Harrismith Animal Shelter



Adriana Baldock, Helene Haworth and Mandy Pollock

Written by Mandy Pollock – Administration Manager and Treasurer

The Harrismith Animal Shelter was founded in September 2014 to provide a safe, well-run shelter space for animals in need in and around Harrismith, Free State. 

The Harrismith SPCA had closed down and been taken over by a single individual serving as The Look Alive Foundation. Concerned community members had approached me to take a look at the animals and see if I thought they were being looked after properly.

What I found shocked me to the core.

A shocking discovery

On the 12th of August 2014, I plucked up the courage, with the support of my mom, Helene Haworth, to visit. When I walked in and looked around, I was shocked, to say the least.

The dogs were in an appalling condition; locked in kennels all day long, they were thin and malnourished. The kennels were filthy. You could see they’d been running in their own faeces for days, without it being cleaned. They were not given blankets because, he said, “they pulled them out and tore them up”. Well, I would too if I was locked up in a kennel all day.

On investigation, we discovered that nobody was attending to the animals at weekends. This meant that they were left locked in kennels for the whole weekend without being given food or water, without kennels being cleaned, and without attention. The person running it was simply in over his head with an overwhelming task.

So it begins

My mom and I, with one other volunteer, took to checking on the animals regularly and going in to clean and feed at weekends. We then discussed the situation with the person in charge of the Foundation, making it clear that we weren’t happy with the animal conditions and offering to take it over from him.

And so began the establishment of the Harrismith Animal Shelter. We registered it as an official NPO (Non-Profit Organisation) and set out to find sponsors in our small community of Harrismith so that we could feed and look after the animals properly. 

It’s all about teamwork

I run a business with my husband, and therefore I didn’t have all that much free time on my hands during the week, so my mom, Helene, took over the practical running of the shelter while I continued with the administration thereof.

My mom and her right-hand lady, Adriana Baldock, have been a team for quite some time now, and boy, what a team they make. They handle all of the call-outs and complaints of the town regarding animals; I help where I can during the week and am available weekends to assist with practical work. We have two permanent staff members who are wonderful with the animals; they alternate days on weekends so that the animals are never left uncared for.

Although we’ve had plenty of offers of help, nobody seems to stay for long periods of time. It is difficult as you need free time and dedication to the cause, which is just too stressful for most people. 

Promoting life and responsible rehoming

One policy is “We do not euthanise”. We believe each and every living thing has a rightful place on this earth. It’s not our place to kill but to promote life. We’ve done the kind thing by asking a vet to humanely euthanise an animal that’s really ill and suffering, but, to date, we’ve never put an animal down just because we couldn’t find it a home.

The shelter activities are kept open and transparent at all times so that our sponsors can see that we’re not just sitting back and doing nothing with the money they donate to us. We share how active we are on our Facebook page and are proud to get such a good response from all over the country and even other parts of the world.

We rehome responsibly by ensuring all of our animals are sterilised and their vaccinations are up to date before they’re rehomed (if they’re old enough); we prefer to not let an animal go if it’s not sterilised. Home checks take place and a fee is charged for the adoptive animal, depending on sterilisations, vaccinations and deworming done.

Funding

Our local municipality gives us no support whatsoever; in fact, they even cut our electricity when they heard we weren’t getting billed. We then had a prepaid meter connected and now pay for our own electricity. We have infra-red lights for our puppies and kittens as it gets bitterly cold in Harrismith in winter – these need to be kept running. The municipality is also unwilling to assist with this, but we won’t let the animals suffer and so we carry the cost. Our vet bills take a huge part of our income. 

We run the shelter purely on donations and sponsorships. Unfortunately, due to our community being a small one, the finances are not always great, but we do our best. Aside from ad hoc donations, fundraising events are crucial, as are our HAS Kennel Sponsorships, where businesses and individuals sponsor kennels at R250/kennel per month. We also have a private boarding section where, for a fee, we look after dogs when people go away. 

Top Tail regularly sponsors us with 40kg bags of dog food, which helps us tremendously. In addition, we’ve placed 16 donation boxes at various shops and businesses. Schools bring their children to the shelter for community days, and normally they arrive with loads of gifts for the animals and food brought by all the children attending. They also hold fundraising events and regularly give their profits earned to the shelter as cash contributions.

We are proud and fortunate to have so much support.

Onwards and upwards

It’s difficult to highlight all that we do at the shelter, as it really is a full-time job. And there’s still plenty to do…

During the past four years, we’ve managed to repaint most of the buildings and renovated the dilapidated office area. My husband, Peter, is in the construction game, so we make use of his “free services” just for the shelter.

Fencing manufacturers Bonnox (Pty) Ltd generously sponsored fencing, which my husband put up to partition our fields into separate camps; this allows certain dogs that cannot interact with others to be kept separate while at least getting to run around outside all day. A cat enclosure, with fencing sponsored by Bonnox and a generous sponsorship from one of our community members (who is, sadly, no longer with us), has also been built. Our cats never got to see sunlight as their cages are in an enclosed passage – now they can run outside, play, and even climb a tree. 

While there’s still a lot of work that needs to be done, we’re happy and proud that our animals are healthy, free and well-socialised with other animals by the time they leave us for their forever homes.

Any donation makes a difference. If you’d like to make a donation to our shelter, our banking details are:

Harrismith Animal Shelter

First National Bank

Harrismith

Acc. No: 624 986 025 83

Branch Code: 230 533

For more information, contact 083 739 3287, email harrismithanimalshelter@gmail.com or follow them on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/Harrismith-Animal-Shelter-664333806997159/