“She had loving eyes and I could tell that she was a smart dog,” says Sandbaai resident, Marion da Silva, with her new companion, Zinzi by her side. Zinzi has clearly found her forever home, thanks to a ‘virtual adoption’ from the Hermanus Animal Welfare Society (HAWS).

Marion da Silva with Zinzi, the rescue dog she adopted ‘virtually’ from HAWS. On the wall is a portrait of Mister Stanley (Marion’s previous dog that sadly died in January) which she commissioned from local artist, Petrus Viljoen. PHOTO: Raphael da Silva

The lockdown necessitated a new adoption process that maintains social distancing, but still allows potential new owners to get to know the animals they are considering for adoption. “Because HAWS has been closed to the public since the start of the lockdown, very few adoptions were taking place,” says René Dewar of HAWS.

“Our staff members have continued taking care of the animals in our kennels and cattery, as well as feeding pets in the poorer communities and treating sick animals at the clinic. But with our charity shop closed, we have been struggling to survive financially and the adoptions almost came to a standstill. I knew I had to come up with a plan.”

René says she started looking at what animal welfare societies in countries similarly affected by the Coronavirus pandemic were doing in order to come up with a solution. “Before the lockdown we regularly had volunteers and members of the public on our premises, but we had to put a stop to that in order to curb the spread of the disease and to protect our staff,” she says.

Since implementing a virtual adoption process, however, the abandoned animals at HAWS have been given a new chance of finding a loving home. René explains that people looking for a cat or dog to adopt should contact HAWS telephonically and specify their preferences, following which photos or videos of potential candidates will be sent to them, either via email or WhatsApp. Information on animals available for adoption is also shared regularly on the Hermanus Animal Welfare Society Facebook page.

“Because we are no longer able to do home inspections during the lockdown, people interested in adopting also need to send us photos or videos of their home, which should have an enclosed yard in the case of dogs, and where the pet will be sleeping, for example. If there is already another dog or dogs on the premises, we also arrange a ‘meet and greet’ to see if they will get on with a new dog or cat.”

In Marion’s case, it was important for the dog to be cat-friendly, as it would be sharing its new home with a beloved cat called Zuzu. So the HAWS staff filmed Zinzi in the company of a few of their cats, and sent the video to Marion so that she could see how the dog interacts with cats. “It was important to me as my previous dog (Mister Stanley, who sadly died in January) and Zuzu had been very close. I was very happy to see that Zinzi had absolutely no problem with cats – and that was that.”

So although Marion only saw Zindzi with her own eyes for the first time when she arrived to collect her, all the necessary information had been shared and both parties had been satisfactorily vetted. “We follow quite a strict process,” says René, “but it’s important for us to know that the animal is going to a good home. We don’t want to be placing a ‘lockdown cat’ or a ‘lockdown dog’ now that people are forced to spend more time at home. What will happen to it when its owners have to return to work? An animal is a companion for life and not a commodity that can be returned.”

Please support HAWS by donating good quality, used winter clothes to their charity shop. Call 028 312 1281 to make arrangements for dropping off donations. Financial support is also urgently needed to enable HAWS to continue feeding their animals and those in the townships, to pay their dedicated staff’s salaries, and to buy medicines and supplies for emergency cases treated in their clinic. No matter how small the donation, it will make a big difference.

Bank details: Hermanus Animal Welfare Society, Standard Bank, Account no. 082 263 310, Branch code 050312, Reference: HELP. Donors can also use PayFast or the ‘Donate’ link on the website, www.hermanusanimalwelfare.co.za.

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