Emma Geary-Cooke, with her beloved companion, Tasha, at her home in Lakeside (1997)
Written by Luke Kruyt – TEARS Animal Care Manager
Emma Geary-Cooke had long dreamed of starting an organisation to alleviate the suffering of animals in Masiphumelele, a large informal settlement on Cape Town’s southern peninsula. Sadly, Emma was killed in a car accident two weeks before her dream was realised, depriving us of a loyal and dedicated friend who was passionate about animals. Devastated, but undaunted, two of her friends involved in animal welfare collaborated to make Emma’s dream come true. In January 1999, The Emma Animal Rescue Society (TEARS), was established in her memory.
And not a moment too soon; the plight of domestic animals in Masiphumelele had reached crisis point.
Mange was rife and many animals were skeletal as their owners lived in abject poverty and couldn’t afford to feed them. Deworming, vaccinations and sterilisation were unheard of. Female dogs suffered from malnutrition and were unable to feed their puppies, many of which died in pain. Animal distress levels were shocking. The blame predominantly lay with the poverty and ignorance of their owners.
By March 1999, TEARS had started a clinic in Masiphumelele, treating animals for fleas, mange and tick infestation and handing out food parcels. Animals needing veterinary attention and sterilisation were identified and arrangements made to take them to local vets. “We began to accumulate unwanted and stray animals and desperately needed facilities to house them,” remembers co-founder Marilyn Hoole. “We were most fortunate to find kennels in Ottery, which we rented for rescued adult dogs, while all cats, kittens and puppies were kept at the home of a TEARS committee member in Muizenberg, which also served as the TEARS headquarters.”
As the situation in Masiphumelele gradually improved, TEARS extended its services in May 2000 to nearby townships and the informal settlements of Ocean View, Mountain View and Red Hill; in 2009, they also began assisting in Capricorn Park (Muizenberg) and surrounds. Sterilisations are top of their list of priorities, with thousands of animals having been saved through spaying and neutering since TEARS’ inception.
“Realising that it would be in our best interests to consolidate our operation and keep our rescued animals and headquarters at one location, we began looking for a property to rent,” recalls Marilyn. “We were most fortunate to find one in the exact area we wanted.”
Rock Aloe Farm was the perfect location as it adjoined Masiphumelele and had disused stables which could be converted into kennels. “We began preparing the property and buildings, and in April 2002 we moved our whole operation to its current location at Rock Aloe Farm in Lekkerwater Road, Sunnydale. From there on we never looked back.”
A few years later, TEARS purchased an additional 1.3ha at Wenga Farm, from which they operate their cattery and clinic. They have also established the TEARS Feral Cat Project which traps, sterilises and humanely manages feral cat colonies across the Western Cape. Their kennels have a dog walking and training programme, carried out by a dedicated team of volunteers.
Since its inception, TEARS has experienced phenomenal growth and placed over 14,000 rescued animals into loving homes with around 300 animals able to call TEARS a temporary home while awaiting their forever homes and families.