If it takes a village to raise a child, it may also take one to care for the fur-children: three communities came together to do just that last week, and The Emma Animal Rescue Society (TEARS), in Masiphumelele, led the charge.
Cape Animal Medical Centre in Kenilworth sponsored the sterilisation of 80 dogs and cats from outside of their area and chose to focus on Hanover Park and Epping, where pet owners had said they wanted to sterilise their animals but could not afford to.
Early on Thursday morning, April 14, the Tears van set off for Hanover Park where staff collected 30 dogs and cats for sterilisation. Just after 9.15am, the first sterilisations, carried out by Dr Tracy Dicks from Tears, began.
Thirty more sterilisations will take place on Thursday, April 21, and the last 20 will be done on Thursday April 28.
“It can ordinarily cost R370 or more to have a pet neutered or spayed, sometimes with sponsorship, it could be done for R250. But the animals collected this week, and the two weeks coming, will have their sterilisations – and their first vaccinations – for free,” says Mandy Stope from Tears.
She holds a wriggling, licking puppy while she shows off the animals waiting for their surgery. An array of curious doggy faces peer at us from their cages. The cats, kept in a room separate from the dogs, collectively mewled their indignation at us when we opened their door, but each of them was physically fine – simply grumpy.
The puppy Mandy is holding is on the list too.
“All these animals are in a good condition. You can tell by this puppy for instance, he doesn’t know me, but he’s absolutely unafraid; he’s just a bundle of love,” she says, while the pup does his best to lick her entire face.
“Their owners obviously care for them. The reality is just that most – or many – owners can’t afford the sterilisations. And while we can’t tell people not to have pets, we can improve the lives of the animals,” Mandy says.
The 80 surgeries were funded by Cape Animal Medical Centre, which called on all its vets and nurses to volunteer for the mass sterilisation drive of animals from Hanover Park, where there was a good response from pet owners.
Mayan Gerin-Schiess who was at Tears with colleague Megan Hagglund, adds: “The drive was possible thanks to money raised from the Christmas raffle at Cape Animal Medical Centre and Belvedere Vet Shop.”
Both women were from the Cape Animal Medical Centre and had attended the animal collections the day before and helped Tears with the procedures.
“The initiative is part of our social investment project; 80 sterilisations effectively translates into tens of thousands of puppies and kittens saved the trauma of being born into a life of depravation and suffering,” says Mayan, adding that the cost of not having a pet sterilised way exceeds the expense of the operation if one calculates how many litters a dog or cat can produce.
Tears’s Megan Karr grinned and welcomed us in to the operating section, where one little tan and white dog was carefully laid on the recovery mat, and two more were prepped for their surgery; lying on their backs, paws in the air, and little pink tongues lolling.
“Most people think of the kennels when they think of us, but sterilisations, vaccinations, outreach programmes and education are the crux of it all,” says Mandy.
Communities closest to Tears, such as Masiphumelele, Ocean View and the Fish Hoek valley, are their first priority and they do extensive outreach projects there.
“We are only too happy to have collaborative events like this, with sponsors like Cape Animal Medical Centre that allow us to reach animals in need in other places. And we are investigating how to help the animals in Vrygrond, where the need is absolutely huge,” Mandy says, adding that Tears performs about 600 procedures a month.
She says veterinarians will now sterilise dogs and cats from eight weeks of age and, contrary to the myth that a female dog or cat should have at least one litter, females spayed before their first heat are healthier.
* TEARS Animal Rescue offers sterilisations free to many households. Call Tears at 021 785 4482 to find out if your pet qualifies for free or subsidised sterilisation.