SANDF animals in good hands


The South African National Defence Force (SANDF) in the form of its SA Military Health Service (SAMHS) animal health directorate is now and will in future work closely with the National SPCA on animal welfare issues.

This follows a December interim High Court order granting the animal protection and welfare organisation entry to the SA Army Specialised Infantry Capability (SAASIC) base in Potchefstroom. SPCA inspectors visited the North West province base a second time a few days later following a final High Court judgement on December 18. The court hearing was brought by the NSPCA following allegations of mistreatment mainly of horses by the SANDF.

More than 50 horses were inspected by two NSPCA equine specialists. Welfare concerns such as the provision of hoof care, nutrition, suitable shelter and attention to medical conditions as well as the timely treatment of injuries were all discussed at length. Injuries and concerns were noted and dealt with promptly by SANDF personnel.
“The military has committed to open lines of communication with the NSPCA as regards animals in their care. An agreement of mutual interaction and information sharing will ensure no animal’s welfare is ever compromised and animals aiding in the protection of South Africa’s borders receive all the necessary care and commitment,” NSPCA’s Wendy Willson said.

Apart from providing veterinary clinical care for all SANDF dogs and horses, the animal health directorate is also tasked with sustaining a canine capability for the force.

This includes acquisition of dogs either by breeding or selected procurement, training of both dogs and all related human resources, placement of dogs at specialist units as well as constantly managing dogs’ welfare.

SAASIC is manager of the SANDF equine capability and is responsible for acquisition, training, care, feeding and stabling of horses in an advisory capacity. The supervisory capacity is the responsibility of the animal health directorate and clinical veterinary services.
“During operational deployments a veterinary orderly and farrier assistant, in the case of horses and when needed, are deployed. Additionally a veterinary support plan is drafted with a back-up support plan managed 24/7 by a veterinarian,” a SAMH spokesman said.

He added that veterinarians, veterinary nurses, technologists and orderlies as well as farriers, farrier’s assistants, kennel hands, dog handlers, trainers and instructors were all currently in the ranks of the animal health directorate.
“This is to ensure SANDF animals receive the best possible when it comes to care and training. At current personnel levels, SAMHS can cope with clinical demands as there are sufficient nurses and orderlies.
“Recruiting takes place continuously at schools and universities and bursaries are available for deserving young South Africans to study as veterinarians and veterinary nurses. On completion of their studies they are employed by SAMHS,” the spokesman said.

Because dogs and horses are deployed operationally the actual numbers of animals in service cannot be divulged.