Animal Abuse: How to report it in South Africa

Animal Abuse: How to report it in South Africa

Animal abuse is more common that we’d like to believe – especially in South Africa.

Empathy is important. We shouldn’t only be empathetic to other humans, but all living things. Animals can feel emotions too, and it has been proven that they can experience physical pain. 

Unfortunately, not everyone is empathetic towards our furry friends. 

But there are certain things that all of us can do to ensure animal safety. 

Reporting cruelty to animals is every person’s responsibility.

South Africa has many institutions that work to combat cruelty towards animals. The public can report the mistreatment of animals to these places and can rest assured that justice will be served on behalf of our fuzzy companions. 

These institutions include the SPCA, the Human Society and the PDSA. However, not everything falls under their jurisdiction.

For example, in a recent article on National Council of SPCA’s website, it’s mentioned that not every situation falls under their mandate. One needs to establish the severity of the issue before calling the authorities. Assess the situation and the animal’s condition before calling. 

The best way to establish if an animal has been abused is by examining the animal and its home environment (but there are a few other ways too. Below is a list of possible signs to look out for before you file a report with the SPCA or other animal rights organisation. 

The physical signs:

  • Untreated skin conditions and wounds;
  • Limping or inability to walk or stand;
  • Looking undernourished (too thin);
  • Injuries on the neck owing to a too-tight collar;
  • Discharge from the nose or eyes of the animal;
  • An infestation of fleas or ticks; and 
  • Witnessing someone physically abusing the animal.

Environmental signs of animal abuse

The environmental signs of abuse to look out for are:

  • Tied up pets
  • Unsanitary area (not being kept clean, scattered, old pet faeces lying around etc.)
  • A minimal area for the pest to play in. (Animals needs space to exercise and be free;
  • No protection from weather conditions such as shade; and 
  • No clean food or water.

If you witness any of these signs, talk to the owner/s of the pets. However, if you prefer not to get involved in a confrontation, report the incident to your local Animal Shelter. You can also use the iER app to ensure your safety and still get the proper authorities sent to the scene. The iER app is a free emergency application for any smart device. It gives the user peace of mind by offering a no-cost solution for emergencies. The App is a panic button for a variety of situations. 

It is a one-click solution available for every situation. 

There is no membership fee. Members can utilise the iER application, although data or a Wi-Fi connection. 

If you don’t have your local animal shelter’s details, as mentioned above, contact your local SPCA for help.

Other forms of animal abuse:


The declawing of cats and the tail docking of dogs is illegal and therefore criminal offences. Some animal shelters are also opposed to ear cropping (changing the shape of dogs’ ears).  


Dogfighting is a criminal activity. The reward for any information about dogfighting, breeding for fighting or promoting as entertainment and money, is up to R15 000.00 (fifteen thousand rand), from the National Council of SPCAs.

Dogs in hot cars

An open window is not enough ventilation for a panting dog, especially not in the sweltering South African heat. Cars become extremely hot in a short period. If you see a dog in a locked, car, take the vehicle’s details and report to the National Council of the SPCAs immediately. 


Fireworks are incredibly distressing to animals as they can hear higher frequencies than what we do. Most municipalities have designated firework sites, and if any illegal fireworks are happening in your area, report it to South African Police Service.

How to report animal abuse

Once you have established that there is abuse and who the correct contact is, follow the following steps:

  • Write a full statement on exactly what you witnessed. Having the correct date, place and time of the incident is essential as you have to be clear and thorough with the details.
  • If you can, photograph the abuse. This can be done with your smartphone, which records the exact date and time. This will also support your written statement.
  • Always try to get willing witnesses who must also provide you with a written statement.
  • Keep records of all calls made, who you spoke to, the dates of calls, call discussions, and the call outcome.
  • Ensure that you make a copy of all the documents you submit and keep this copy to yourself. For better reference, ensure that your submissions are acknowledged.
  • Make yourself available if the case proceeds. Your assistance ensures that the perpetrators are dealt with accordingly.
  • If you do not receive a response, take the initiative to follow up on the matter yourself. If this poor feedback continues, report it to the necessary bodies in an escalation process.
  • Expert witnesses are almost often required and necessary for most animal cruelty cases. Try to find a veterinarian willing to support your claim. Try to obtain expert support. If you cannot secure a veterinarian, contact an animal rescue worker, who will be ready to support your claim.

Remember, we have to stand up for animals, which do not have a voice.

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