Your right to have a pet Print E-mail
News - Rubrieke
Friday, 26 January 2018 16:37
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Dr Liesel van der Merwe is a small animal medicine specialist. Send her your questions: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Dr Liesel van der Merwe

I am a person prone to getting irate at what I perceive to be injustices and I get really irritated with rules that don’t make sense at all. I want to ask everyone reading this column – taking your personal preferences out of the equation – when are pets good in an environment and when are they harmful?

An example: my parents live on a small housing estate cum game farm complex outside of Bela Bela.

As with all of these complexes, there is a body corporate. This body corporate doesn’t want the people to have dogs because they bark. The houses are at least one hectare apart.

There is, however, no restriction on cats, which have caused catastrophic damage to the small mammal population in the reserve. So, what people perceive as a nuisance causes no environmental damage at all. The rules should state clearly – no cats (at all) and dogs allowed provided they are not a nuisance.

Then we have old age homes and retirement villages. When people move into retirement villages they have to give up their pets. Not only have they just given up a large part of their independence, they may just have lost a life partner, but now they must give up their canine or feline companion.

It has been shown time and again how the presence of a pet can decrease stress levels and blood pressure and prolong life. The responsibility of looking after another being may give people a purpose in life, which otherwise they do not have.

Why do these places not make a plan? Set a restriction on the number of animals. Employ staff to assist in walking and cleaning up after these animals. Because it is just too much effort. People are boxed to fit a system instead of the system suiting the individual.

I believe we should stand up and argue against body corporates and managing bodies when it comes to these kinds of decisions. Plans and systems can always be put into place.

On the flip side – responsibility also needs to be taken by pet owners as to the welfare of their animals. Don’t have more pets than you can manage, than your property can contain, or than what you can afford. Don’t get a Rottweiler if you cannot control it or exercise it.

Be aware of the hereditary conditions which dogs are prone to. Although they are nice and small, daschunds and Pekingese are very predisposed to disc prolapse, which is catastrophic in most cases and require expensive surgery.

If money is generally quite tight and you are on a pension, select a pet which is less predisposed to health problems. A crossbreed fits the bill perfectly here – good “basterkrag” that takes out a lot of the inbred hereditary disorders. At the same time you will be giving an abandoned dog a good home. All my dogs are adopted and they are an amazing, interesting, fascinating bunch, which can keep us endlessly entertained. 

Keeping a pet should be a considered decision. I believe all people should be able to have a pet, especially those who are alone. However, people still need to take into consideration practical realities regarding the species, breed, size and age of that pet. It may be that only a bird can be accommodated, yet that bird can provide a lot of satisfaction and joy to an owner.

Additionally, the place of that pet in the environment needs to be taken into account. People who want to live in the wild or the bush just must expect not to have pets or a garden, rather than complaining about restrictions regarding animals. Keep the big picture in mind.


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