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UPDATE: Animal welfare groups demand control over Bunny Park animals

Plans by Bunny Park welfare groups to charge Ekurhuleni's mayor with animal abuse have been put on hold pending talks with the city's legal department.

The groups previously said they would lay charges of animal abuse and neglect against Clr Mondli Gungubele, if their demands weren’t met by noon on Friday, November 27.

At a meeting between EMM, the Bunny Park Animals 911 Group and Ban Animal Trading (Bat), on Tuesday, November 24, the latter two demanded control of re-homing the Bunny Park animals.

As there is overpopulation in the park, especially of bunnies, the groups felt it was urgent that the number be reduced by re-homing as many animals as possible.

“The divisional head of parks and cemeteries, Victor Nesengani, has been very willing to listen to our demands and offer solutions and money to improve the Bunny Park, but, sadly, these solutions have not materialised and we find this unacceptable,” stated a Bat Facebook post.

“For three weeks we negotiated with EMM, but got nowhere, so at the meeting we put our demands on the table, after which EMM cut the meeting short and sent out the press release,” said Tania Forrest-Smith, a member of the 911 Group.

“The press release said everything at the park is fine, which is simply not the case.

“One of the sheep was diagnosed with orf, then disappeared before the veterinarian could do a report.”

“All the farm animals were photographed and, at the time Forrest-Smith warned that should any have disappeared (before November 27) charges of theft would be laid at the SAPS.”

The report’s findings were laid out in a press release by the EMM, which stated that no zoonotic diseases (including orf) were found at the park and that most of the animals were healthy.

The only problems identified in the report were bunnies afflicted by mange, the overpopulation and inbreeding of the bunnies and obese pigs.

The press release stated EMM had brought in a nutritionist to set up diet programmes and would develop a master plan to improve the park.

Despite disagreement with the press release, the welfare groups felt the animals’ situation had improved over the past few months, due mostly to the 911 Group, which has been feeding at the park several times per week.

They said the animals would have suffered without the groups and especially donations from the public, but that ongoing care would not be sustainable.

The groups said if their demands were met, all bunnies would be captured, treated, sterilised and eventually re-homed (some kept in the park), over the next few months.

On Monday, November 30, Forrest-Smith and a member of Bat met with Kemi Behari, divisional head of Municipal Courts, Bylaw Enforcement and Compliance.

“We believe this is a positive step because he (Behari) is the very person who believes the welfare of the animals is paramount,” said Forrest-Smith.

She added that the groups would still consider laying charges against the mayor, though the plans have been put on hold pending the talks with Behari.

The Bunny Park Animals 911 Group will once again feed the animals at the park on Sunday, December 6.

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