Impasse keeps pound closed

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The loading bay has collapsed, making it dangerous (for the animals) to load them on to a vehicle.

One of the reasons the numbers of stray livestock have increased in Grahamstown is that there has been no operational pound since early last year.

A standoff between Makana Municipality and the SPCA started in late 2015. The lead-up to the eventual impasse is described differently by Mark Thomas and Jeff Budaza, respective Managers of the Grahamstown SPCA and Makana Parks Department – but what was clear was that both were very frustrated.

According to Thomas, the SPCA had been tasked with running the municipal pound since 2009. The were paid a monthly fee and a proportion of the fines paid by owners to recover their animals. “That all stopped in late 2012/ early 2013,” Thomas said. “There had been sporadic payments, but they didn’t add up against the amounts we were owed.”

During 2013, Thomas said, payments stopped altogether. Nevertheless, the pound had continued to operate until 2016.

The cash-strapped organisation tried to negotiate with the municipality for rebates on water and electricity and assistance with maintaining the pound, as well as payment for a poundmaster. Makana hadn’t agreed to it, arguing that the payment of fines by owners should cover their expenses.

Thomas felt strongly that the pound should only be a holding centre and that Makana’s finance department should collect the fines. Animals would be release to an owner who produced a receipt.

On a tour of the facility, Thomas explained to Grocott’s Mail why the facility was not suitable and secure for keeping livestock. Among the problems were that horned and dehorned cattle, males and females, donkeys and cattle required separate enclosures; the fence was too low and not strong enough to retain cattle (or keep thieves out); gates were not secure and lockable; drainage was poor and shelters were insufficient or structurally unsound as was the loading bay.

“We can’t operate a pound in this state,” Thomas said.

Mark Thomas points out some of the weaknesses and dangers to animals in the pound’s infrastructure that have kept it closed.

Budaza said considering how few resources Makana has at its disposal, his department had put a lot into fixing infrastructure at the pound with a view to making it operational.

Following discussions between the SPCA committee and senior Makana officials, Budaza’s staff had repaired the kraals, fences and gates. However, Budaza felt Thomas had repeatedly moved the goalposts.

At one point the Grahamstown Residents Association intervened, offering to raise funds to tag  and feed livestock – until the first round of fines built up enough to cover that expense.

An impasse was finally reached over the SPCA’s request for a signed contract committing the municipality to paying R48 000 a month to cover the cost of feed for the impounded livestock, and the salaries of a caretaker and an assistant. They had also requested water and electricity for the facility to be subsidised. Makana would then receive and keep the fines paid by owners to recover livestock. Makana considered this unreasonable.

Independent arrangements have now been made for stray cattle to be taken to the Alexandria pound.

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