South Africa animal welfare groups devastated after 15-year Lotto lifeline cut off

Cape Town – Animal welfare organisations are reeling from an unexpected announcement that they will no longer receive funding from the National Lotteries Commission (NLC) – a decision which could also have devastating impacts on humans.

Animal welfare organisations will be excluded from the Lotto Charities Open Call for Applications. In a letter received by the National Council of SPCAs (NSPCA), NLC senior manager Chickey Mofet-Mubu stated that the Charities Distributing Agency will focus on areas “that are aligned to the country’s National Development Plan (NDP) and government priorities” only.

The NLC, whose mandate is to act as a “catalyst for eradicating poverty and reducing inequality in South Africa,” says the two charity focus areas for the 2016 Application, which runs on a 12 month cycle, are the protection and support of the vulnerable – such as women, children and the elderly – and crime reduction and prevention.

‘Focus on women, children and the elderly’ 

Animal welfare organisations are shocked by this decision, saying they are reliant on lottery funding to assist with animal healthcare projects, which they say are interlinked with community upliftment.

In its press release the NSPCA emphasised that conflict between helping people and helping animals shouldn’t exist, and that cutting financial support for animal welfare will adversely affect poor communities as well, since treatment of animals against pests and diseases such as rabies is imperative for the overall safety and wellbeing of communities.

“The exclusion of animal welfare organisations is short-sighted and inexcusable,” says NSPCA executive director Marcelle Meredith. “Uplifting the welfare of animals helps communities. Take the current nationwide scandal of donkeys being stolen to be slaughtered for their skins. This dreadful crime affects the poorest and usually most rural communities who are being deprived of their only means of transportation. This ill-considered decision has wide and long-term ramifications which our country cannot afford.”

‘Lottery funding for over 15 years’ 

Having been recipients of lottery funding for over 15 years, the country’s SPCAs will need to adjust their budgets to accommodate this unforeseen financial reduction, which they say will have a significant impact on the services they offer.

“The announcement that animal welfare organisations have been excluded from the current Open Call for Applications is devastating. We enjoyed substantial support from the lottery in the past and these grants enabled us to, amongst other things, keep our mobile clinics on the road,” says Cape of Good Hope SPCA manager, Belinda Abraham.

“Our work with animals benefits our impoverished communities to a great extent, and keeping our vehicles on the road is imperative to our mission. The grant previously funded maintenance and repairs, fuel, licencing, oil and tyres for our vehicles. A portion of the funding also offset the cost of the salaries of the animal welfare assistants who operate our mobile clinics.”

Meanwhile a public outcry on social media has led for calls to boycott the national lottery, which some claim is being abused by government departments.

“I have personally had information on two government departments that did so well (from the Lotto) that they got a huge bonus. Another was told to use surplus funds for a week long ‘team build’ so they wouldn’t lose the funds in the department in the next budget,” says one post.

But the NLC highlighted in its response to the uproar that funding is not guaranteed to all applicants due to budget constraints, government planning and meeting the needs of South Africa’s changing landscape.

“The NLC has in the past expressed that applications for funding have gone up to R40 billion – far exceeding the budget available for funding of about R 2 billion per annum. This has resulted in many deserving organisations not being able to access funding.”

The NSPCA says it will consider its options to take the matter further, and investigate all aspects of the National Lotteries Commission’s income and spending.

(Featured image: three-legged caracal at a sanctuary in the Kalahari Desert. Courtesy Kim Bartlett – Animal People, Inc.)

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