Warning: This article contains images and information which may be upsetting to some readers.
A veterinarian found guilty of animal abuse and owning an indigenous animal without a permit is still actively practising, much to the shock and dismay of the National Council of SPCAs (NSPCA).
Dr Elfrede Alberts was found guilty on 4 March 2020 by the Nigel Magistrate’s Court in Ekurhuleni, and sentenced in November 2020 to a fine of R10,750 or six and a half months’ imprisonment, suspended for three years.
Last year, the NSPCA said the sentence was disturbingly lenient.
The saga involving Alberts began in October 2012, after the NSPCA received a complaint about dogs on her property.
Inspectors arrived to find a far more disturbing scene.
They found a small vervet monkey dragging herself around Alberts’s bedroom with her only remaining limb. Alberts had amputated her other limbs, and she had a deep incision across her abdomen. She was euthanised shortly after being discovered.
From there, Alberts and her legal team, as well as the South African Veterinary Council (SAVC) and Nigel prosecutors embarked on a series of delays. However, the National Prosecuting Authority’s (NPA’s) involvement secured a conviction.
The NSPCA said the court decision was based on Alberts’s age and the likelihood of her reputation as a veterinarian not recovering.
But this, too, has been called into question, after it emerged that Alberts was still operating as a licensed veterinarian.
The NSPCA has since submitted a formal affidavit for the SAVC to take action against Alberts. A case number has been assigned, and a response is expected to be submitted by Alberts by Friday (5 February 2021).
The SAVC previously said they would only take action against Alberts once the verdict on the case was passed, and would not suspend her until the outcome of the case was revealed. However, Alberts was convicted months ago.
The NSPCA is now hoping that Alberts’s licence to practise as a veterinarian will be revoked.
“We hope that following procedure and following through on the complaint will result in such as it is long overdue. With a criminal record for animal cruelty, she certainly should not be allowed to consult or treat animals in future,” said NSPCA public relations officer Keshvi Nair.
“Ideally, we would want Dr Alberts to take accountability for her actions and plead guilty to the complaint we have brought against her, however, the important response here is that of the SAVC. The criminal justice system has already found her guilty for animal cruelty.
“We are hopeful that the SAVC will divide to have this matter heard before an independent inquiry board, and that the outcome of that will lead to her license to practise as a vet being revoked,” Nair said.
This is especially in light of animals being recognised as sentient beings by the Constitutional Court (ConCourt), Nair added.
However, she said there was a “dire need” to raise more awareness on animal welfare legislation within the criminal justice system.
“This is why it is imperative for the NSPCA and SPCA movement as a whole to be supported by the public, so that we can continue to try and educate and conscientise the greater public on all levels on what sentient beings are and to engender empathy when it comes to the suffering of animals.”