Celebrating years of selfless service to uMngeni SPCA

Horace Vilakazi and Anne Smith with the beautifully hand painted plaque that holds pride of place next to Anne’s bench in our Gardener’s Corner.

Horace Vilakazi and Anne Smith with the beautifully hand painted plaque that holds pride of place next to Anne’s bench in our Gardener’s Corner.

The uMngeni SPCA recently held an informal tea to honour and thank the very special volunteers that work at our SPCA Centre and have been selflessly serving our Society for many, many years.

Anne Smith has been the driving force behind establishing our Gardeners’ Corner, firstly at Campbell Road and later at our Fundraising Centre in Main Street, Howick. She has been with us through thick and thin, planning, executing and running our highly successful plant nursery. Anne not only plants from other nurseries at very special prices, but she also goes to Kloof SPCA to fetch loads of plants donated from their nursery and she also pots out slips, cuttings, divisions of huge matted plants and other material that is kindly donated by gardeners. Whatever else she does with her magic wand to produce the huge stock of fine plants, seedlings, shrubs and trees to sell at competitive prices, I wouldn’t know, but the measure of her success is in the band of loyal supporters who always look for their garden needs at the SPCA Centre before they even think of going anywhere else.

Anne was honoured for her years of dedicated service with a magnificent hand painted plaque and a lovely stone bench that will now hold pride of place in our Gardeners Corner and be known as “Anne’s Nook.” Horace Vilakazi, a valued member of our team and Anne’s right hand man was also thanked for his loyal service.

The tea also served to thank other very special volunteers that have done so much to allow our Society to flourish under difficult economic circumstances and other trying times. They have dedicated hours and hours of their personal time, to our SPCA, showing only care, concern and love for the animals that we are dedicated to helping. Their smiles and happy banter whenever they are around make them an absolute pleasure to work with every day.

Jenny Rooken-Smith, who lovingly takes care of our book section of the SPCA was also honoured with a beautiful wooden plaque. Her room where she sorts out all the many books we receive, will now be known as the “Jenny Rooken-Smith Room.” It is not an easy task maintaining, sorting and arranging the collection of books, yet Jenny does it with complete ease and care.

The other key volunteers that help and take care of our SPCA Centre, were all thanked with an exquisite hand painted plaque that holds pride of place in our reception area at the SPCA centre. It reads “This plaque commemorates all the many hours that so many caring people spend assisting our SPCA, each in their own special way.”

Thank you to each and every person that volunteers to assist us with stamping out neglect, abuse and cruelty to animals.

Please note that our Howick SPCA retail shop that was located in the Spar Centre in Harvard Street has moved to 10 Main Street in Howick, opposite Capitec Bank. There is ample parking available behind the building.

Until next time, take care.

Tess Fernandez, PRO for uMngeni SPCA

Easter No-No for your Pets

easterThe Easter weekend is nearly upon us and it is a joyful time for many folk to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ. For most of us, the Easter bunny visits too, with lots of delicious, if not calorie conscious, treats of chocolate delights and candy in all shapes and colours.  Easter egg hunts have our kids running madly around the garden in search of hidden brightly coloured wrappers of scrumptious chocolate bunnies.

Whilst we humans, can wolf down as many chocolate treats as we like (in fact, recent studies have shown that chocolate can be beneficial to human health, in moderation of course), please spare a thought for your furry family members.  Chocolate can be highly toxic for animals, and sometimes even fatal for them. Dogs are most commonly affected; due to their ability to find it and the common “sweet tooth” they seem to have. It is important to remember that cats and other animals are susceptible to the toxic effects of chocolate too.

What makes chocolate so toxic for animals, you ask? Well, it is made from the fruit beans of the cacao tree and Theobromine, a component of chocolate is a toxic compound in chocolate. Caffeine is also present in chocolate and a toxic component too, but in much smaller amounts than Theobromine.   The effects of both Theobromine and Caffeine in an animal include nausea and vomiting, an increase in blood pressure, cardiovascular problems and their Central Nervous System being highly stimulated.

