10 June 2022

Mars Petcare reveals first-ever data of the state of pet homelessness in South Africa

Submitted by Leigh Callipolitis Callipolitis
Mars Petcare reveals first-ever data of the state of pet homelessness in South Africa

First-ever data on South Africa indicates that an estimated 4,1 million companion pets are currently homeless in the country.Key challenges revealed:  pet-friendly housing, expensive veterinary costs, poor rabies control and support 

Mars Petcare has launched the first-ever State of Pet Homelessness Index in collaboration with leading animal welfare experts in order to measure the scale of cat and dog homelessness by country. As the first consistent, methodological measure of pet homelessness by country, the Index identifies local contributing factors and builds insight into critical components that will inform initiatives to help address the complex issue.

The Index estimates that there are 224 million homeless cats and dogs across nine countries including South Africa. Built on data from across 200+ data sources supplemented with quantitative data on consumer attitudes, the Index ensures a holistic view on pet homelessness. Each country receives an overall tally between zero and 10 (where 10 = no pet homelessness exists) based on data collected across three focus areas. The Index currently includes nine countries – the US, UK, India, Mexico, Germany, Russia, South Africa, China and Greece. 

Making pet homelessness in South Africa a priority

“At Mars, we’re driven by our Petcare purpose to create a better world for pets. As a global company, we have an ambition to end pet homelessness. Tackling this issue helps both animals and people – bringing the benefits of the human-animal bond to more people and ensuring every pet has the sustained care and nutrition that they need to thrive,” says Tumi Masekela, Corporate Affairs Director at Mars Multisales Southern Africa.

Mars has been serving the health and nutrition needs of the world’s pets for over 85 years and its portfolio includes household brands like Pedigree, Whiskas and Royal Canin.

Masekela adds, “The world we want tomorrow is one where no pets are homeless. Unfortunately, the reality today is that there are approximately 4,1 million homeless companion animals in South Africa as per our newly launched State of Pet Homelessness Index.

Overall, South Africa scored 4.0 on the Index’s 10-point scale with 27% of companion animals in the country being homeless.

South Africans keen pet owners

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed perceptions of the role of cats and dogs in the home worldwide and after the hard lockdown in March and April 2020, pet ownership has been on the rise in South Africa. However, global data suggests that across the nine Index countries measured, nearly half (47%) of pet owners have concerns that post pandemic, there will be more homeless pets than ever as economic hardship make caring for pets difficult.

The Index revealed 77% of the general population in South Africa would consider adopting form a shelter and rescue centres in the future, compared to the global average of 65%. The country has effective programs that promotes pet adoption and fostering, connecting potential owners to shelters and rescue centres, and raising awareness of the benefits of having a pet.

South Africa’s above-average sterilization rates help with reproduction control; however, work is needed to address the high rates of canine rabies as well as the requirement for more robust national rabies control programs.

Vet expenses and housing concerns pose challenges

The Index revealed that 49% of South African are hesitant to take their pet to the vet due to high costs, compared to the global average of 28%.

In addition, 70% of South Africans believe it’s difficult to own a dog when living in an apartment compared to global average of 60%. As for cats, 51% agree that apartment-living is not suitable compared to the global average of 45%.

Pets make our lives better 

“Science tells us that pet ownership brings a multitude of benefits to our health and well-being: from improving our heart health and physical activity to building empathy and strengthening our sense of community. We believe pets deserve more and tackling this issue is central to our purpose,” adds Masekela.

She concludes, “With this Index we have set out to understand the scale of the problem as a crucial first step and together with animal welfare organisations, policymakers and researchers identify practical steps to address this issue across the globe. The data of the Index will also serve as a means to track the effectiveness of interventions over time. As we work to define the size of the issue and understand the root causes of homeless pets at a more granular level, we hope that this will drive a profound impact on the problem. The world we want tomorrow is one where no pets are homeless.”

See here for the full report on South Africa. Learn more at endpethomelessness.com.

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About the State of Pet Homelessness Index

The State of Pet Homelessness Index evaluates data from over 200 global and local sources, boosted by quantitative research on consumer attitudes to pets and is a measure of pet homelessness at a point in time. As with all research exercises, there are natural limitations to the scope and view being taken which should be considered when making judgements or inferences from the Index. It is important to note that an Index is necessarily a view of a specific moment in time when the research was conducted, as opposed to a view of live on-the-ground circumstances. The three Index focus areas influencing pet homelessness were All Pets Wanted (evaluating reproduction control programs such as spay/neuter and responsible breeding practices, roaming and stray populations, disease prevention, and cultural attitudes towards pet ownership, All Pets Cared For (evaluating rates of shelter adoption and pet ownership, assessing shelter pain points and access to veterinary care), and All Pets Welcome (evaluating barriers to pet ownership and responsible pet ownership as well as government support and policy).

About Mars Petcare Part of Mars, Incorporated, a family-owned business with more than a century of history making diverse products and offering services for people and the pets people love, the almost 100,000 Associates across 130 countries in Mars Petcare are dedicated to one purpose: A BETTER WORLD FOR PETS. With 85 years of experience, our portfolio of almost 50 brands serves the health and nutrition needs of the world's pets – including brands PEDIGREE®, WHISKAS®, ROYALCANIN®,NUTRO™, GREENIES™, SHEBA®, CESAR®, IAMS™ and EUKANUBA™ as well as the WALTHAM Petcare Science Institute which has advanced research in the nutrition and health of pets for over 50 years. Mars Petcare is also a leading veterinary health provider through an international network of over 2,000 pet hospitals and diagnostic services including BANFIELD™, BLUEPEARL™,VCA™, Linnaeus, AniCura and Antech. We're also active in innovation and technology for pets, with WISDOM PANEL™ genetic health screening and DNA testing for dogs, the WHISTLE™ GPS dog tracker, and LEAP VENTURE STUDIO accelerator and COMPANION FUND™ programs that drive innovation and disruption in the pet care industry. As a family business and guided by our principles, we are privileged with the flexibility to fight for what we believe in – and we choose to fight for our Purpose: A BETTER WORLD FOR PETS.