The Animal Rescue Organisation

Left to right: The late Ulrich Shafer, an unknown volunteer and Better Shafer. Ulrich and Better founded the original VAR in 1986.

Written by Karen de Klerk – Head of Fundraising & Communications, ARO

Thirty two years ago, a small group of people decided to address the plight of suffering animals surviving within riot-torn townships across the Cape. They had nothing at their disposal except a battered old van and a love of animals, but this passion and commitment developed into a regular welfare service within impoverished communities known as the Voluntary Animal Rescue Organisation.

The Voluntary Animal Rescue, or VAR as it was fondly known, focused on the delivery of welfare services for sick and suffering animals and worked through the PDSA in Athlone. In 1995, VAR became known as the Animal Rescue Organisation (ARO) and, in 2003, the entire organisation moved to its present head office in Ottery. Governed by a Management Committee, ARO remains one of the most respected animal welfare organisations in the Western Cape. As a member of the Cape Animal Welfare Forum, the ARO regularly takes part in City of Cape Town-funded sterilisation projects together with other Forum members, including the Cape of Good Hope, African Tails, Envirovet, and Vetsol.

ARO runs a fully equipped welfare hospital and three mobile clinics. The focus of ARO’s fieldwork in areas including Nyanga, Delft, Wesbank, Westridge, and many more, remains the same as it has since its inception: to deliver welfare services within impoverished areas for the benefit of suffering animals. Primary health care and welfare are provided from mobile clinics by trained AWAs (Animal Welfare Assistants) who are registered with the South African Veterinary Council. Dipping, deworming, and educational advice fall under mobile clinics, while more serious cases are taken back to the ARO hospital and seen by a Senior Veterinarian. Sterilisation is done in the hospital and around 200 animals are sterilised monthly. On average, approximately 18,000 animals benefit from ARO annually. ARO also has an adoption programme for cats and dogs looking for their forever homes.

The Animal Rescue Organisation, like most NGOs, depends on public funding in order to continue its work. Donations of funds or ‘gifts’ in kind (such as items for our charity shops) are a critical part of ARO’s active fundraising activities; we encourage anyone with goods to donate to contact ARO on 021 396 5511 or 082 836 5880 for collection. If you would like to donate funds, ARO’s banking details are as follows: Animal Rescue Organisation, ABSA, Branch code 632005, Account 408 608 0569. For more information, email, visit and follow them on Facebook at ‘Animal Rescue Organisation’ and Twitter at ‘@animalrescue01’.

Two patients coming in for primary health care treatments at the ARO hospital in Ottery

Mobile clinics are essential to reach those in need