TEARS carries out various outreach programmes throughout the year, as far afield as Garies in the Northern Cape. These programmes are completely dependent on sponsorship and typically involve mass sterilisation of dogs and cats in an area that has been identified as being in critical need of intervention, and include treatment of diseases, injuries and any other medical conditions.
If you know of an area outside our usual southern Peninsula demographic that is in dire need of medical intervention for its animals, and are able to partner with us to finance an outreach, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
TEARS goes 750 kms to rescue animals in need
TEARS has a reputation of going the extra mile to help animals in need. On numerous occasions we have travelled great distances to help when no-one else could or would. When a call went out to rescue animals from a shelter in Port Nolloth in 2013, TEARS jumped at the chance to push the boundaries – all the way to the border of Namibia.
The Richtersveld Animal Shelter had been in operation for seven years, started by Mr Potgieter and his wife, when they rescued a litter of puppies from under a jetty, where they had been tied up to be drowned by the in-coming tide.
At the time they were renting a property on the outskirts of Port Nolloth town, where Mr Potgieter operated a vehicle break-down and repair business. There, in the sand, he built a make-shift shelter of kennels made from bits of wood and wire, and he surrounded the facility with oil drums.
With limited resources and no experience, they did their best, but with the nearest veterinary practice almost 100 kilometres away, the going was tough. Over the years, the NSPCA, concerned Port Nolloth residents and a veterinarian who visited Port Nolloth periodically, helped whenever they could. Sadly, Mr Potgieter’s wife passed away suddenly in January 2012 and he battled to keep the shelter going, until his plea for help was received.
Following this appeal, there was much communication between numerous animal rescue organisations and individuals who knew about the situation at the shelter. Photos were received showing the poor state of some of the animals. It was unclear how many animals needed to be rescued. Eventually, after a Port Nolloth resident who owned a pet hotel visited, went to the shelter to assess the animals, we had a better idea. There were 16 dogs, as well as three cats, a bird of prey, five doves and hundreds of rock doves (feral pigeons), who were not caged and could come and go as they pleased.
Clearly, some organisation needed to do something urgently, and although TEARS was 750 kilometres away, we offered to carry out the rescue.
We set off early, before dawn, the TEARS Kia Truck stacked to the roof with boxes, food, blankets and bowls. Our first stop was at the garage in Garies, to deliver food to Chris and Beonette Smith, for the animals in the surrounding townships.
As arranged, we arrived at the Richtersveld Animal Shelter at 08h30 the next morning. Our plan was to load up all the animals and drive straight back to Cape Town, arriving back in the early evening. After taking a look around the shelter and having a discussion with Mr Potgieter, we began loading the dogs. Each dog had in its travel box: newspaper, a blanket, and food and water, to ensure their comfort for the long journey home. All the dogs, except for one, Luigi, who was a bit thin, were well fed and apart from minor skin conditions, were in fair condition. We found the temperaments of the dogs to be good and except for Kry-My-Jammer and Spice, who were extremely traumatised, all the dogs were friendly and non-aggressive.
Mr Potgieter was visibly upset and distressed as we began loading the dogs. He had a bond with them and after his wife died, he tried to do his best for them, but with a lack of support, experience and money, the wheels fell off.
We were permitted to remove only nine of the 16 dogs. The remaining seven, along with three cats and the Greater Kestrell were, he said, his and his late wife’s personal animals. We advised him that he could not admit any more animals into the shelter, as directed by Chevron (owners of the property) and the NSPCA (who carried out periodic inspections). The shelter was officially closed.
Before heading back to Cape Town, we returned to the centre of Port Nolloth to pick up two street dogs, at the request of a concerned resident, and found ourselves accepting a cat and kitten as well. It was time to get out of town, before we were overwhelmed with requests for help.
It was a late start for the return journey – we eventually left Port Nolloth at 11h15. Fortunately it wasn’t as hot as the previous day, which was good for the animals. There was still space in the TEARS vehicle so we detoured to Garies, to fetch 12 cats for sterilisation at our clinic. There is a huge feral cat problem in Garies, as there is in most towns, and we were only too happy to assist in getting them sterilised. Shortly before 22h00 – and 1500 kilometres later – we arrived back; tired, but relieved that that we and our new charges were home safely.
The success of this rescue mission was the result of a great team effort and the support and encouragement from so many compassionate people and grateful thanks goes to: Chevron South Africa, owners of the property on which the Richtersveld Animal Shelter was situated, who will be making a donation to TEARS to help cover the costs of the rescue mission.
Carine Kleynhans from Captain’s Mate Pet Hotel in Port Nolloth for her invaluable advice and information about the animals at the shelter.
In remote areas like Port Nolloth where there are no resident veterinarians or animal welfare organisations, the suffering of animals in townships is heart-breaking.
Domestic animal overpopulation is an enormous problem, with unwanted companion animals being born into a life of suffering and neglect. But there are compassionate people trying to make a difference, like Port Nolloth resident, Carine Kleynhans, and Dr Lina Gerber, a Pretoria Veterinarian, who has a holiday home there. Together with the Namaqualand Dog and Donkey Foundation, they periodically conduct spay-a-thons and provide primary health care to township animals.
