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Rescue guru

“I remember many years ago I held a pug puppy and said, ‘One day I want a hundred pugs
running around my home,’” says Cheryl Gaw, president of Pug Rescue SA … and the universe listened. We caught up with Cheryl, surrounded by her furry friends, at her home in Benoni.

Pug Rescue SA was started 11 years ago. Cheryl’s journey in animal welfare started when she found a stray pug one day. She eventually found the owners, just to find out why they were no longer able to care for the dog.

From there the number of stray pugs increased and eventually Cheryl and her husband, Malcolm, decided to purchase a larger property in Agricultural Holdings, where they offer sanctuary to more than 140 animals on any given day. They rescue, rehabilitate, re-home and offer sanctuary to pugs in need.

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Her love for animals has given rise to another project that lies close to her heart.

Five years ago, Cheryl started to provide veterinary care to animals in Daveyton every two weeks.

“There are no veterinary facilities in townships, and if an animal is ill they are not allowed to be transported in taxis,” she states.

Her dream is to build the Thanda Inja Animal Welfare Hospital in Benoni as well as to register a mobile clinic to provide veterinary care in a larger geographical area of communities in need.

A property has been identified to accommodate the hospital and the mobile clinic.

“Once we have the hospital up and running, we plan to start with enterprise development by manufacturing dog and cat care items. We want to upskill individuals in the township to offer basic animal care, such as grooming, dipping, nail clipping and de-worming,” she says.

You love dogs. Where and when did your passion start and can you remember your first dog?

I always cared about animals, but I was too busy raising a child and building a career to really own a dog and care for it properly. If you told me 15 years ago that I would be surrounded by animal welfare, I would have said you have the wrong girl!

Which incident led you to get involved with the rescue and welfare of animals?

I was a very materialistic individual. It was all about what I looked like, where I lived and what car I drove. Sixteen years ago my 58-year-old mother was diagnosed with cancer. From diagnosis to death it took four and a half months. I then started taking stock of my life and realised that no matter what you own and how much money you have, when
the chips are down with your health or the health of your loved ones, your money, fancy house and car are of no value. This is when I started getting involved in charitable events with people.

How many pet animals do you have at home?

I personally own eight rescue dogs of which I have pugs (naturally), a German shepherd, a spaniel, a shepherd-cross, a Scottie-cross and a Saint Bernard. I am also owned by a cat! At any given time, due to Pug Rescue, I am accountable for on average 165 dogs, three cats, a bunny and two chickens.

Is rescuing animals an obsession with you?

I will say it has become an obsession. I gave up a beautiful home and a lucrative career to help animals in need. I am often asked why I don’t help humans. I do indirectly. Humans have a voice and often they have a choice – they can ask for help and there are many centres out there offering help. An animal has no voice and, sadly, never has a choice and they cannot ask for help.

How did the Thanda Inja project start off in Daveyton?

Five years ago I was at the vet when I saw two young guys walk in with a sick dog. I started chatting to them. They had walked all the way from Daveyton on the Etwatwa side to Benoni to seek help for their dog, but they had no money. Pug Rescue then offered to pay the bill. When we returned the dog, we realised that there is a major need for an intervention. We partnered with a private-practice veterinarian and the Gauteng Department of Agriculture. We are so grateful to all the veterinarians who support us so selflessly.

Do you need volunteers?

We are desperate to get volunteers on board to assist us with fund-raising. We run on an extremely low staff complement. We don’t even have admin support and have to do it after hours.

How can Get It readers assist you in making the hospital a reality?

We have a fund-raising activity at the moment where for a R250 donation you do a virtual investment in a square metre of land for the hospital. Please share this initiative with friends and family who can maybe purchase a square metre. Anyone who has a lead to who we can present our Thanda Inja Hospital project to, can contact us.

Details: Contact Cheryl by email: [email protected]

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