The advertising and entertainment industry was in frenzy recently over who may issue a license to animal wranglers. Animal wranglers were faced with uncertainty as they were told that magistrates were no longer issuing such licenses. Many needed to apply for or renew their licenses as they are only valid for a calendar year and expire on 31 December of each year.

The confusion started when the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (“NSPCA”) challenged the constitutionality of section 2 and 3 of PAPA, which states that a magistrate may issue such a license. The NSPCA argued that magistrates are not experts on animals and therefore should not have the power to issue these licenses. The North Gauteng High Court found that both sections were invalid and ordered that the 2 representatives from the Department of Agriculture and 2 representatives from the NSPCA form a committee that would issue such licenses pending the confirmation of its decision by the Constitutional Court.

On 11 July 2013, the Constitutional Court made its decision and confirmed the finding of the High Court that section 2 and 3 of PAPA was unconstitutional. In its reasoning the court said that the doctrine of separation of powers had been infringed as the judiciary, by issuing these licenses was usurping the powers of the executive.

The court has referred the Act back to parliament and has given it 18 months to change the Act, removing the powers from the magistrates and giving it to the executive.

In the interim however, magistrates will continue to issue these licenses as the committee set up by the High Court was only temporary.