Left to right: Volunteer, Katherine Smith, Anél Wesson, Dr Annelise Roos, Dr Hernan Azorin, Melanie Hrabar, Cecilia Fraser (Chair) and Annette van der Berg
Written by Anél Wesson, Co-Founder of AfriPaw Animal Welfare
AfriPaw Animal Welfare’s vision is to see communities that treasure their pets, provide for their needs and protect them from suffering and disease.
They aim to achieve this by partnering with low-income communities to educate families on their pets’ primary needs, and facilitating access to affordable support services with a focus on mass sterilisation. AfriPaw was established in 2017; their focus area is the community of Vrygrond, an informal settlement across the road from Marina da Gama (close to the coastal suburb of Muizenberg), with approximately 90,000 residents – and thousands of animals.
Community spay days – and more
AfriPaw’s main activities involve “Spay Days” that take place right there in the community, whether it be at the local school hall or church. Volunteers walk door to door, meet the local people, start a conversation and encourage pet owners to sign up their cats and dogs for sterilisation.
To date, AfriPaw is proud to have sterilised 154 Vrygrond pets (120 dogs and 34 cats) during three spay days, the first of which was held in June 2017. Sterilisation is key to preventing over-population and neglect, but it’s only the starting point.
Once AfriPaw has gained the trust of one family and then one street, the real work begins: kennels are distributed to the neediest pets, provided they have first been sterilised. This earns AfriPaw the right to speak further into the lives of people, to educate them on their pets’ dietary and healthcare needs and to encourage the community to actively look after and protect their pets.
During weekly “Paw Patrol”, assistance is offered to pets that might have mange, tick bite fever or injuries. AfriPaw does not plan to ever own kennels or a clinic, because their focus is to help the pets where they are.
Although this is often an inevitable part of their work, they prefer not to remove and rehome pets, as their aim is to educate pet owners, change their hearts, minds and habits and partner with them to ensure that their pets are healthy, safe and happy. AfriPaw has secured welfare rates with four local veterinary clinics who kindly and generously assist them with the more serious cases and provide medical support.
2018 and beyond
Building on their 2017 successes, this organisation is aiming to sterilise 450 pets over nine days in 2018. The idea is to have these in Vrygrond itself and to encourage owners to bring their pets in, thus involving them in their care.
AfriPaw also hopes to establish bi-weekly outreaches where dipping, vaccinations, de-worming and basic medical assistance will be offered on the spot. This approach is inspired by the work of Tin Can Town (https://www.facebook.com/TinCanTown/), who have been doing amazing outreaches in Blikkiesdorp for the past five years, as well as 1 Kennel at a Time (https://www.facebook.com/1kennelatatime/), who operate in Ocean View.
Networking with other welfare organisations is a priority for AfriPaw, not only because we can learn from each other, but also because we need each other’s support in order to make a lasting difference.
Working together is an important part of AfriPaw’s way of working. A key factor that has enabled AfriPaw to impact the community in a relatively short space of time is their partnership with the locals.
Vrygrond resident Felicity Gxaba is a key member of the team – she knows the local people and is an important influencer, mover and shaker who is also regarded as a leader and “go to” person. Felicity has recruited two more local volunteers to date and, together, this team of three took care of all the latest sterilisation sign-ups. They are a force to be reckoned with and a vital part of AfriPaw.
Another two important pillars that uphold AfriPaw are the strong and caring Board of Directors, who provide direction and leadership, as well as the dedicated group of twenty volunteers, which is growing at a rapid pace.
The work of AfriPaw in 2017 might have been small in numbers but it has been significant in structures, so they can’t wait for 2018 and hope to be able to help many more people and pets.
You can help
AfriPaw relies entirely on donations to keep going – people can make general donations or specifically donate towards pet food, kennels, grooming for shabby dogs, and parasite control, amongst other things. AfriPaw is also very grateful for donations of dog and cat food (drop-offs in Marina Da Gama and Fish Hoek), collars and leads, transport crates/carriers, and any other pet care products.
For more information, please contact Anél Wesson on 072 616 1207 and follow them on Facebook @AfriPAW https://www.facebook.com/AfriPaw/