The reason why chocolate is not toxic to humans is because humans are able to break down and excrete Theobromine much more efficiently than animals, especially dogs. Bear in mind that Bakers chocolate is the most toxic type of chocolate, containing 8 – 10 times the amount of Theobromine than milk chocolate. White chocolate is the least toxic type of chocolate but in no way does this mean it is safe for animal consumption.

So, if you are thinking that giving a piece of “harmless” chocolate to your pet over the Easter period, will not cause any problems, please be warned. Rather give your treasured pet a chewy toy or a raw hide chew instead. They will be equally grateful and in fact, enjoy your healthy and safe choice for a lot longer.

We would like to wish you and your families (including your beloved pets) a very Happy Easter. May it be a safe and blessed celebration.

Until next time, take care.

Tess Fernandez, PRO for uMngeni SPCA

Pigs Don’t Deserve to Suffer

BBJemhobUTgfahi-556x313-noPadThese Sows are commonly raised as livestock by farmers for meat in intensive systems where they are denied freedom of movement, deprived of natural behaviour to interact with others of their kind and have no opportunities to forage and root.  A pregnant sow will be kept in a sow crate for the greater part of her gestation period – 107 days. A sow crate is a metal crate usually with a bare floor, which is so narrow that the sow cannot turn around and can only stand up and lie down with difficulty.

We know and accept that these animals are being raised for food. As an animal welfare organisation the National Council of SPCAs and all SPCA’s believes that animals should be treated humanely while they are on the farm, while they are transported and when they are slaughtered.

Compassionate choices are a critical step toward improving the welfare of pigs in South Africa.

Pigs are incredibly intelligent and learn quickly. They pick up tricks faster than dogs. They rank 4th in animal intelligence behind Chimpanzees, dolphins and elephants. Piglets learn their names by two to three weeks of age and respond when called. They are well aware of their living circumstances and know that the crates within which they “live” is cruel and inhumane. They are very social animals and form close bonds with each other and other species.

Contrary to popular belief pigs are naturally very clean animals, keeping their ablutions far away from their living and eating area. They cannot, in any which way or form, do this when they are kept in a sow crate. It goes against everything they are predisposed to do, from birth. As well as the fact that they cannot roll around in the mud to cool their skin or keep their skin protected from the sun (the dried mud protects them against the sun), they cannot even huddle together to sleep, which they also love to do.

SPCA promotes the following Five Freedoms for all animals:-

  1. Freedom from thirst, hunger and malnutrition
  2. Freedom from discomfort
  3. Freedom from pain, injury or disease
  4. Freedom to express normal behaviour
  5. Freedom from fear and distress

And a sixth one for inherently wild animals – the Freedom to be free.

Together, we have the power to make enormous changes in the lives of pigs by asking the pork industry to get rid of sow crates for good, by sending a powerful message that we expect that only humanely raised pork products are sold in South Africa.  If you would like to sign the petition saying NO to Sows in crates, please go to www.nspca.co.za  and pledge your support.  Isn’t it time to care about those who make the bacon?

Until next time, take care

Tess Fernandez, PRO for uMngeni SPCA

Moms and Babies


One morning some weeks ago when we opened up our Drop Zone we found a Rottweiler cross with her three very sick puppies.   Sadly none of the puppies survived but their mother, soon named Cassidy, was such a sweet natured dog that we were absolutely sure we would find her a loving home once she had been restored to full health.   Cassidy was so gentle and trusting that she unflinchingly donated her blood when it was needed to save the lives of other desperately sick dogs both at the vets and at the SPCA.   Cassidy duly moved up to Adoptions and caught the eye of a young couple, Shannon and James Pickering, who wanted a strong and active farm dog who would also be gentle and safe with their two year old daughter Amber.   Could Cassidy be all those things?   Yes, she soon proved that she was all that they had wanted and more – she also plays soccer with James and goes swimming with the family and even tries her paws at boogie boarding!   What a perfect home for Cassidy.

