CLAW’s vets rely on their hands to help dogs


Morning at the medical/surgery operation of Community Led Animal Welfare (CLAW), currently located in Krugersdorp, leaves one image burned on your brain: a blur of busy hands. Hands running over fur, hands lifting lips to check gums, hands steadying a scared animal, hands counting out medication, hands wielding syringes and thermometers, hands wrapped around tiny puppy bodies…

First thing in the morning, vet Dr Saskia Karius and veterinary nurse Sister Angela Voyiatzakis do ‘ward rounds’ and make decisions about whether an animal can go home or what further treatment is required (on this morning, vet nurse and CLAW veteran Jennifer Gerner is away, fixing tyres on one of the essential CLAW trucks).

Then another CLAW truck arrives; CLAW’s long-term employee, Danile Sifaya, hops out and discusses the animals he’s brought for assessment or treatment with Saskia.

And then the business ramps up several notches; CLAW employee Themba Buthelezi, whose confident hands show how good he is with animals, brings the animals in one by one for treatment. The staff work together like clockwork: temperatures and other vital signs get checked and recorded, drips are inserted, injections given, decisions made.

One of the most common problems is biliary, the tick-borne disease that plagues township animals and is deadly if treatment is not initiated in time. This is where CLAW’s mobile outreach, the Durban Deep premises and the Krugersdorp medical team work together and complement each other: the mobile teams take tick and flea protection out to the township dogs, to ward off biliary, but they also pick up sick animals and bring them in for treatment.

Durban Deep treats sick animals brought in, but also refers animals that need the hand of a veterinarian to the Krugersdorp surgery.

All CLAW’s people know the dangerous significance of a lethargic dog with pale gums the colour of old ivory, and yellow whites to the eyes! Together, the CLAW team manages to save many, many lives from this nasty disease.

Another common problem is gastro-intestinal disorders. A parade of sick puppies passes through the hands of Saskia, Themba and Angela today, little ones whose innards are upset because they’re not getting the right nutrition. “Pap (maize meal porridge) and gravy is just not enough,” Saskia says. This problem is likely to loom even larger with food prices soaring.

Gastro-intestinal disease might also be the result of a bug of one kind or another, something which affects a number of older animals too.

This morning, there’s only one serious injury to attend to, a dog on whom Saskia recently operated to remove an embedded chain. The wound is clean and healing nicely, and the dog’s eyes are clear and happy.

The public can come to the Krugersdorp premises too, so Sr Angela leaves the surgery to attend to some walk-ins. She comes back beaming.

“There’s an example of how education works!” she says. A man called Thabang has brought his two dogs for vaccinations and a check-up. “They’ve come to CLAW since they were puppies,” he says. “The people here told me what to feed them and how they must get their vaccinations regularly.” It shows: his two big dogs are a glowing picture of health.

Education, mobile outreach, clinical care: each hands-on aspect of CLAW’s work is a vital ingredient. The better they work together, the greater the impact.



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Senior Program Advisor
Senior Program Advisor
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