A “shoot from the hip” account of work at a clinic for animals in Manenberg, Cape Town, South Africa.
By Margie Humphris, Fundraising Assistant and Committee Member, ARO
Avril and I arrived at around10am in Manenberg at the People’s Centre in Stormsriver Way ready for our fortnightly helping hand at ARO’s clinic. We had not even parked our bakkie properly in the little bit of shade available, when a small child (about 8 years old) approached us with a puppy in a cardboard box and asked us to “put away” ie: put down. There were no further explanations, but we noted that puppy was in a pitiful state and was clearly dehydrated and malnourished. Dying. All these little souls handed in are taken to the Mobile Clinic and are assessed by ARO’s AWA first.
It was 32degrees that day and before long, another puppy was brought to the clinic for the same reason. There was an unusually high number of children present (no doubt being school holidays). No less than five arrived each bearing a puppy! Some of them just wanted dip and deworm, which gave us a wonderful opportunity to educate these kids about pet care.
The pups were too young to dip, but did receive flea powder and some syrup for de-worming and everyone was asked to bring their puppies back in a month’s time. We also told them of the Animal Welfare Society in Phillippi where they could take their puppies as this facility is closer than ARO. Young and old, desperately poor, the people came streaming in. Some with big dogs, most of which were terrified of the dipping bath procedure. I tried to explain to the people, that talking gently to the dog whilst restraining it was far better than shouting – or, as I witnessed on one occasion – kicking the dog into submission!
After a clinic in Manenberg, I smell like an antiseptic bottle! But it also helps that I hold the dogs while the owners bath them, it makes the whole job easier and quicker.
One child even wanted to dip his terrified cat! Hearing these things is a reality check that we must teach children (and adults) about pet care as it is clear that ignorance causes terrible suffering to these desperate animals. Sadly, the usual amount of unwanted, unloved and starving kittens (together with two terrified adult cats) also came to us to be “put away”. Sadly, the whole group of kittens were sick and so it was kindest to put them out of their terrified misery.
We tried so hard to explain why dogs or cats should be sterilised – all these unwanted puppies and kittens. Our words fall on deaf ears. If there were By Laws enforcing sterilisation, we would be targeted and be in danger, our vehicles set alight no doubt and our staff’s lives put at risk. We have had threats to our staff before, and it is to be taken seriously. We cannot force people into what they do not want to do.
Almost without exception, the adults refused to have their male or female dogs sterilised. They wanted a litter first or wanted to keep them for fighting purposes (not admitted to, but well known as a reality), which obviously is a lucrative money making business. It is very hard to keep one’s cool at these clinics when you witness abuse and heavy handedness with animals! I physically had to stop myself going for one man who mistreated his dog.
Everyone pleads poverty. Not even a R2 to dip the dogs. The attitude of entitlement and a Government handout (they often think ARO is a Government service!) is rife and makes teaching responsibility very heavy going. As always, they were asked to contribute whatever they could – we live in eternal hope! Where does the money come from for the cigarettes and cellphones, I wonder to myself.
A box of kittens were literally starving to death, sickly and dying from starvation, having been deprived of their mother’s milk for some days (she being too sick to have any for her family) and/or they were far too young to be separated! We couldn’t wait to leave at noon feeling very depressed and the sound of 14 kittens and 2 puppies’ crying in our ears nearly had us in tears as well.
Two hours of hard work! Some may have been put down, but they are out of the hell, in a better place at least, not left to starve or be run over, used as bait for fighting or further abuse. But next week, we will see the same again, more desperate little faces, miserable lives, abused and suffering.
Education is the key point. Provision of welfare level clinics is also essential and for this ARO has done an amazing job. Some of the children were pretty impoverished as well, to say the least. At least two were high on some “substance”. With all of this going on, the animals don’t stand much chance.
On a happier note (don’t we all love happy endings?) we are investigating more education at the Manenburg People’s Centre (for the children (and the adults), perhaps introducing another welfare agency into the area as our twice a month ARO visit is not sufficient; and hopefully a dipping morning on a Saturday as being at least part of the whole solution.
Wish us luck and please keep the funds rolling in to help all those so desperately in dire need.