If she sometimes looked a little wistful it may have been that she was remembering her three pups who didn’t make it.   Her new owners returned to the SPCA to find her a playmate and what better choice than a young male pup with his own story to tell.

A short while back a lady giving a lift home to her gardener had seen a heavily pregnant German Shepherd type dog come to greet him.   The anxious lady phoned the uMngeni SPCA to ask what could be done about the dog.   When the SPCA team visited the owner a few days later he said that his bitch had already whelped but he didn’t know where she had hidden the puppies.   Local children were asked to keep a careful eye on where she went and the next day the children led the team over a field, into some woodland where, in a hollowed out tree stump, they discovered her den.   Finding it was one thing, getting the puppies out was quite another.   Very careful digging with spades, sticks and bare hands finally yielded three healthy young pups.   The whole family was taken to the SPCA where the puppies were raised by their mother until they were weaned.  Mum was then spayed and returned to her delighted owner and the pups were all put up for adoption.

The Pickering family, looking for a companion for Cassidy, fell in love with the little male puppy from this litter, adopted him and named him Gigabyte.    Cassidy just adores her adopted son and the two of them gambol and play in their idyllic new home.   Little Amber Pickering now has two devoted canine guardians and playmates to grow up with.   Gigabyte’s two litter sisters won’t be looking for homes for long – they are beautiful puppies who will also make lovely family pets.

Heather Somerville, PRO, uMngeni SPCA

Beloved Old Pet Dog Missing with Stolen Car

chichiKnight Force recently issued a warning about an increase in vehicle theft in the Howick and Merrivale areas.   Howick school teacher Bev Macadam can vouch for that but with a bitter twist.   Bev had recently returned from an overseas trip and was delighted that her aged pets were well and very happy to see her back.   The other animals could celebrate Bev’s return with a game, a walk or a wander around the garden but Bev felt that eighteen year old Chihuahua, Chichi, would really love a trip to the supermarket as her special treat.   Bev parked her 1985 Honda Ballard at Fairways and popped into the supermarket for ten minutes.   When she came out she was horrified to find her car had vanished, with little Chichi on the back seat.     Late into that Friday evening friends drove Bev all around Howick looking, not for the car, but for the little dog.   She started again first thing on Saturday, including a visit to the uMngeni SPCA with a picture of Chichi which was immediately put up on the board.   Bev was absolutely distraught and she described how the little dog was deaf, blind, practically toothless and was on heart medication.   What would become of her – she was utterly helpless?   Everyone she spoke to was very sympathetic but secretly held out virtually no hope of ever finding Chichi alive – or dead.

Earlier that Saturday morning one of the SPCA Field Officers was sent out to collect some dogs as well as a stray from Umgeni Vets in Hilton.   When he returned with the dogs Kennel Manager, Jean Faulds, who had just seen Chichi’s picture, took one look at the little one and shrieked with excitement.   The phone was ringing as Bev got home, “Come back, we’ve got your dog!”    Five minutes later at the SPCA tears of anguish changed to tears of joy as Bev hugged Chichi close.
Hilton resident, Jenny Brann, had spotted the little dog making her uncertain way along Vlei Road early on Saturday morning.   When she saw her again on her return trip she knew something was definitely wrong and stopped to pick her up.   She could tell immediately that the little dog was blind and after giving her a drink she took her to Dr Lee Pachonic’s surgery hoping she might be able to identify her.   The vet didn’t recognise the dog but immediately rang the SPCA and asked for someone to come and collect her.

Against all odds Bev got her precious pet back.  Could those car thieves have felt some compassion for the little dog in the back?   Did they slow down or stop the car and gently push her out?   She was not injured.   How did she escape being run over by a vehicle at some time during Friday night and early Saturday morning?   What incredible luck!  Some, including Bev, would call it a miracle.

