Going the extra mile to feed hungry hounds

Annette van der Berg feeding a dog in Vrygrond.

A tiny strip of Prince George Drive separates the lives of people from Capricorn, Vrygrond and Marina da Gama.

But there is a bridge being built between the communities.

Annette van der Berg is a Marina da Gama resident whose compassion for the scavenging dogs she has seen, has led to two things.

Firstly, what started out nine months ago as feeding two dogs in the morning before work, has become a communal feeding session with a very large group of hungry hounds.

Secondly, Annette has been making weekend trips into the core of Vrygrond, to educate the residents about animal care and nutrition.

Annette is a qualified game ranger who grew up on in a farm in Zimbabwe. Animals have always played a significant part in her life.

She goes into the area on weekends on her own; and says the feedback has been exceptionally positive.

“I am well respected in the community – everyone knows my car and greets me. They all know me as ‘the lady that feeds the dogs’, she laughs. “I have not had any negative feedback and they welcome my advice,” she said.

Annette is currently funding all the food herself.

“I go through about 8-10 kg of dog food every two days. In most cases – if these dogs weren’t receiving food – they would starve to death,” she said.

She said that residents are definitely responding to her, as she now has people who know they can not afford to look after their dogs, surrendering them to her.

“I also have two pregnant dogs in the area at the moment, and both owners have promised to have them sterilised, and they are not going to generate an income from the puppies. I will be involved in helping with the re-homing of puppies,” she said.

On Mandela Day, Annette worked closely with the SPCA and the residents to arrange voluntary sterilisation for the residents’ dogs.

Recently four dogs were surrendered to her.

“I paid for their sterilisation and veterinarian care myself. The bill came to R3 000. Fortunately, I have some friends who support my work, and they helped me with some of the costs,” she said.

As her work has grown and she has been first-hand witness to the needs in the community, she has begun considering the idea of creating an NGO to care for Vrygrond’s animals.

“The neglect of dogs does not always have to do with poverty – but this is true in some cases, as some community members can barely feed themselves – let alone their dogs,” she said.

“I believe that lack of education is the biggest factor. Animals – dogs in particular – are seen as a protector of property and that is it. The community children learn this from their parents, and so the cycle continues,” she said.

Her aim is to break the cycle and improve the quality of life for animals in her neighbouring communities.

To help in any way you feel you can, call Annette on 076 152 9867 or email her on: annettedbr@gmail.com