Many townships are hardly fit for people – so it comes as no surprise that dogs living there are also having a hard time.
The lifespan of different breeds of dogs vary, but it would seem that in the townships izinja (dogs) tend not to live more than 2 to 6 years on average, according to the Madzananda Animal Clinic in Khayelitsha, Cape Town.
“Mortality rate is high among puppies and kittens, especially when people do not have access to primary health care services and their pet is not immunised against cat flu / parvo virus/ distemper,” said the clinic’s project manager, Jane Levinson.
According to Levinson, township dogs often live different lives from animals in the suburbs. They are usually working dogs – they protect the house and the family. Suburban dogs are also sometimes watchdogs, but they also serve the function of companion animals.
Dog owners aware of pet needs
Township dogs are often more social than other dogs – they often do not have enclosed properties, so they often play together.
Even the names given to the dogs, names like, Tiger, Danger, and Spider etc suggests that they are possibly bred for fighting.
Be that as it may, Levison says “Some dogs are well taken care of by their owners... we have made pet owners more aware of their pets' needs, plus we also have a shop whereby we sell pet products at a reasonable rate.”
By doing this, we aim to “make it easier for pet owners to take care of their animals by having access, information and affordable products for their pet.”
Big adjustment for a dog
Some township dwellers have one or two pets – others more. The more there are, the more difficult it obviously gets to maintain and care for them.
Often dogs are left without food and they end up scavenging on the dumping sites.
And then there’s the issue of unwanted suburban dogs coming to live in the townships. Often they were unwanted gifts to unwilling pet owners. It’s a big adjustment for the dog just moving homes, never mind possibly moving to a totally different environment.
The best way to deal with a situation such as this is to speak to the previous owner of the dog and find out what the dog's daily schedule was like, says a dog behaviour expert. Try and follow that as closely as you can, i.e. if dog was allowed in the home (which is important for bonding, and when you take on a dog it becomes part of the human/canine pack), then make sure it is allowed in for company, feed it the same food, and take it for the same amount of walks and exercise.
(Siphiwo Mangisa, Health24, April 2012)