Cora Bailey, founder of CLAW, retires, but our work continues


Cora Bailey has helped thousands of animals since she founded Community Led Animal Welfare, or CLAW, in 1999.

Cora began CLAW to serve the companion animals of more than 1 million people living in South Africa’s townships. These communities were set up under the apartheid system – and residents had no access to veterinary medicine. Today, CLAW provides basic and emergency veterinary care, humane education, and community programs to meet the needs of animals — and their people — who would otherwise suffer.

Over the past 17 years, Cora has tirelessly helped animals in South Africa’s poorest neighbourhoods, and set up a much needed veterinary infrastructure.

Now she is taking a well-deserved rest.

CLAW’s relationship with IFAW began in Johannesburg, South Africa in the mid- 1990s. At the time, Cora’s NGO called PAW (Pet Animal Welfare) received an annual Pet Rescue Grant from IFAW. The name was later changed to “Community Led Animal Welfare,” which better describes the unique nature of the project. CLAW focused on not only providing animal welfare services, but working hand-in-hand with the desperately poor communities. Prior to CLAW, animal welfare services were based in upscale suburbs and had the perspective that if people could not adequately access care for a pet, they did not deserve to have one.

Cora’s approach vastly differed from the established perspective. She fought hard to break down institutional barriers, and provided animal health care services in some of the poorest communities. CLAW works in places where unemployment, hunger, disease and access to services like running water, electricity and sanitation are scarce. Ignoring the needs of the human owner while caring for their pets is simply not an option for us.

Cora’s mantra is “at the end of every leash there is an owner” – and it was the first time an animal welfare organization in South Africa took into account the need for every pet owner to experience human dignity and respect. Her conviction that people are a critical part of the animal welfare equation was an outlier at the time, and now we know it was visionary.

CLAW’s approach has improved the lives of over 40,000 animals and their people. Daily rounds of our vehicles rarely depart without parcels of nutritional food supplements in addition to the boxes of vaccines and deworming medication for dogs and cats.

Despite the years of riots and violence in their neighborhood, Cora and the CLAW staff have continued to serve their clients from a remote location. This September, they were finally able to move into a revitalized clinic. Cora, along with volunteers and staff, has worked tirelessly to support the animals and communities of Soweto – a testament to her determination and her inspirational leadership.

She also focused her efforts on children in the townships, understanding they are often the primary caretakers of both pets and younger siblings. In 2007, Cora offered to provide community service opportunities for youngsters who would have otherwise gone to jail for their crimes. The education and volunteering program was so successful that these children brought their friends, and the CLAW Kids’ Club was born. Every week, children walked for miles to join the program, where they and their pets received a healthy meal, learned about animals, and were able to get a good dose of adult mentorship.

Some of these children, inspired by CLAW’s message of compassion over violence, have gone on to work at CLAW and pursue higher education.

Compassion and care are the cornerstones of our CLAW project. Many of us at IFAW are privileged to experience first-hand the way CLAW changes lives, both animal and human. Cora’s contribution to her community, to animal welfare, and to IFAW cannot be overestimated.

I want to extend congratulations to Cora for 17 years of making a difference in the communities of CLAW and IFAW’s extensive worldwide community. She has inspired a generation of staff, supporters, and animal welfare advocates around the world who feel as though they know her, because they have been personally engaged and inspired to emulate the work she has done.

We know that, although Cora is officially retiring, she will never be far away from the work she began more than two decades ago. Work that is an integral part of IFAW’s story.


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