With that warm glow in your heart do make a note to join us for a special Valentines Tea on Saturday 12th February between 9 and 12 at the SPCA Centre, 39 Main St, Howick.

Heather Somerville, PRO, uMngeni SPCA

SPCA Helps Funda Nenja Township Dogs

fundaLast week the volunteers from Funda Nenja, the township dog training initiative in Mpophomeni, brought a little sick puppy named Danger in to the uMngeni SPCA.   His young owner had given them his house number but couldn’t remember his phone number.   Thankfully, with care and treatment Danger recovered but when our Field Officer tried to return him there was no such house number.  Luckily the boy came to training this week to ask about his puppy.   Inspector Dudu Abraham and Field Assistant Dingaan Tshabalala immediately popped Danger into their vehicle and took him out to the training venue at Zamathuli School.   By the time they arrived there was a queue of dogs waiting for SPCA assistance.   One tan bitch had just weaned pups and her owners no longer wanted her, they only kept a puppy, one dog had a suspected broken leg and another pup was obviously seriously ill.   There was also a line of dogs waiting to have muthi put on their ears, some so badly bitten by flies that they had open bleeding sores.  The training classes are full of young puppies and several bitches were clearly pregnant underlining the desperate need for constant sterilisation drives to keep numbers under control.   SPCA is all about prevention of cruelty and sterilisation is prevention at a primary level.    We already have an impressive record for outreach work, including 100 sterilisations in January alone.   With additional resources made possible by public donations we can do even more.  We have the passion and the expertise to drive it.   We just need the funds!     Please mark any donations for this sterilisation campaign accordingly.   Thank you.

Our animal shelter in Campbell Road has been inundated with animals for the last couple of months.   Fortunately we have also done exceptionally well with our adoptions but our facilities are still very full.   Due to seasonal factory and supplier shut downs we have found our major donations of food have fallen off and consequently our stocks have run very low.   This obviously means that we are having to go out and buy pet food at normal retail prices.   This time of year is what we call “kitten and puppy season” with little bundles of joy in every available space so we are appealing for donations of dry or soft food particularly for puppies and kittens.

In just ten days time we will be celebrating Valentine’s Day:  time to show our love, not just for our romantic sweethearts, but also for our soul mates, best friends and companions including of course our beloved pets.  The uMngeni SPCA will be holding its annual Valentine’s Day Tea at the Centre, 39 Main Street, Howick on Saturday 12th February.   We do hope you will join us for tea/coffee and delicious homemade eats anytime between 9 and 12.   Bring a friend (two- or four-legged!) and be spoiled on this special occasion.   Valentine’s Day is about hearts, roses and beautiful poems so spend the morning browsing through our wonderful selection of roses and other plants as well as our fully stocked shelves of books to suit all tastes including the romantic and poetic.

Heather Somerville, PRO, uMngeni SPCA

A Honeyed Tail

honeyBy Bronwen Bickerton

It all started at 2.30pm on a Thursday when Tony Lidgett drove his domestic down to the taxi ranks in town. When he arrived back at The Chimes in Plant Road at around 3pm, Honey, the Lidgett’s beloved golden Africanis, was nowhere to be seen. Tony’s wife, Jill, could not remember when she last saw Honey. And so the search began. All four single semi-detached units in the Lidgett’s complex were checked. Jill called the SPCA kennels in desperation at around 3.45pm and left her details.

As Honey is not a wanderer and always returns to the garden gate if she accidentally gets out into Plant Road, Tony and Jill ruled out various options. Nevertheless, convinced that her Honey had come to a nasty end, Jill broke down in tears, walking up and down Plant Road and sobbing Honey’s name. For a dog which slept on their bed every night, had her own blanket and pillow on the sofa, and was always at one’s feet, gentle Honey’s disappearance was mysterious!
Tony checked the nearby Scout Hall, where they often took Honey for walks, and also drove back to the taxi ranks, on the chance that Honey had followed his car. Even the neighbours’ search efforts were commandeered! The house seemed empty without the loving Africanis playing fetch with her tennis ball, following Jill or Tony from room to room, or rolling over on the sofa for a ‘tummy tickle’.

