Furever Fixed – Striving for a Better Future for Homeless Animals

27th May, 2024

Furever Co-Founders, Amber Wiggill (left) and Dr Amy Long

Written by Nicky Hoseck

Photography by Roxanne Wentzel

Forced to scrape a living on the streets, homeless animals across South Africa are exposed to abuse, unsanitary conditions, poor nutrition, and almost endless parasites. A lucky few get picked up and rehomed, but for most, it’s a life sentence.

That means around four million cats and dogs live without love, fresh water, regular meals, medication, or even a toy.

What makes this situation all the more heartbreaking is the fact that these animals unwittingly make the problem worse by doing what comes naturally.

With each female cat capable of producing three litters of kittens a year and each litter averaging four to six kittens, it’s little wonder rehoming initiatives are struggling to make an impact.

That’s what Amber Wiggill and Dr Amy Long discovered when they launched their rehoming initiative on Facebook in 2018.

Founding Furever Fixed

Hoping to tackle the problem of homeless animals in East London, Amber and Amy quickly realised that the number of animals they could rehome was only the tip of the iceberg. To make a real impact, they needed to get to the heart of the problem and stop the numbers from growing.

“After about three months, we realised that no organisation is focusing on sterilisation. So, on 1 June 2018, we officially formed our organisation and registered as an NPO,” explains Amber.

The organisation, Furever Fixed, has since sterilised over 5,000 animals, but it’s still far from achieving its goal. When Amber and Amy set out on their mission, the pair believed they’d have all the homeless pets of East London sterilised within five years – six years on, and they fear there are still hundreds, if not thousands, of animals still needing their attention.

Although they still rehome some animals, Amber and Amy see sterilisation as the most important part of animal welfare, and channel their funds and energies accordingly.

As Amber says, “Preventing births helps prevent unnecessary deaths,” and with 2,800 healthy animals being euthanised nationwide every day, that’s critical.

It’s a daunting task, but one Amber is committed to. With Amy working full time, most of the organisation’s day-to-day commitments fall to Amber. It isn’t a comfortable situation, Amber explains, saying, “I can't get a full-time job, even though there’s zero money in animal welfare, because then there’d be no time for me to do anything.”

Trap, Neuter, Release

Several mornings a week, Amber wakes at dawn and heads out to identify and trap members of the numerous feral cat colonies populating the city’s streets.

Many of these colonies have human caretakers who provide food and water, but otherwise, they’re left to their own devices. That means facing daily dangers, she explains, like “disease, cars, and dogs”.”

Generally fearful of humans, the cats need luring into the cage and often prove too smart, even for professionals like Amber.

Using strong-smelling bait like pilchards or tuna to entice the cats usually works and enables Furever Fixed to work with large colonies of cats. One of the organisation's greatest achievements to date was sterilising a colony of 109 cats in 2018.

To achieve this, each colony member had to be individually trapped and transported to a nearby vet or clinic. There, they were sterilised, ear clipped, and given a rabies vaccination and tick/flea medication. Once the treatment was complete, the cats returned to their lives on the street.

It may not be a perfect solution, Amber says, but it’s a lot more effective than rehoming alone. “Preventing births is the only way to prevent unnecessary deaths, she emphasises.

The Heart of the Problem

As far as Amber is concerned, “people are the problem,” not animals. “If you can’t afford to take care of a pet, then you can’t afford to have one, and that includes being able to sterilise,” she says.

Working in animal welfare is a gruelling experience that requires significant personal sacrifice. Seeing animals neglected and suffering takes its toll, but it’s by no means the most challenging aspect of life at Furever Fixed. For Amber, dealing with people is far tougher.

“I’ve been sworn at, threatened, threatened with lawyers, called names and much more. If ever I quit welfare, it will be because of the people,” she laments.

Thankfully, there have been some positive developments over the years. “The attitude towards sterilisation has definitely improved,” she says. “Six years ago, sterilisations were happening at a snail's pace, and they weren’t a priority, and now we’re seeing a shift in that mindset.”

Things haven’t been easy, however, and after an enormously successful year in 2019, Furever Fixed was hit hard by COVID-19 and has struggled to raise the funds needed to continue its work ever since.

Funding for the Future

Nevertheless, Amber is optimistic about the future, even though the organisation’s funding officially ran out two weeks ago.

“We are currently aware of over 100 cats needing sterilisation,” she explains, “but I would say [there are] hundreds if not thousands if we factor in the townships, industrial areas, and farms.”

To sterilise the 100 cats they’ve identified will cost Furever Fixed many hours and around R6,000 to R7,000. Even that’s a drop in the ocean compared to what they need to complete their goal of sterilising every homeless cat and dog in East London.

To achieve that, the organisation will need some serious funding, so Amber and Amy are upping their game and looking to register for a section 18A certification, which they hope will encourage larger donations.

In the meantime, they’ll “just keep trying to change the world one sterilisation at a time.”

Help Amber and Amy in their endeavours by donating to:

Furever Fixed Animal Rescue
Branch number: 470010
Savings Account
Account Number: 1585881846

For more information, call 079 627 4872, email fureverfixed@gmail.com or follow them on Facebook

Adopted and adored dogs depicted... Canaan the GSD and his mom, Ilse. George the Maltese x with Dan, and Yorkie sisters, Willow and Phoebe, who were adopted by Theresa, but are pictured with Furever co-founders, Amber Wiggill and Dr Amy Long.


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