Foundation raising animal awareness

The Change for the Better Foundation is hidden away on a picturesque farm on the corner of Botfontein and Bottelary roads.

Annelie van Wyk is frazzled and furious when she drives into Change for the Better Foundation in Kraaifontein.

Situated on the edge of pretty farmlands, the picturesque surroundings hide the ugliness the volunteers encounter every day.

Next to Annelie, on the front seat of the Ford bakkie, is a concussed cat.

Annelie had rescued it when she drove into Worcester to deliver a dog kennel. The owner had hit the cat over the head with a racquet.

Annelie comforts the confused cat as she waits for a volunteer to bring a carrier. She doesn’t dare open the window lest the frightened animal jump out and run away.

In the back of the bakkie, nestled between piles of dog food, blankets, bulk bags of chips and crates of groceries, a dog is giving birth.

Fifteen minutes later, after she has settled the concussed cat, calmed the anxious dog and helped its two newborn pups to latch onto the mom’s teats, she takes a breath and hurriedly exclaims: “I was taking a kennel to a client in Worcester when I came across this dog, giving birth in a chicken coop, a filthy chicken coop.”

She has just a few minutes to chat to the Northern News before rushing the animals to the vet. One puppy had already died, she explains, and the mom is in distress.

“I’m just boiling,” she fumes. “I can’t lose my temper there because then I can’t go back and educate the people and do the work that we do so I have to lose it here at the farm.”

The work Annelie is referring to is education, rehabilitation and providing basic pet care to people who are unable to — whether the drawbacks be know-how or resources. The education is for the people and the rehabilitation for the animals. The hope is that with enough education, the need for rehabilitation and care would become less and less.

At the shelter, animals which have been rescued and nursed back to health, are rehabilitated so that they can be rehomed with a loving family. The shelter pays for the animal’s medical treatment, sterilisation and care until they are adopted.

“People save an abused animal and take it to the vet and say, ‘We’ve rescued them’. But the real rescue happens when the animal comes back from the vet. Because then the animal needs to be rehabilitated,” Annelie explains.

The adoption to rescue ratio is sadly unbalanced and as a result, there are more than 160 animals at the shelter that need to be cared for before they find a home. Not all the animals helped by the shelter will be put up for adoption. Many are nursed back to health, immunised, sterilised, dewormed and then returned to the owners who will be educated about pet health and care – and sometimes given the resources they need, like a dog kennel. This will be the fate of the dog and her puppies in the back of the bakkie. The cat will find herself in good company among about 40 others waiting for adoption.

“Unfortunately people think that they can bring pets here that they no longer want. So they’ll drive up, especially on a Friday night, and drop the dog off and drive away. That’s not what we do,” Annelie said with exasperation. “Our main work is education and rehabilitation. Educating people on how to look after their animals.”

This education often happens in communities but sometimes schools bring classes to the shelter. But the organisation also goes into the communities and it was while doing this, that Annelie encountered the beaten cat and pregnant dog.

“I go out on an assignment but I come back with a dog, three babies and a cat. That’s five extra mouths to feed.”

While the non-profit organisation is volunteer-based they do also do fund-raising. Annelie said it costs R40 000 to run the shelter for one month so they fund-raise through multiple channels, such as the community thrift shop, collection tins and donations.

“We always tell the children, the change from one tin can pay for the sterilisation of one animal, which saves 67 000 animals over the next four years,” Annelie said. “But money is not the only way that you can help. We also need volunteers to take care of the animals.”

Or do anything else really, Annelie adds.

“We try to accommodate volunteers with what their skills and passions are. Whether it’s fundraising, networking, physical labour, whatever your passion or strength is.”

The shelter is open 24 hours a day so what’s needed is more “hands on deck”.

“Someone may come in wanting to do an adoption but we can’t handle that while dealing with an animal crisis. What we need is more people to come in so that there can be someone on hand to say: ‘I’ll take care of any inquiries that come in until you get that under control.’”

If you can help, contact Annelie on 084 700 1925.