Kennel Manager Tracy van der Byl with boss cat Oscar and rescue dog Antonio
Written by Heather Pieterse, volunteer at PAWS
PAWS was started in 2002 when a group of like-minded individuals realised that it was impossible for the Knysna Animal Welfare Society to efficiently cover the area from Sedgefield to Nature’s Valley.
PAWS started off operating from the back of a bakkie, using the two municipal dog kennels as a pound area. With a container as an office and simple alterations to an old reservoir area, we could impound larger animals. However, due to problems that included frequent burglaries, theft of the animals and threats to our inspector and his assistant, we moved from the area and continued to work only from the bakkie.
A fundraising committee (PAWS Premises Project – PPP) was set up, and finally our own kennel facility on the N2 outside Plettenberg Bay was opened in 2013. Here PAWS’ kennel manager Tracy van der Byl and inspector Robert Ruiters have a base from which to operate effectively and can ensure the well-being and safety of our animals, facilitate adoptions and welcome visitors. We have fenced a piece of rented land adjoining our kennels which, once cleared, will have various uses, including dog walking, PAWS open days and other events.
PAWS’ aim is to prevent cruelty to dogs and cats of the entire Bitou area, covering nearly 1000 square kilometres. Control of the pet population is paramount. This includes ongoing sterilisation at vets and through our occasional community spay days. Underprivileged animals suffer from inadequate nutrition, water, shelter and safety; most are neither sterilised nor inoculated and suffer from parasitic infestations; a few who are injured or ill receive veterinary attention. We provide primary care for the animals; control of the dog and cat population through sterilisation; rehabilitation and rehoming of dogs and cats; and education of the community in humane animal care. We trap, neuter and vaccinate feral cats. As PAWS has no vet, we refer sick and wounded animals and those requiring sterilisation to local vets. Currently our bills from vets amounts to around R70,000 monthly.
Our inspector visits the townships weekly to treat for ticks and fleas, deworm the animals, and to educate owners in the proper care of their pets. These visits also provide the opportunity for owners to bring their unwanted animals to our inspector and for him to find out about animals needing veterinary attention or rescue from cruel or negligent owners. With Bitou law enforcement’s assistance we remove animals when cruelty is proved and lay charges when warranted.
We have a small adoption facility where we house adoptable animals that have been found or surrendered. Some animals are kept and cared for by our foster mothers in their homes. All animals put up for adoption are sterilised, microchipped and vaccinated. The adoption fee of R650 per dog and R500 per cat covers just a fraction of the cost of surgery, care and accommodation.
Our education programme in Bitou schools includes the distribution of leaflets on pet care (and plans for workbooks in the schools from the Humane Education Trust, once funding has been obtained), as well as collaboration with Lunchbox Theatre, whom we pay to present a play called “The Life of a Dog” at schools, teaching proper pet care.
Our funding comes entirely from our fundraising efforts, our charity shop and public donations. We receive nothing from government at any level. Articles in local newspapers and fundraising events throughout the year keep us in touch with the public, without whom, together with our volunteers, we’d be unable to help the animals of Bitou.