Written by Janet Catherine – HAWS Committee Member
Hartbeespoort Animal Welfare Society’s humble beginnings were the initiative of Jenny Copley, who, together with Ann Gmur, set up a rudimentary shelter on her smallholding in Commando Nek, Hartbeespoort. Both avid animal lovers, they began taking care of abandoned, abused and stray animals in the Hartbeespoort area.
The tough get going
It was really tough for these two women in the beginning as they had little to no funding with which to help the number of animals that began finding their way to the shelter. The shelter was a converted carport and, as such, there was no quarantine area for animals arriving at the facility. At most, they could only look after about ten animals at a time and managing the spread of viruses was always the main concern.
Sophie Muller soon joined Jenny and Ann. She initiated a programme that she called Sqogs. Sophie would visit informal settlements and encourage residents to bring their animals for vaccinations and also educated owners on how to care for their animals. Onderstepoort (the University of Pretoria’s faculty of Veterinary Science) donated vaccines that were nearing their “use-by” date to assist with vaccination days.
When Jenny sold her smallholding and moved to the Eastern Cape, HAWS moved to a smallholding behind the old Hartbeespoort Drive-In where they’d rented some unused boarding kennels and a small office. The space was very limited and flooded badly every time it rained but it served its purpose; many animals were taken in and homed under the care of kennel managers Ann Gmur, Sophie Muller and, later, Angela Voyiatzakis.
Time for a change
In 2007, HAWS was given notice to vacate the premises as the owner wanted to use the kennels for her own purposes and the daunting task of finding suitable premises was on again. When Nola van Heerden, another avid animal lover and librarian of the Hartbeespoort Library, came to hear about HAWS’ plight, she did not hesitate to offer a piece of her family-owned land in Rietfontein to HAWS at a very nominal rental.
The land (about 1 hectare) was empty except for one old farm storeroom that, with a lot of TLC, would act as an office. The HAWS committee of women, led at that time by chairperson Natliegh Aspey-Strydom, had quite a task ahead of them to build kennels and move… all within two months. The quotations that the committee received for building the kennels far exceeded what HAWS could afford, so the committee took it upon themselves to do what they could themselves.
Begging, borrowing and badgering all and sundry to assist them, HAWS thankfully received many donations of sand, stone, scrap steel, roof sheeting, paint and labour from the community, volunteers and committee members. Anne Shahini, her husband Mark and her company, Tappo Industries, played a huge role in completing the kennels; they ensured that all kennels had play-runs for the dogs to enjoy daily playtime. Two months became five, but eventually the kennels were ready enough for the big move. The date was set and promises made to the previous landlady – and then the rain came down in buckets, making it a day to remember. It was such a relief to get the fur kids out of the flooded kennels and into their fresh, new – and dry – kennels.
From strength to strength
HAWS has grown from strength to strength since then. Much of this is thanks to current chairperson Linda Spencer-Coye, who is dedicated to making a difference in the lives of the animals in HAWS’ designated area, which now includes the whole of Madibeng municipality.
HAWS has always known that the only way to stem the tide of unwanted animals and reduce the amount of suffering is to have a sterilisation programme that will enable owners who cannot afford private veterinarian care to have their pets sterilised. With this in mind, Linda and Angela arranged HAWS’ first-ever spay day in 2012. This was hugely successful and a second spay day followed a couple of months later.
The flame was ignited and Linda began working on a way in which to establish a sterilisation clinic at HAWS. Enter Kate Tucker, stay-at-home mom and qualified veterinarian. Kate wanted to keep her hand in her profession but also had young children who needed her at home. What a win-win situation for both HAWS and Kate. She agreed to assist HAWS in setting up the clinic and operating one day a week. She is now doing two days a week and always has a full booking list for both days. HAWS would very much like to expand this programme further, as and when more funds become available.
HAWS is a registered non-profit organisation, and welcomes volunteers and assistance with fundraising.
For more information about Hartbeespoort Animal Welfare Society, contact them on 076 455 0322, email firstname.lastname@example.org, visit www.haw-s.co.za and follow them on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/groups/HAWS.Hartbeespoort/