Indications are it has taken the euthanisation of 25 horses following an animal welfare inspection to generate action on the animal care front at the SA Army Specialised Infantry Capability (SAASIC) in Potchefstroom.
The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (NSPCA), entered into a memorandum of understanding with the unit in 2013 that was only formally signed three years later, maintains the military “continually reneged” on it. This is as regards responsibilities to adequately care for animals in their control.
“The failure to secure suitably qualified personnel or adequate facilities, combined with a non-empathetic infrastructure that repeatedly failed the animals resulted in a complete breakdown in the welfare conditions afforded to the horses.
“The main herd had no food, horses had no option but to eat soil and own faeces. Food was only provided after the NSPCA forced SAASIC into taking emergency action to secure adequate feed for the animals due to process restrictions,” the NSPCA’s Marcelle Meredith said.
An SANDF statement has it that the SA Military Health Service’s (SAMHS) Military Veterinary Institute (MVI) “has been roped in to continuously assess conditions under which the animals are kept”. Additionally, Colonel Ruan Harris’ unit, although no part at all of SAASIC, is to ensure “conditions identified as harmful are addressed with the urgency they deserve to enhance the health status of our animals,” Brigadier General Mafi Mgobozi said in the statement.
Further investigations revealed that prior to the latest inspection the Military Veterinary Institute had already stepped in, euthanising starving horses and treating other neglected horses.
In response to the NSPCA allegation that 169 horses are currently kept on the Potchefstroom property “which is over-stocked, has inadequate shelter and is a hazardous environment for animals” the SANDF has “directed that 80 of our horses be relocated to a better facility in Rooiwal, north of Pretoria”.
Mgobozi said the animal transfer was a directive from SANDF Chief, General Solly Shoke.
“Forty horses will be left at SAASIC in Potchefstroom with the understanding that the facility will be adequate to cater for all these animals’ needs. With the help of MVI, we have enlisted extra personnel and veterinary physicians to help manage the animals and ensure the highest standard of animal breeding behaviour is maintained by the SANDF,” Mgobozi said.
The SAASIC was established in March 2011 with a number of horses to provide an equestrian capability for the SANDF, a function that includes borderline safety deployment and training purposes.