Photo credit: Mark Chipps Back row: Del Jones, Anne Binos, Marlen van Wyk, Hilary Henderson
Front row: Jane Bennett, Robin Yule
Dogs: Mayo, Hercules
Written by, and photographs supplied by, Del Jones and Robin Yule
McGregor is a quaint village in the Cape Winelands surrounded by mountains and fynbos, as well as diverse farming. Our name originated a good few years ago, and an explanation can be found on our website www.friendsofcare.org.
Our village, despite its natural beauty and diversity of people, has its challenges: the nearest shops, vets and doctors are over 25km away, and the employment rate is low (many people are employed seasonally on the farms, so income isn’t stable).
We formed the animal welfare registered group to undertake much-needed education around animal care – from pets to livestock to wild animals. Friends of CARE has grown exponentially over the years, and we now undertake regular steri days (at our own steri unit), weekly primary care clinics, emergency 24/7 reaction – all from local fundraising and undertaken entirely by volunteers.
We base our work on our solid constitution, which is to PREVENT, EDUCATE, and RESPOND.
Our main aim is to sterilise animals. In order for pet owners to qualify for our assistance, they have to undertake to have their pet sterilised. This aids in limiting the cruelty associated with unwanted pets, stray animals, and sickness and health problems of animals. We have a high percentage of community buy-in and a large portion of the community have their animals sterilised by us. Part of our work is to stop backyard breeders who breed to make money, usually in terrible conditions.
We’ve been amazed by the fact that more and more locals bring their pets to the steri-days (sometimes up to 24 on a given day!), and the knowledge that fewer unwanted puppies and kittens will need to struggle for their livelihoods is great.
Our area isn’t a grasslands area, with limited grazing potential. In addition, we’re far from main centres, so buying in food stock is expensive. The outcome of this is that we have livestock owners within our community who own a couple of sheep, pigs, chickens or cows. Our job is to educate to enable sustainable, good animal care and competent livestock handling/husbandry – taking into account owners have low incomes and limited medication for their livestock.
In addition, we run a programme to educate both youngsters and adults to raise awareness on the importance of looking after animals. This includes story-telling, lectures, practicals and workbooks that are handed out for children to do relevant activities. Programmes are carried out at our local schools, after-school care centres and with farm visits. Practical skills are shown in, for example, how to handle animals and building and providing relevant housing for the animals from used and handy free items.
We work in at least two languages, and with children and adults. We also learn ourselves – more about raising abandoned owlets, more about village members’ concerns and hopes for their animals, more about the well-being, names, health and unique exuberance of McGregor animals.
We do, unfortunately, have our nasty cases of cruelty to animals, which result in emergency action. Some of these result in court cases, which Welfare Officer Del Jones tirelessly follows through on. Thankfully, this is a smaller percentage of our work (around 2 to 3 per cent of cases). We also respond to calls from the community about sick animals or underfed animals. Sometimes this involves rehoming animals, or repeated visits to owners to ensure they’re learning to care for their animals.
In addition to responding to the needs of domestic animals, we also take care of wild animals in distress. For example, we have raised owls and released them when they’re old enough, and we’ve nursed birds back to health who’ve been hit by cars.
This is the least planned of our work. Emergencies can crop up at any time, and often place a lot of demand on Del – who works as our extraordinary vet practitioner – and on volunteers’ cars, insights, strength and time. Each story is different, and not all have happy endings, but no call goes unanswered.
We’re always very grateful to receive:
Account name: Friends of CARE
Account No: 2011281334 (savings)
Branch name: Robertson
Brand No: 198765
Swift code: NEDSZA JJ
Friends of CARE NPO: 205-517
Friends of CARE PBO: 930 035 696