Written by Julie Marzio, Founder of Fur-Get-Me-Knot
Photography by Jackie Wernberg Photography
WHERE WE WORK
We work in Westlake, the impoverished area behind Polsmoor Prison, Tokai. For each RDP house, there will be three to five shacks on the same plot, and many of these homes have a variety of animals, being mainly dogs, cats, pigeons, rabbits and other birds, as well as tortoises.
WHO ARE WE?
We are a team of six motivated animal-loving volunteers who go into Westlake on a weekly basis to feed, deworm, treat wounds and educate owners on how to care for their animals.
We believe that educating both the owners of pets and the children in this community is a must. The basic needs of food, water, shelter and behaviour need to be highlighted continuously.
Two of our volunteers are teachers, so they engage with the kids who follow us around, answering relevant questions, or simply letting them watch what we do. We believe in leading by example. Holidays are the best time to capture the young audience. Our dipping days are also a wonderful way of involving the young, as they enjoy the splash of water. We advise owners of their responsibilities towards their animals for the provision of shade/shelter, food, water, grooming, vaccinations and sterilisations.
We’ve also taken an activity book “The animal clinic and Shelter with Lucky’s activity book” and “Be a Hero in My Hood” into the Westlake Primary School as part of the Grade 3 curriculum. This has been accepted by the teachers and learners with great enthusiasm, and hopefully, we’ll reap the results thereof.
We’re starting to see more people coming out, WhatsApping us, and asking our advice, and with this, a more positive attitude towards their pets. An example is two dogs that used to be tied to their shared kennel. They now both have running lines and more freedom.
We’ve seen more people taking pride in pet ownership and willingness to apply problem-solving. One owner got quite excited to show us his answer to his dogs running out of water while he was at work. He gave his dogs a 2-litre frozen bottle of water in their bowl, which slowly melted during the course of the day, providing a supply of water for them.
The community is more caring in that they report any abuse of other people’s dogs and show compassion by helping each other.
VACCINATIONS AND MEDICAL TREATMENTS
Steenberg Vet has been a huge support to us, coming in one morning a month as they do to do our cat and dog vaccinations. This has proved to be very successful – we haven’t had any cases of parvovirus or distemper in four years. We keep a log of when annual vaccinations are due and remind owners accordingly. Owners pay a minimal fee to show accountability and responsibility to their animals. We do, however, assist pensioners with their payments.
Over the past five years, we’ve achieved roughly an 80% sterilisation rate – this is built on the trust and education of owners. We do encourage all owners to sterilise under six months of age. We don’t help those that will not sterilise – this is according to the guidelines given by the Cape Animal Welfare Forum, of which we are members. It’s paramount to keep unwanted litters under control and to prevent the illegal selling of animals, which seems to be rife elsewhere.
We’re currently assisted by Dancers Love Dogs and Animal Welfare Society in Philippi who come into Westlake to collect and deliver back sterilised animals. This is only done with an owner filling in and signing consent for an animal to be taken for sterilisation. We’ll never remove an animal that’s not signed for, as this would break the trust built and close the community down to our interventions.
We do reward those dogs that are sterilised with a kennel, as and when we can – these are normally donated to us for this purpose. They also receive bedding, a bowl, and collar and lead – so it’s a great incentive. We presently have 160 kennels of all shapes and sizes in Westlake.
These kennels are numbered, logged and maintained by Fur-Get-Me-Knot, as they belong to us. Should a dog die or an owner move, the kennel reverts back to us, to be passed on to the next dog.
Sterilisations are charged at a basic cost, again to ensure the responsibility of accountability of owners.
MINOR WOUNDS/BURNS/SKIN DISORDERS (MANGE)
We do treat minor complications of the above, BUT should an animal need treatment by a vet, we refer the owner either to Steenberg Vet, being closest, or to the SPCA for treatment. Deworming is an ongoing treatment that we oversee and keep a record of.
This has become a huge plight in Westlake, with us having lost seven dogs this year already. We do dipping, but many owners are apathetic and don’t partake. Our wish is for effective sponsorship for products that negate tick and flea deaths. A fair amount of our meagre income goes to this cause.
As and when needed, for cases of cruelty/unhygienic conditions/abuse/neglect, we do refer cases to the SPCA for their guidance and intervention. We’ve also contacted Law Enforcement to assist in the removal of fireworks being sold, or uncontrolled dogs killing numerous cats. We’re very appreciative of their help in times of need.
This was the initial function of our cause, but it’s grown in many directions. We feed about 360 dogs and 140 cats in Westlake alone. We rely solely on donations to do this, and sometimes we’re forced to buy supplies. Any help in food donations is hugely appreciated, as this assists the general well-being of many animals that will then not be prone to disease and illnesses.
HOW YOU CAN ASSIST
FUNDRAISING AND DONATIONS
We do fundraisers to supplement our income. All monies raised go directly to the animals – no admin, petrol or cellphone costs are taken out of these funds.
Our banking account:
Account Name: Fur-Get-Me-Knot
Branch code: 10110900
Account number: 1186370025
Account Name: Steenberg Vet
Branch code: 11860200
Account number: 1186050063
We also have Snapscan.
REHOMING AND ADOPTIONS
We’ve had many a success story in rehoming animals, through both Aid4Animals, Fallen Angels and Steenberg Vet, taking in our waifs and unwanted animals. Together we’re stronger in networking these animals and giving them a second chance. We’re eternally grateful for this support.
This article was published in Happy Tails Magazine on 15 April 2019.