Tuesday, 05 February 2008 02:00

Load shedding - what happens when the lights go out?

The National Council of SPCAs (NSPCA) urges pet shops, zoos, rehabilitation centres, poultry establishments, intensive piggeries, dairies and anyone working with intensively automated housing or captive animals to ensure that adequate back-up facilities are provided to ensure the welfare of animals in their care.

Load shedding and the interruption of the supply of electricity are causing discomfort and inconvenience to people across the country. While these disturbances disrupt our own lives the NSPCA would like to draw attention to the fact of how the lives of animals are being threatened.

The following problems are highlighted but the list is not exhaustive and appropriate alternatives need to be seriously considered – these will include battery powered pumps, aeration blocks and generators.
  • Aquaria – aeration, filtration, salination, heating
  • Animals in controlled environments (reptilians and certain avian species) - heating, lighting, ventilation
  • Incubation – should adequate heating not be provided this may result in dead in shell or abnormalities
  • Most poultry houses have anything from 10 000 birds in each house, each house is reliant on electricity as the food, water, fans, temperature control, water is all automated – could be a catastrophe especially in summer when outside temps are 35 degrees up
  • Veterinary practices and rehabilitation centres rely heavily on electricity for equipment (theatres, heaters, ventilation for post op care)
  • Dairy – most dairies are using electric powered systems and with the herd sizes in large establishments, it would be impossible to manually milk, not being milked timeously is extremely painful
  • Large facilities such as zoos or breeding farms use borehole pumps as well as water filtration facilities which rely solely on electricity. It is therefore naturally obvious that a breakdown in the filtration of this water will lead to contamination of the water and resultant increase in disease.
  • Animals waiting to be slaughtered at the abattoirs - they must have refrigeration, all the equipment is electrically run – so these animals will sit for how long before getting slaughtered
  • Security risks – where electric fencing encloses dangerous predators

Our concern is the potential suffering to animals. If the NSPCA can lend its support in any way to assist in the situation, individuals and organizations are asked not to hesitate to make contact with the NSPCA.

These are just a few of the scenarios that captive animals face each time the ‘lights go out’. We have been warned that power load shedding is here to stay for at least the next few years. It is imperative that people who hold animals in captivity, whether at home or as a commercial venture, implement a contingency plan to counteract the negative effects of power outages.

It is their responsibility to do so.