Auction meets needs of precious paws

Belinda Pretorius from Dogmatters (the pet clinic partner), Felicity Gxaba, AfriPaw ambassador in Vrygrond, Anel Wesson (director and co-founder of AfriPaw), Siddieka Hassen, principal of Capricorn Primary School where all AfriPaw spay days are conducted, Brigitte Reeve-Taylor from Dancers Love Dogs, who have sponsored four of the spay days, and AfriPaw board members, Melanie Hrabar, Cecilia Fraser, chairperson and Dr Hernan Azorin, owner and founder of Fourways Veterinary Clinic.

The first fund-raising auction for AfriPaw, an NPO dedicated to helping animals, raised R235 700 last week.

The overwhelming support was garnered from far south residents who backed an organisation which holds a little piece of their hearts.

The event was held at Harbour House on Constantia Nek on Thursday August 23.

Fish Hoek resident Anel Wesson, the director and co-founder of AfriPaw, said the launch of the NPO was inspired by an article in the False Bay Echo in February 2017 (“Going the extra mile to feed hungry hounds”, February 9, 2017).

At the outset, Annette van der Berg from Marina da Gama was feeding dogs in Vrygrond, and had put an appeal on Facebook for help.

The False Bay Echo contacted her and ran an article asking for volunteers, which Ms Wesson noticed. This changed her world, and the quality of life for many pets and pet owners of Vrygrond, she said.

To date, 350 pets have been spayed and neutered for free, and the organisation holds regular pet clinics on the second Saturday of every month. The NPO also has a door-to-door project, and has held a kennel drive to house cold pets in the area.

Ms Wesson says she found her calling with the NPO and that this is how the organisation has grown to encompass so many people and aspects.

“It’s not my strength but God’s which has made AfriPaw grow. I often get a bit overwhelmed but it is too important to falter, and all I do is turn my focus on what can be done – until we get to the rest,” she said.

So with a small start – with Ms Wesson helping to personally feed dogs in the area – the NPO has now grown roots into both communities.

“I am privileged to have met and to work beside the people from Vrygrond,” she said.

She tells the story of Felicity Gxaba who is the Vrygrond AfriPaw ambassador, whom she calls a divine appointment. “I unknowingly parked outside her home one day and as I was about to drive away she appeared and knocked on my window. She had two animals she knew of in trouble and wanted my help.

“Since that day, our progress in Vrygrond just grew exponentially because of Felicity. She knows the roads, the people, the pets in need, and she can take us with her and sometimes translate for us,” Ms Wesson said.

All the positions in AfriPaw are voluntary, they have no premises and no overheads so all money collected by them is directed to the animals in need.

Ms Wesson says the pet owners are often moved to tears with relief and gratitude. “With poverty so rife in the area, often their choices are whether the family eats or the dog gets flea treatment. Some people question whether people in poverty should be allowed pets. My point of view is that animals are a massive source of comfort and unconditional love which everybody deserves and should be able to experience,” she said.

With her organisation in place she feels pets are being better cared for and with happier pets, there are happier people.

Although AfriPaw does remove animals in some cases, provided there is no wilful abuse, the NPO’s approach is more about sterilisation and education.

There have been seven sterilisation days held already at the Capricorn Primary School with the sterilisations done free of charge by veterinarian Dr Annelise Roos using a mobile lab.

Four vets in the area help sponsor the NPO with products like Nexguard and Frontline to help get rid of fleas and ticks and also have them dewormed. AfriPaw has also formed partnerships with Dogmatters and Dancers Love Dogs who also help with products and supplies.

During their door-to-door programme, the volunteers from AfriPaw get to meet the community members and discover what their pets’ needs are.

Sometimes, before the sterilisations, the volunteers visit the homes of the pets and provide a collar, name tag, number and a travel case for the animal. The pet owners are told to not feed their pets the night before the operation and to keep them inside and bring them to the school at an appointed time.

They are also given a voucher for a cup of coffee while they wait for their pet. After the operation the pet goes into recovery for a while, and then is allowed to be taken home.

AfriPaw now has 40 dedicated volunteers but is always keen for more.

“I am hoping that the model of the NPO will be duplicated in other areas, with volunteers from those communities, so we can create a network across the country,” Ms Wesson said.

The NPO works in conjunction with, and in support of, The Emma Animal Rescue Society (TEARS) and the SPCA; not in competition with them, she added.

The R5 pet clinic days have been overwhelmingly positive. She said R5 naturally doesn’t scratch the surface of their costs, but it’s a token show of support from a community in need, and it allows AfriPaw the chance to teach the community better care practices for their pets.

She has, because of donations, been able to get good quality pet food at great prices and now sells R10 bags of food; because that is affordable.

A recently held kennel drive was also a winning idea: here photos of actual dogs were posted with appeals for kennels and people could choose which animal to donate a kennel to. As it was a Mandela Day initiative the initial aim was 67 kennels, and it was well supported so will become an annual event.

“We are incredibly grateful to the people who supported our auction and to all the people day to day behind the scenes who help us extend our reach to all the animals in need, working together for happy pets,” Ms Wesson said.

She said that while Ms Van der Berg is no longer involved, she will always be honoured as the person who galvanised the formation of AfriPaw.