Reaching out in Garies
Garies is an impoverished town, situated over 450 kilometres north of Cape Town, on the road to Namibia. It doesn’t have much, but it does have one thing in common with every other town and city – a burgeoning population of unsterilized pets and feral cats.
Chris Smith, a business owner in Garies, sent out an appeal to the Cat Clubs, requesting help with the sterilisation of over 100 feral cats. He had already approached numerous welfare organisations for help, but without success. Brenda Kerr who serves on the Committee of Western Province Cat Club and who volunteers her time helping us with the trapping of stray and feral cats and doing home visits for adoptive animals, brought the terrible situation in Garies to our attention. Over the years, Western Province Cat Club have been so supportive of TEARS in many ways, so we decided to become involved and do what we could to help.
In May, three TEARS personnel, Mandy Store, Luke Kruyt and Rita Brock visited Garies for four days to assess the enormity of the problem and were hosted by Chris and Beonette Smith. The animal overpopulation problem was far bigger than anticipated. Over and above the ±250 feral cats living near business premises, most of the animals belonging to the disadvantaged communities of Garies and ten surrounding towns were unsterilised with many of them needing veterinary attention.
There are no welfare organisations working in these areas and the animals are in dire straits. In addition, they are exposed to freezing conditions in winter and scorching temperatures in summer. It was estimated that ±800 animals would need to be sterilised – a daunting task indeed and one which couldn’t be achieved in one visit.
There are huge unemployment issues in Garies which is primarily a sheep farming area and the residents of the townships live in extreme poverty. Chris and Beonette Smith who own a petrol station, diner and vehicle workshop, are kept busy during the flower season with an influx of visitors. As we would need permission from the Veterinary Council to effect the spayathon, the application was completed and submitted for approval.
Appeals were made for funding and consumables and we received overwhelming donations from many supporters. Western Province Cat Club, their members and supporters raised and donated thousands of rands for the project; Worldwide Veterinary Services supplied Profender dewormer and Promeris flea treatment; Virbac Animal Health donated Prazifen paste de-wormer; Pfizer donated Revolution to treat the cats; funding was received from TEARS friends and Jennifer Cardle, TEARS supporter residing in France, sent over R20 000 worth of suturing material.
Our staff set about planning the logistics and the departure date was set for 24 September. However, this date had to be postponed three times, as the necessary permission had not been obtained. Unfortunately, due to the delay, the cat breeding season was well under way by the time the TEARS team eventually departed on Tuesday 8 December, resulting in so many more feral cats needing sterilisation. The vehicles and trailers were filled to capacity with equipment, consumables, food, traps, cat and dog carriers etc. as there was nothing at Garies.
This was no holiday and the 12 man team worked solidly for four days to ensure that as many animals as possible were sterilised. Chris and Beonette provided three rooms which served as a preparation/holding room, a surgery and a recovery room. With temperatures soaring to over 40 degrees during the day, the work began early, at 5am with the trapping and sterilisation of the feral cats.
A break from sterilisation was taken at 11am, to allow for the recovery and return of the sterilised animals and the fetching of another group of animals. At 6.30 pm, sterilisations stopped to allow for that batch of animals to be returned to their owners and colonies. This process continued up to 11pm each night. Each member of the team knew exactly what was required of them. Rita, Brenda, Mandy and Thys were responsible for the trapping of the feral cats. Admission was done by Luke, Andrea and Gillian.
The surgery assistants were Maggie, Ingrid and Sive and the vets Tori and Tracy. Every cat was eartipped once sterilised and all animals were treated for worms, fleas and received a rabies vaccination. Mandy was responsible for education when the animals were returned to their owners. Three local kids helped identify animals needing sterilisation and our team report that they were so keen to help. Chris and Beonette Smith also lent a hand wherever they could, in addition to providing accommodation and meals for the team. On Friday Luke Kruyt celebrated his 21st Birthday, but the festivities had to wait until late on Friday, as the focus was on sterilisation.
Now there’s commitment for you! Sunday, as everyone was loading up for the long trip home, one of to Mandy that something was wrong with his puppy. Vet Tracy Dicks found that the skull was punctured, probably bitten by another dog. Equipment was unpacked, a makeshift surgery set up and Tracy performed an emergency operation on the puppy, who was transported back to Cape Town for further treatment and monitoring. An exhausted but jubilant team returned to Cape Town, having sterilised hundreds of animals, thereby pulling off the biggest spayathon in TEARS history. In total, 272 animals were sterilised, and given flea treatment: vaccinated against rabies, dewormed
Cat spays: 122 Cat neuters: 106
Dog spays: 22 Dog neuters: 22
An indication of how hard they worked came from a comment made by BrendaKerr “At the end of the four days I felt like I had just stepped off the Cobra at Ratanga Junction!”
If you know of an area outside our usual southern Peninsula demographic that is in dire need of medical intervention for its animals, and are able to partner with us to finance an outreach, please contact us at email@example.com