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About 27% of SA’s 14.9m dogs and cats don’t have homes. That doesn’t mean they don’t have 'owners’.

Business Insider SA
South African’s are very open to adopting from a shelter. Photo: SPCA
South African’s are very open to adopting from a shelter. Photo: SPCA

  • Out of the 14.9 million dogs and cats in South Africa, 4.1 million are considered strays.
  • SA scored 4 out of 10 according to the State of Pet Homelessness Index, which measures efforts to deal with strays.
  • There are an estimated 300 million "homeless" dogs globally.
  • But many dogs have informal "owners".
  • For more stories go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.

Out of the 14.9 million dogs and cats in South Africa, 4.1 million are considered strays.

This is according to the State of Pet Homelessness Index, compiled by pet-food maker Mars Petcare, which measures 10 countries' efforts to deal with dogs and cats which live on the street, are considered strays, or live in shelters.

Out of a possible 10, SA scored 4. This places it behind China’s 4.8, but way ahead of last-placed India with a score of 2.8. Germany came in tops at 8.6.

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Source: South Africa State of Pet Homelessness Index

Though about 27% of SA’s dogs and cats (or companion animals) live on the streets, it does not mean they don’t have a home. One of the organisations that provided information for the index, WellBeing International (WBI), makes the point that many of these animals are informally taken care of.

“While there are an estimated 300 million ‘homeless’ dogs [globally], the term is surprisingly challenging to define,” WBI says. This is because many dogs living on the street “may be claimed by a particular household.”

WBI notes that one study found that more than 90% of dogs on the street in two Balinese villages and in two South African townships were claimed by specific households. 

But just because there are households feeding animals living on their streets, it does not mean all their needs are taken care of. WBI points out that these dogs have “rarely received any treatment for disease or injury.”

This is why, despite being claimed by some households, it defines homeless dogs as those spending most of their time on the streets and receiving little to no health care.

This lack of health care for animals was one of the reasons dragging down SA’s ranging on the State of Pet Homelessness Index. South Africa scored poorly in the index’s measure of "All Pets Cared For" because there was some hesitancy in taking pets to the vet, which is viewed as too expensive.

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Source: South Africa State of Pet Homelessness Index

“49% of those who do not take their pet to the vet list cost as a key reason for this, compared to the average of 28% [for all 10 countries].”

Another hindrance to adoption is concern by South Africans over whether pets will be allowed to live with them.

“70% of South Africa’s general population believe it is difficult to own a dog when living in an apartment compared to a global average of 60%. Additionally, 51% agree it is difficult to own a cat in an apartment compared to the global average of 45%.”

On the plus side, SA’s above-average sterilisation rate drives up its overall "All Pets Wanted" score.

Another plus is the openness of South Africans to adopt from a shelter.

“Strong familiarity with, and higher than average consideration to adopt from shelters and rescue centres, drives the ‘All Pets Cared For’ up in South Africa. 77% of the general population would consider adopting from a shelter in the future, compared to the global average of 65%.”

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