Companies and Intellectual Property Commission), or Trusts (with the Master of the High Court.)

Each of these Organizations will be guided by their Constitution (Founding Document), Memorandum of Incorporation or Deeds of Trust depending on their registration. Staff may be paid or volunteers. Funding is usually through donations, paid services, or fundraising activities.

This will prescribe the work the Organization will be doing and can include:

  • Responding to calls for assistance and rescue for animals in danger or need.
  • Responding to natural or man-made disasters involving animals.
  • Responding to calls for animals that may be sick or injured, abandoned or unwanted.
  • Providing primary health care such as internal/external parasite control, vaccinations, sterilizations, or additional veterinary care such as physical rehabilitation) in a clinic or hospital.
  • Offering outreach services in the community to address primary health care needs usually in mobile units.
  • Behavioural intervention and training in order to rehabilitate the animal to make it adoptable.
  • Admitting stray animals and ensuring they are checked for identification in order to be reunited with their owners, whether a municipal pound or not, and where animal inspectors enforce the law.
  • Fostering animals for short periods of time to allow animals to adjust to new routines when Organizations do not have enough space or staff or to accommodate traumatized animals.
  • Finding animals new homes through networking, advertising and collaborating with breed specific Organizations where applicable.
  • Educating the public including visiting schools, special interest groups about responsible pet ownership and offering different events to make it accessible and affordable through subsidized treatment, specific campaigns.
  • Working with volunteers at the Organization to benefit the animals in their care or at events to network with the community.

Overall, Organizations in South Africa are dedicated to improving the lives of animals and ensuring that they receive the care and support they need. Their work is critical in promoting animal welfare, preventing cruelty, and reducing the number of animals that are abandoned or euthanized.

Education & Outreach drives:

The Pit Bull Federation of South Africa is dedicated to educating the public in responsible ownership and breed specific needs of the American Pit Bull Terrier and all pit bull-type dogs. We are involved in various education and outreach initiatives throughout the country. Please keep an eye out on our social media platforms for information of upcoming events.