The Animal Anti-Cruelty League History

In 2006 we celebrated 50 years  in animal care & protection.

The times are a changing… well the Animal Anti-Cruelty League has certainly seen change in their 50 years of operation. Were they all good? Certainly some were, but if we consider that animal cruelty in all forms still continues to this day, then no, not all have been good. Our mission is the Care and Protection of all Animals and long may this charter endure, for the need is great and our ethos strong.

On the 28th February 1956, through the determined efforts of a few volunteers, not least Founder, the late Olga R. Allen and compatriots Martin Hind and Wendy Harvey to mention a few, a body was formed in Johannesburg, to oppose the practice of holding rodeos. With less than ‘5 Pounds’ in the kitty, efforts were extended into the rescue and treatment of animals after Olga Allen accompanied a journalist into the townships of Soweto and Alexandra and realized the dire conditions that many animals were subjected to.

At this time, the Anti-Cruelty League’s (as they were formerly known) mission, included the harbouring and care of abused women and children, but it soon became apparent that this would be a difficult mix to maintain and that concentration should be given to the area of animal welfare.

Based out of a private house in the north-eastern suburb of Bramley, the group continued to be active and July 1959 saw the advent of the first branch office being established in Durban, after a meeting was held in a coffee shop between Olga Allen and the late AACL™ chairlady and doyen of animal welfare, Joyce Northend.

History in the making

6 Marjorie Street, Regents Park, became the home of the Johannesburg Society and subsequently the office of the National Body, when it was acquired during the early sixties and has remained the base for operation.

However, with the advent of the N17 motorway, this led to the expropriation of some of our land. Our entrance and address changed to 59 Alice Street, Regents Park, which was the back part of our premises and included our stables. In those early days, an important function of the League was that of horse rescue and a fulltime farrier was employed at the society.

Today, while we no longer treat horses at the Johannesburg Society, we continue to assist in rescue operations when called upon.

In 1972, the organization met with financial difficulties and the threat of closing down seemed imminent. But at the eleventh hour, a Johannesburg based businessman came on board and managed to save the day and the organization has gone from strength to strength.

In 1969 the Cape Town office was started; in 1979 the Ladysmith branch; in 1983 an office opened in Port Elizabeth; in 1986 the Pietermaritzburg branch and during 1989 in the heart of the farming area, a branch was established in Bredasdorp, Western Cape. In 1982 a branch was started in Pretoria, however, due to mismanagement, was closed in 1998.

Our Head Office  in Johannesburg, which incorporates the “Olga Allen Animal Welfare Hospital”

Outside our Cattery at Headoffice in Johannesburg.

Our “Old Age Village” – In the words of Professor Odendaal ” A first in Animal Welfare Worldwide”.

Mobile clinics and crime

An important part of the Johannesburg Society’s activities became mobile clinics and it was through this para-veterinary service that we were able to reach many disadvantaged communities, who had little or no access to primary health care for their animals. In the main, this service was fully subsidized by the League and thousands of animals were treated and sterilized over the years.

But the times, they did indeed change and the element of crime began to seriously threaten the operation. After two armed robberies within two months in the district of Lenasia, South of Johannesburg, it became clear that new areas would need to be identified where the need was as great, but the threat to the lives of our staff, diminished. In January 2002, on visiting a squatter camp in the eastern area of Primrose, the League’s staff and mobile clinic service were again subjected to a violent robbery and of necessity, the decision was taken to discontinue this part of our operation indefinitely.

Alarmingly, within that same month, our Cape Town Society experienced a similar violation with the armed hijacking of their mobile clinic at their premises in Epping, (an industrial area of Cape Town) and it was at great cost to their already limited resources, that this vehicle was eventually replaced. In that same year, a longstanding volunteer at the Johannesburg Society’s charity book shop, was murdered in her nearby home. All senseless crimes and ultimately, to the detriment of the animals.

Our Indoor Cattery in Johannesburg – This Cattery was designed by our Dr Bullard – Cats are housed in 17 separate cubicles, closed to the public by glass windows, this to prevent the transmission of diseases. Each cubicle has its own “skylight” and inside temperature is monitored

One of our Hospital assistants prepping a dog

Hospital Reception in Johannesburg

Outside our Kennel Office in Johannesburg

Inside our Kennel Office

Inside our indoor Cattery – Johannesburg

Our Edication Officer addressing a school

Security and economics

Important constituents of any volunteer programme are that of security and economics and where in the past, we were able to rely on volunteers to assist with fundraising drives i.e. tin collections/xmas card sales at venues across town, this has become prohibitive to most, for these very reasons. Fortunately, our volunteer base at the Kennels Department, remains strong and our adult and childrens programmes are well attended and popular, drawing mainly from local residents in the area.

Education or prosecution?

Education has always been key in our fight to combat animal abuse, believing that it is a preferable tool to that of prosecution and to this end, an Education Department was established in 1996, with the employment of a fulltime Educational Officer. Our interactive programme to schools across Gauteng, today reaches in excess of 50 000 learners per annum.

The 15th June 1994 saw the establishment of our new hospital facilities and this department continues to remain a hive of professional activity, with veterinary staff and animal welfare assistants, hard pressed to keep up with the demanding nature of the services provided.This Animal Welfare Hospital was dedicated to the memory of our founder Olga R. Allen.

The winds of change

Politically, 1994 brought with it a wave of change in the governance of the country and unhappily, was coupled with the mass exodus to other parts of the world, of many of our previously loyal supporters. Memberships have never recovered to the extant of that year and this is particularly evidenced by the diminished audience one sees attending animal related events during the course of any one year. A hard and jarring wake-up call for longstanding charities, was the highly significant increase in the number of needy causes that now mushroomed overnight. Fundraising became more competitive and marginalized and now there were many new and diverse stakeholders all vying for the same slice of market.

Philanthropy seemed blatantly skewed in favour of sociological plight and animal societies found themselves facing the bottom rung of the ladder in priority. Has change left us dispirited and disheartened? On the contrary, even in animal welfare, nothing can and nothing should remain static. Change brings fresh perspective and introspection and new parameters are sought to keep abreast of the times.

The quintessential wisdom of those famous words of Mahatma Ghandi, “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated”, will, irrespective of change, continue to live on and our challenge is to ensure that it does, forever. We, as an organization, look forward to the next 50 years and more. Long may we continue to make a difference to the lives of those that enrich our existence in so many wondrous ways.