Welcome to the new website of the Animal Rehabilitation Initiative (Association Incorporated Under Section 21). We are a not-for-profit company whose stated purpose at the outset in 2000 was to utilise the behavioural expertise and resources we had available to assist in alleviating the ‘pet overpopulation’ problem in South Africa. Both in order to prevent pet animals being relinquished into the welfare system, and to better deal with those that were already there. Since then our understanding of the problem, and therefore our focus, has appreciably broadened.
A few years ago I wrote an article (still unpublished) entitled “The Beast Within”, which was designed to remind people of the intrinsic ‘animal nature’ of their pets. This includes both those environmental needs that must be met, as well as understanding that when this very humanised creature doesn’t do what we expect them to do, it’s because of our lack of knowledge about them, not them being bad. “The Beast Without” expands this theme, but addresses instead those animals that live ‘outside’ the boundaries we erect to contain our pets. It also talks about those ‘beasts’ that live ‘without’ the lavish resources available to most pets. Welcome to The Beast Without.
For those of you who have come to this site expecting to find the Cape Animal Behaviour Centre’s webpage, and are wondering what’s going on, this is to inform you that the Cape Animal Behaviour Centre cc (CABC) has closed. Most of those involved in the CABC are also involved with the Animal Rehabilitation Initiative (section 21), and so if you are trying to make contact with any specific individual, any mail to us will be passed on to the correct individual.
The way that ‘pet-overpopulation’ or ‘homelessness’ is traditionally understood comes out of a specific set of circumstances that exist in the Developed World, where the Animal Welfare industry arose. In these countries, animals living on the streets, parks and industrial sites are generally strayed pets, or the offspring of strays. So there the problem is one of dealing with pet animals that have become dislocated and lost. Or ones that have been abandoned.
The situation in the Developing World, including South Africa, is a very different one, where the overwhelming majority of free-ranging animals living in countryside villages and towns, in and around the urban slums and poorer neighbourhoods of our cities are not ‘pets’ in the way most suburban people understand the term. As far as dogs are concerned, this is exactly the way most members of the species live around the world; it accounts for the vast majority of the species’ demographic distribution worldwide. Cats are only semi-domesticated, and can survive without human assistance at all if needs be, although they generally derive significant benefits from living close to humans.
So perhaps it is time that we re-evaluate the nature of the “problem”, and the nature of our response. The Animal Rehabilitation Initiative suggests that there is a great deal of very useful information to be had from Behavioural Ecology that may provide useful guidelines about how best to deal with these issues in a manner that is more sensitive to the circumstances of both the animals and the humans around whom they live. At the very least, perhaps this should form part of any discussion about how best to frame our intervention and management. A robust discussion certainly seems long overdue.
As well as providing some information about the general behaviour of dogs and cats via free advice-sheet downloads, and a constantly updating ‘links’ page to sites we think you may find useful, the main purpose of this site is our blog page and the conversation we want to initiate with you. As previously stated, ARI’s focus is on those animals we so often refer to as ‘street dogs’, ‘strayed’ cats or dogs, ‘feral’ or ‘semi-feral’ cats or just simply as ‘homeless’. These are what the World Health Organisation describes as “Neighbourhood” dogs or cats.
As part of this, we also want to create a venue for a respectful and constructive conversation about the various agents and organisations that deal with this sector, including ‘rescuers’, ‘shelters’, rehoming centres and pounds. Because this is such an emotional issue for some, the comments section will be closely moderated and any defamatory, offensive or insulting comments deleted.
So this website is designed to inform, provide resources as well as become a vehicle for interested people to begin a constructive conversation about how these animals are currently being managed. Hopefully this will allow us to somewhat reframe some of these issues in a public space, and thereby have a positive impact longterm.