The isolated village of Bitterfontein, in the northernmost area of the Western Cape, recently had nothing to be bitter about when award-winning veterinarian Dr. Annelize Roos and her team visited the village as part of their sterilisation project in collaboration with FOUR PAWS and the People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals South Africa (PDSA).
"The project was sponsored by FOUR PAWS because sterilising pets is a hugely crucial step towards being a responsible pet owner. Sterilisation saves lives as there are less unwanted litters and fewer animals who end up in the welfare system needing to be rehomed"
Sarah Locke, The Head of Programmes of FOUR PAWS in South Africa
The town with a population of less than a thousand is the railhead of a line from Cape Town where ore from the copper mines in the area is transferred from road transport to the railway.
It is the sort of village that unsung angels of animal welfare like Dr Roos had in mind when Envirovet CVC was launched in Cape Town, to ease the future burden of care on animal-owners and shelters in communities where there are not enough homes for cats and dogs.
Envirovet CVC is a satellite community veterinary clinic that falls under the umbrella of the South African Veterinary Association Community. Such community services were launched by the Association in 1998 to promote primary health care in indigent communities in South Africa that are unable to access the services offered by private veterinary practitioners.
Dr Roos started Envirovet CVC in 2011 and has been involved in numerous animal welfare projects in and around the Western Cape focusing primarily on the sterilisation of animals. Over the last decade Envirovet CVC has performed more than 75 000 pet sterilisations.
FOUR PAWS was the major sponsor of the Bitterfontein sterilisation drive, that also involved the delivery of much needed primary veterinary care such as vaccinations, dipping, deworming and treatment of mange.
“We found the pet-owners of the village and the surroundings areas to be responsible owners who see to their animals’ needs with compassion”
Dr. Annelize Roos, Founder of Envirovet CVC
Within four days of non-stop work, she and her team completed more than 150 sterilisations. “It is demanding work especially because you are also working among farmers who have fallen on tough times and feel you also need to encourage them. The fact that their animals are well cared for says so much of the village and the vicinity.”
Dr Roos says of communities that she has worked with, Bitterfontein really stands out as a beacon of animal welfare. What is different to the town is the ratio between cats and dogs.
“Usually, we do find more dogs than cats in small communities but in Bitterfontein it was the other way round. There were more cats than dogs to sterilise.”
With these campaigns Dr Roos also informs the communities of the importance of treating animals with respect and to love them.
She is thankful that they were also able to step in and help to sterilise cats in the feral colonies in the area although it does take some more time to catch the animals and see to their sterilisation and needs.
“It does take us about an hour to catch one cat in such a feral colony, but the group will be safer and healthier afterwards, so it is worth every minute of our time and energy spent.”
Dr Roos says very often they must negotiate with owners to sterilise their animals and stressed that a success rate to achieve a comprehensive pet population management approach, requires the sterilisation of at least 70% of pets in any geographically demarcated area to reach herd-immunity – only this has the potential to curb pet population growth.
“We achieved 85% in Bitterfontein!” says Dr Roos.
She will look back fondly at the project and “will also remember it as a community where the animals were happy and friendly which says much of their owners and the community itself.”