Welcome to the website of the South African Board of Companion Animal Professionals.
The term “companion animals” has a wide application and can be defined as those animals that live in close company of people or which provide companionship to their owners. From the definition, it is clear that this group of animals does not provide animal products and they are also not wildlife. The few species that are not traditional companion animals and for which keeping permits are available are known as exotic companion animals. The rest include those dogs, cats, birds, fish, rodents and horses, which live in human company and provide companionship for humans. Due to the fact that companion animals are not part of the official production animal sector, their role in the economy in the country is underestimated.
Other sectors of the companion animal industry include: the pet grooming industry; the pet shop industry; the industry that manufactures apparatus/kennels/transport cages for animals; professionals involved in the identification of companion animals; pet medical schemes; the pet boarding industry; animal behaviourists, companion animal nutritionists; animal welfarists (animal welfare); veterinary assistants; trainers; kennel and stable masters, those who participate in competitions and shows; animals participating in formal sport items; animal-facilitated therapists; the very large security industry (private and public) that uses dogs and horses; and responsible animal owners. Almost every second household keeps companion animals and research has shown that most people see those animals as members of the family. At the moment SABCAP register professionals who operate in sectors which renders the following services:
- Companion Animal Behaviourists – This group of professionals advise clients on behaviour problems of companion animals and provide training sessions with individual owners and animals to correct unacceptable behaviour of animals which may lead to the detriment of the animals, other animals, people or the damage of property.
- Companion animal welfarists – This group of professionals act on behalf of the community to look after the welfare of companion animals and they are supported by the Animal Protection Act No. 71 of 1962, the Performing Animals Protection Act No.24 of 1935 and the Societies for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act No. 169 0f 1993. These persons often have to submit legal reports in court cases.
- Animal-assisted activity practitioners – This group of professionals uses animals to assist physical, mentally challenged persons and the elderly.
- Companion animal groomers – This group of professionals render a cosmetic and care service to owners of companion animals who require such special care.
- Companion animal trainers – This group of professionals render assistance to animal owners in training and better understanding effective communication with animals.
The groups are collectively referred to as “companion animal professionals” who are currently not regulated. From the above it is clear that the companion animal industry is not the same as Agriculture, as it is an industry which enhances and maintains human health and well-being. For this reason it is suggested that rather the Department of Health should regulate this industry. “Companion animals” were in a number of surveys in different countries described as “members of the family” and many such animals do not only share intimate space with their owners, but are treated indeed as members of the family. Many studies also indicated that companion animals are used for human substitutes and they play a significant role in humans’ physical health and mental stability.
The profession will also contribute to make companion animals as acceptable as possible to their owners. The aim is to establish and to promote positive human-animal interaction by ensuring that animals are correctly selected and bred; properly cared for and behave themselves appropriately in human company. Thus plays a significant role in companion animal welfare.
SABCAP is a constituted body/statutory board established on the 17/02/2006 with the following objectives:
- To provide for and regulate registration of companion animal professionals.
- To determine minimum standards of education for registration including criteria for the recognition of prior learning
- To set a Code of Ethics and control professional conduct of members
- To protect the interest of practitioners and the public in instances where any party was harmed or where injustice had occurred
- To consistently improve the relationship between companion animals and humans, and in doing so enhances the animals’ welfare
- To provide for representation and training of previously disadvantaged professionals
It is of public interest that people be made aware of and should have a choice whether they want the services of a registered professional or a non-professional. The companion animal industry provides many jobs to previously disadvantaged people who are mostly employed on the lower levels of job hierarchy. The establishment of SABCAP helps to educate previously disadvantaged people, so that they can take their rightful place in society.
At the moment there are various groups, societies and individuals who act in an uncoordinated way and who make unsubstantial claims on their efficiency and standards. This leads to a poorly-organised companion animal industry, which in turn results in tax avoidance, other types of fraud and variable standards of services, ranging from excellent to very poor.
The reason why a new profession is necessary is because the existing professions’ requirements are out of reach for the many people rendering a high standard of service in the companion animal industry. It is expected for a companion animal professional to undertake two years of targeted theoretical education, plus two years of experiential training in one of the fields of expertise. It is thus a four-year preparation, following a Grade 12 qualification. The aim is to make the profession more focussed and accessible to people in the industry who want to act as professionals.
From this brief background, the non-clinical companion animal industry needed a regulatory body to give recognition to people who want to render true professional services to the public. SABCAP will serve the broad South African community and will ensure that people working as employees in the industry are protected by labour laws.
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