Winter struggles for Khayelitsha township pets

2017 06 13
Cape Town

Winter struggles of Khayelitsha township pets

With the recent heavy and continuous rains in Cape Town the Khayelitsha township residents have felt its affects.

“As much as we are rejoicing for much needed rain, rainy and cold weather is not a happy time for many township residents. A vast number of township community members live in shacks that are not waterproof allowing rain and the cold to infiltrate. Many are built directly onto the sand meaning water seeps in. The pets of the township are really being affected too,” says Marcelle du Plessis, Fundraising and Communications Manager of the Mdzananda Animal Clinic.

The team at the Mdzananda Animal Clinic, based in Mandela Park, Khayelitsha, has been on the ground assisting the pets of the community.

Many pets are not allowed into homes even when it is cold and raining outside. Many do not have kennels or any form of shelter. “Winter is a straining time on the Mdzananda Animal Clinic as an influx of pets in hypothermic states arrive at our door step having dangerously low body temperatures. We treat them with warm food (some needing force feeding), hot water bottles, warmed IV drips and vigorous body rubbing to help create blood flow and warmth. Some do not make it – many are saved,” says du Plessis.

“Just last week an Africanis dog was admitted to our hospital in an extreme hypothermic state. He had been living in his owner’s yard with no shelter. The dog also had an underlying illness. The combination of the underlying illness and hypothermia made his chances slim. We did what we could for him, but he did not make it,” says Dr Brian Bergman Head Veterinarian.

“Another dog got scared of the storm last week and tried to escape from his owner’s yard. He jumped through a fence cutting himself deeply. He also tore his cruciate ligament in the process. When he was brought to us for help he was not only injured, but close to hypothermia from being stuck in the fence in the cold. We are still treating him at our hospital. He is responding well to treatment for his wounds and will need a cruciate repair operation. We believe he will recover well.”

Caution on the roads also decrease significantly during cold weather. “The amount of pets run over by motor vehicles and that enter our facility with broken legs, pelvises and jaws increase during winter time,” says du Plessis. An orthopaedic operation can cost the clinic around R1400 to perform. “Our electricity expenses also triple as many heaters are needed to be switched on to ensure the pets stay warm.”

The Mdzananda Animal Clinic prides itself in its animal education work in the community. They have a strong focus on community empowerment and education and focus on understanding the community’s needs, embracing this, gaining their respect and trust.

“Even though many community members’ mindsets have changed over the past 21 years since the inception of the Mdzananda Animal Clinic, we still have a long way to go. We have been able to educate many on animal care and husbandry. Many of our clients no longer see pets as objects – they are friends – some even sleeping on the bed” says du Plessis.

With the Khayelitsha community being enormous in size and occupancy (the last known census in 2011 counted 400 000 people) the amount of people that still needs to reached is vast. The level of education on animal needs is low and its visibility is amplified during the winter months.

“In winter months we also find some pets abandoned at our front gate” says du Plessis. “This happens throughout the year but more in winter. We are, however, grateful that owners make the responsible choice to give pets to our team if they feel they can no longer look after them or do not know how to look after them.”

One such pet was Dobbie – a two month old mixed breed puppy.

Dobbie was found tied to the Mdzananda Animal Clinic’s front gate early one morning, shivering from the morning cold. His front legs were severely bent – deformed by rickets – a softening and weakening of bones usually due to inadequate vitamin D and nutrition. Many pets, like Dobbie, are fed on “pap” (the local porridge). This severely lacks in nutrition, especially for a growing puppy. Not wanting or knowing how to look after a deformed puppy and most likely not being able to afford looking after him, Dobbie was left at Mdzananda’s front gate.

With the work of the veterinarians and staff at Mdzananda, Dobbie received vitamin D, good nutrition, splints, many bandages and lots of love and cuddles. Dobbie’s legs healed. Being beyond adorable with an extreme zest for life despite his bad past, Dobbie was adopted last week.

The Mdzananda Animal Clinic would like to encourage pet lovers to assist township pets this winter. You can make a donation to the clinic to assist them with specialized food for recovering pets, medication for sick animals, orthopaedic operations, electricity, blankets and kennels. You can also collect items that will help them this winter.

“Last week a generous donor donated enough funds to purchase ten kennels. These we delivered to pets without shelter in the community, kitted with a blanket and pillow.” Kennels range from R400 to R900 depending on size.

About Mdzananda Animal Clinic ( /
The Mdzananda Animal Clinic is a permanent, veterinary council registered, NPO animal clinic in Khayelitsha, a township just outside of Cape Town, South Africa, home to 400 000 people (2011 census) and their pets. The clinic serves an average of 700 animals per month through consultations, hospitalization, general and orthopaedic surgeries, continuous sterilizations, mobile clinics and an animal ambulance. Mdzananda has a strong focus on community empowerment and education to ensure responsible pet ownership into the future. The Mdzananda Animal Clinic is made possible by IFAW (International Fund of Animal Welfare) since 2003, Investec since 2015, Dogs Trust UK in 2012 and 2016 and individual donors since 1996.

Mdzananda Animal Clinic, Standard Bank, Account number: 075595710, Branch: Rondebosch, Branch Code: 025009, Reference: Winter+YourName

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Issued by: Marcelle du Plessis, Fundraising and Communications Manager for Mdzananda Animal Clinic,, 0823577613


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