Wollies Animal Project gives them animals a second chance

Written by Cilla Trexler – Wollies Animal Project Founder and Manager

What started out in 2003 as helping abandoned, neglected, and abused animals by promoting sterilisations developed into a full scale operation sterilisation drives, feeding programmes, and a shelter: Wollies Animal Project / Wollies Diere Projek (WAP/WDP) – Wollies for short.

With the original aim of getting as many animals as possible sterilised, we created a small animal shelter but, due to demand, it grew from strength to strength. Soon, Wollies was bursting at the seams with so many animals in desperate need of help.

If we could educate people on the benefits of sterilisation and have more animals sterilised, so many other problems would be avoided, including overpopulation of animals, and less abandoned, abused, and homeless dogs and cats. Sterilisation means no unexpected puppies to feed or to try and find homes for. Dogs will be less likely to go walking the streets or go ballistic each time a ‘lady’ dog in the area is on heat. It is also much healthier for animals to be sterilised. This is why our main aim is still – and always will be – animal sterilisation.

Providing safety for 700 dogs and cats

The Wollies rescue centre is home to around 500 dogs and 200 cats. These animals were abandoned  and/or neglected and abused, or were surrendered to our care. Each and every one has been sterilised; most have had additional medical treatment due to the poor condition they were in when they arrived. Thanks to public assistance in this project, many needy animals now have a place of safety, get food, lots of love, and a warm bed to sleep in.

Sadly, some horrific stories can be told on abuse. Animals come to us that have suffered incredible cruelty, their spirits broken, and they have shut down from the world. At times they will cower in fear, bodies trembling, waiting for another onslaught of cruelty. We do whatever it takes to give back their dignity, be it an hour-long hug or long walks, it will be done. Failure is never an option. Giving up on an animal will never happen. 

We’ve been lucky in having rescued so many animals. There are many out there which we have not had the opportunity to rescue so we’re thankful for those which have ended up in our care and could be helped.  

Our promise to them is that they will never go hungry again, never be abused, and that they will always have a warm bed to sleep in and get all the love and attention they so rightly deserve. As the saying goes, “Rescue animals aren’t broken - they’ve simply experienced more life than other animals. If they were human we would have called them wise. They would be the ones with tales to tell and stories to write, the ones who were dealt a bad hand and responded with courage.”

Reaching out to the community

Our initiative does not end at the Wollies Animal Shelter. We also try to assist the community in the area wherever possible to take their sick animals to the vet and to supply them with food. We have our own bakkie (small pick-up truck) for outreach work, transporting dogs and cats to the vet, and for picking up stray animals. 

Many other desperate animals rely on Wollies for food, from feral cats to beloved pets in the underprivileged areas where we work. We are also proud to announce that we recently held a successful sterilisation drive in four impoverished informal settlements north of Pretoria.

I could not have done all of this by myself. Volunteers from every walk of life have joined Wollies, sharing in my passion and burden; I love each of them as my own. No organisation can be successful without hands holding their beliefs together and paving the way forward.

Wollies’ humble beginnings

Wollies initially started as a sterilisation project. Wherever we could, we really tried to get people to sterilise their animals.  Unfortunately, we had cases where people brought their animals in for sterilisation - and just never returned to fetch them. At that stage we didn’t have kennels and relied on foster homes which are few and far between, leading to problems with too many dogs on people’s premises. The demand grew rapidly, and we had to keep pace, growing from strength to strength.

We made the big decision to purchase a house in Wolmer (hence the name Wollies) from which we could run the shelter. Unfortunately, this did not work out as we quickly found that the 30 dogs we started with just increased…

How an old rondawel became home to hundreds

We were so discouraged and shed buckets and buckets of tears. Then, Janine McCue, grounds manager at the Old Police Rondawel in Hestia Park offered us a lifeline; she suggested we move the shelter there. 

And so started the building process at Wollies; there was absolutely nothing but bushes and trees but we tackled the hard work. It was with great excitement that the first three kennel runs were complete. Our 30 dogs have become 500!

Each curveball we were thrown taught us what worked and what we needed to change. I can sit here now and remember the many tears we cried every time it poured with rain and our kennels were under water…but we laughed too and it is the happy memories that makes it all worthwhile. The looks on the faces of the fur kids mean we’d do it all over again; we are prepared to climb any obstacle that is put in our way to save yet another fur child.

Our purr-fect cattery

Our cats had previously been housed quite far from the dogs, which made watching over them a challenge, and created lots of running back and forth. So, we selected a perfect spot (which first needed a good clean-up) and rebuilt the cattery. Then, supporters Annette and Marius Henning set their hearts on creating a special cat haven.

We now have beautiful green grass, trees, climbing frames, scratching posts and colourful bungalows with comfortable beds for all the cats in our care. It looks  stunning - and our cats are happy, healthy and in excellent condition.

The Wollies sterilisation and goodwill project

Wollies offers people help with their animals. There are so many animals in need of homes and, with the high cost of living these days, people are just no longer able to cope; most of the time, the animals end up suffering. That’s why we have a goodwill project where we try to assist as many people as possible with their animals, most importantly, people can have their dog/cat sterilised through us. The owners bring their pet to the shelter on a Tuesday morning before 08h00 where they fill in a form which accompanies the animal to the vet; should the vet notice anything out of the ordinary, they contact the owner directly. Wollies collect the animals again the same evening around 17h00, takes them back to the shelter, and then the owners collect them. By offering affordable prices to those in need, we can get more animals sterilised – which helps even more animals in the long run.

There is also a professional doggy parlour on our premises so you can bring your pooch for an affordable grooming session, be they young or old. The parlour is even open on Sundays.

Where the abandoned are happy

This was no easy feat, but as we enter the shelter today – the worries of the next meal washes away as we are excitedly greeted by nearly 500 wagging tails, 280 purring bodies. That is when we know the tears, the struggles and the constant disappointment in the human race is all worth it.

The abandoned are happy and, although no shelter is destined to be the final home of any animal, our promise rings true:

“You will never go hungry again!
Never need to be afraid again!
You will receive love and attention
And  have food every day.
You will have a warm bed to sleep in,
never be given up on or thrown away.
We promise that you will be
loved and cared for
and that your new family
keeps the promise we have given you.”


Wollies is a registered non-profit organisation which receives no government funding; they rely entirely on donations from the public. For more information or if you’d like to get involved, please feel contact Cilla Trexler on 083 339 1692, email wollies.cillat@gmail.com, visit www.wollies.org, and follow them on Facebook at ‘Wollies Animal Project’. 

There are always so many chores to be done at the shelter, from shaking out their bedding, giving fresh water, painting the kennels… the list goes on and on. Then the most important is making the animals feel loved, by cuddling, playing with them, brushing them etc. We always appreciate volunteers – so come get down and dirty and show your loving support for these orphans!

Wollies Animal Project is situated at The Rondawel, 101 Rooikat Street, Hestea Park, Pretoria North (entrance in Mastiff Street).