Cows on highways and porcupines in drains? All in a week’s work for the Garden Route SPCA. Horses, cats and dogs dominate its daily activities, but there’s always room for fellow dwellers in the animal kingdom. It’s rare that you’ll find the SPCA without a pig or two, and the adoption story of 2019 starred a dog and goat who shared a kennel before finding a forever home together.
With branches in George and Mossel Bay, and a small but dedicated team of inspectors, the SPCA serves those communities and Great Brak River. The communities keep the wheels turning with generous donations of food, money and time. To reduce infection risks, dog-walking is being undertaken by two hard-working volunteers during lockdown. The Garden Route SPCA hopes to welcome back the rest of its loyal supporters, and new volunteers, once the restrictions ease.
Adoptions put smiles on everyone’s faces, but cruelty and neglect are routine. It is distressing and can be demoralising, but a fire burns in the hearts of SPCA staff and volunteers. Even if it’s a war they cannot win, they never stop fighting.
The pressure has been raised by lockdown. The SPCA has long distributed food to needy animals in our poorest communities, but never on the scale required by recent events. Animals fed on scraps are first to suffer if their owners cannot afford to feed themselves. Livestock are abandoned to fend for themselves. Cats become an easy target for starving dogs.
The challenges are enormous, but the SPCA is blessed with staff and supporters who don’t give up. Senior inspector Salome Bruyns was barely a year into her job as manager when the pandemic loomed. “We thought fire was our biggest problem,” she notes. “We prepared training and a taskforce for when they struck again.” Bruyns was an inspector in the field during SARS and foot-and-mouth outbreaks but, she says, “Nothing prepared us for this.”
So how can we help? “Knowing that people rely on us is a big responsibility,” says Bruyns, “but we’re lucky to have very vocal and active supporters.”
Ultimately, however, it comes down to money. “We provide pounds for George and Mossel Bay,” she explains, “and are paid a fee to do so. We appreciate that support and trust by the municipalities, but that only covers our pound function. It doesn’t pay our hard-working animal carers, our dedicated clinic teams and our fearless inspectors. And our finances have been decimated by lockdown making adoptions impossible and forcing us to close our charity shops.”
A fundraiser (backabuddy.co.za/feed) has been set up to help ensure the SPCA can keep saving lives. Worrying about animals and keeping the organisation’s doors open keeps Bruyns awake at night, but she remains resolute. “We have to help the animals,” she says. “It’s not a choice, it’s a mission. If we don’t do it, who will?”