Helping animals, helping people in Khayelitsha


At Mdzananda Animal Welfare Clinic, the only permanent animal welfare support centre in Khayelitsha, an impoverished township in Cape Town, residents’ pets are cared for and appreciated. (Image: Mdzananda Animal Clinic)

• Mdzananda Animal Clinic
+27 21 367 2302

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Melissa Jane Cook

In helping others, we should not forget man’s best friends; after all, dogs offer unconditional love and are known to alleviate suffering and bring joy to the lonely. Animals help us be better humans; they show us how to be our best selves.

At Mdzananda Animal Welfare Clinic, the only permanent animal welfare support centre in Khayelitsha, an impoverished township in Cape Town, residents’ pets are cared for and appreciated. Mdzananda means “distemper” in isiXhosa, a fitting name as the clinic provides primary veterinary health care services – spaying and neutering, dipping, deworming and vaccination for dogs and cats in this sprawling area that is home to more than a million people. Mdzananda runs from six recycled shipping containers and seven of the nine staff members are Khayelitsha residents.

The clinic embraces these animals, and holds the philosophy that human health and happiness improve in meaningful ways from pet ownership. Mdzananda is a partner organisation of the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW). Highly respected and supported by the community, it was founded in 1996 in response to the need for veterinary services in a fast-growing community that had no access to help for their animals.

Initially it worked from a single donated shipping container and with no running water or electricity. Today, thanks to the support of IFAW and others, the project runs on its own land and is fully serviced. It receives no financial support from the city of Cape Town. Mdzananda’s services are provided five-and-half-days a week, and an emergency service operates after hours and on Sundays. The project has a vibrant and busy volunteer programme and regularly hosts visiting veterinarians, veterinary nurses and vet techs.

Mdzananda: Pets In Poverty Find Love

Mobile clinics

Khayelitsha is huge. To help its many pet owners, many of whom are too poor to take their pets to large clinics in Cape Town or are unable to reach even Mdzananda, the centre has mobile clinics that go to the outlying areas and provide services such as dipping, deworming and vaccinating of dogs and cats. Mobile clinics are conducted Mondays to Friday afternoons and the staff constantly try to extend services to many communities in need.

Staff working in the mobile clinics also go door-to-door teaching people about pet care and identifying pets for sterilisation. Sick pets or those due for sterilisation are taken to Mdzananda’s home base for hospitalisation and treatment.

Neutering campaigns

A key part of the work at Mdzananda is encouraging pet owners to agree to allow the professional sterilisation of their dogs and cats. Every pet owner who brings their dog or cat to the clinic is encouraged to have it sterilised. Sterilisations are carried out from Mondays to Saturdays.

The clinic also holds spay campaigns, when residents are taught about the importance of family planning for their pets. During these times, a team of volunteer veterinarians can sterilise up to 100 dogs and cats in a single day. Mdzananda’s sterilisation drives try to focus on a single area at a time to make an impact on a localised population of dogs. Sterilisation is entirely free.

Kennels and gardens

Big companies have added Mdzananda Animal Welfare Clinic to their social outreach portfolios. From time to time, Mdzananda organises “kennel building” events for their staff, local residents, members of their donor organisations and volunteers to build and decorate kennels from scrap wood.

These kennels are then given to deserving pet owners in the community. The clinic also has its own vegetable garden. Veggies are grown for staff, and nutritious soups are made during the cold and rainy winter months. In this way, the clinic takes care of its people as well as its four-legged friends.