Taming South African challenges means accepting long days

South African puppies in the Soweto district.The International Fund for Animal Welfare CLAW project has been lauded on many occasions for their daily efforts to improve the lives of both animals and people living in Soweto and surrounding areas...and rightly so, as the work carried out by the team of dedicated staff often times goes way beyond their "job descriptions".

It is not out of the ordinary for many of them to start their day before 06h00 in the morning and climb into bed after midnight. This dedication has become a way of life for them, placing the welfare of people and animals in desperate need of assistance first and foremost on their agendas.

Just yesterday morning I received a call from Cora Bailey, Director of CLAW, at 08h00 am. She was calling from a small town called Poortjie, located about an hour's travel by road from where the clinic is located. Cora was already headed back to the clinic.

Cora and her team have found a way to deal with many challenges, problems or issues they face over the years. I personally like the word challenge in place of the words "problem" or "issue" which can sometimes make one feel overwhelmed by the enormity of the problem or situation.

Challenge is described in the dictionary "as a call or summons to engage in any contest, as of skill, strength, etc., something that by its nature or character serves as a call to battle, contest, requiring special effort", the latter I believe being the most accurate in this instance. The challenge for in this instance CLAW being the continued illegal and indiscriminate sale of Aldicarb, an organophosphate traditionally used by farmers to prevent insects eating crops…Unfortunately in this instance Aldicarb doubles as a rat poison which is freely available at any taxi rank.

The lack of sanitation in the townships has caused a horrific rat problem. Ordinary rat poison is costly and township residents purchase Aldicarb from hawkers at R10 - 15 a packet.

It certainly takes an enormous amount of special effort and perseverance to continue to fight the challenge of having this poison permanently removed from the streets of Soweto; the domino effects of which results in the deaths of hundreds of dogs each month.

In one week alone, twenty animal victims of Aldicarb poisoning were admitted to CLAW. The cost of treatment together with the time and effort put in by staff in assisting these victims are way beyond what they should be. Money, time and effort which could well be used on focusing on other challenges.

Many puppies are left orphaned after their mothers ingest the poison by accident or are fed it intentionally. Some fortunate victims will be reached in time, with many of their owners making CLAW their first port of call.

For these lucky victims, their lives will be spared but for many, the effects of the poison are too much for the body to cope with and a long, agonising death is the result. A death which is traumatic in itself for an adult to witness but in many cases, very young children are having to witness the death of their beloved dog or cat. The pups in this image were left orphaned.

To this end, CLAW is working in close collaboration with the local police services and crime intelligence units, attending numerous meetings focusing on this issue. Progress is slow but inroads are being made. Until this challenge can be overcome and, hopefully, one day be called a victory for animals, CLAW will continue to battle, contest and put special effort into getting Aldicarb permanently off the streets.

-- LCH

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Cynthia Milburn, Director, Animal Welfare Outreach & Education
Senior Advisor, Policy Development
Jan Hannah, Campaign Manager, Northern Dogs Project
Campaign Manager, Northern Dogs Project
Kate Nattrass Atema, Program Director, Community Animal Welfare
Program Director, Community Animal Welfare
Shannon Walajtys
Manager, Animal Rescue-Disasters