Then, at 5.30pm, Jill glanced yet again out to the road, and there was their beautiful Honey, dragging a lady along on the end of a lead, and emitting high-pitched squeaks as she sensed home!

Honey’s adventure started when she did indeed slip out of the closing automatic gate and follow Tony’s car when he left at 2.30pm. Having no chance of keeping up, she wandered the surrounding roads, lost her way, and was discovered shivering on a dirt road by Leslie Robinson outside her Abergavny unit in Teviot Place. After calling the SPCA to collect Honey, Leslie put a lead on the obviously disorientated and confused dog, before waiting in the road for the SPCA van. Then an African man walking past said, “That dog belongs to Miss Jill at No.4 Plant Road!”

Jill and Tony Lidgett had indeed lived in No 4 Plant Road but in April 2010 had moved to No 1! Jill used to give tins of baked beans to passers-by asking for food and she said that the gentleman could have remembered Honey from then! Anxious to return Honey to her owners, Leslie, after failing to coax Honey into her car, walked to Plant Road. The watchful Lidgetts saw Honey being led past their gate and rushed out to a joyous reunion. Thanks to a very caring member of the public and a helpful passing gentleman with an amazing memory there was a happy ending to Honey’s 3 hour afternoon adventure!

Valentines Day and Our Own Elves

Instilling a philosophy of compassion towards all living beings is the very foundation of prevention of cruelty.   People who don’t know any better cannot be expected to treat animals humanely.   It is our experience that many people who learn that animals have feelings just like ours and should not be subjected to inhumane treatment are more than willing to change the way they look after their animals; they want to do the right thing once they know what that is.   It is all about education.

Pre-Primary Schools:  Last year we visited many of the pre-primary schools in and around Howick.

Primary Schools:   Children of Primary School age are considered to be the best subjects and we would dearly love to have a programme in place that can reach all those primary school youngsters in our area.   Such an enormous task needs to be tackled one step at a time.

High Schools: We find it difficult to fit into the extremely busy timetables of High Schools and so prefer to concentrate on Primary School children.

Last year we had several visits from school parties to our Animal Shelter in Campbell Road, Howick.

Adult Education:  This is tackled by our Field Officers on a one-on-one basis during the course of their work.   Our outreach clinics held several times a year also give us the opportunity for education to large groups of animal owners.

Much, much more needs to be done and with recent assistance from Lotto we will grow this vital part of our organization.

Education is a very long term project but it is absolutely essential to the welfare of the animals of the future.

[nggallery id=3]


Maggi Speed Retires

maggiefarewellSome people just never seem to get any older and you expect them to go on forever but sooner or later we all need to face the reality that we will need to retire from full time employment at some stage.   Maggi Speed, who is so well known to all our SPCA supporters and also within the larger community of Howick and Hilton, came to this realisation a couple of months ago and informed her “boss” Retail Manager, Gunter Oellermann, that she would be retiring at the end of February.

An extremely well attended farewell party was held for Maggi last week.  I was asked to say a few words as I had known Maggi longer than most.   Maggi was on the Committee of the Howick SPCA when I first became involved 16 years ago.   She asked me to take a couple of hour’s stint on a white elephant stall at the Lions Fair.   Maggi and Basil ran the stall and it was obvious that they were both in their element.  Then, in mid 1996, Maggi together with Colleen Hughes was one of the instigators of the emergency public meeting that was called to draw attention to the dire situation the SPCA was in.  The SPCA was being kept going by a handful of staunch volunteers, most of whom had full time jobs, and the coffers had run dry.   Money was owed to the vets and there was not enough cash even to buy animal food.  This serious situation was outlined to the meeting and the question was posed – would the Howick SPCA have to close its doors or could it be saved?

The “think tank” came up with many suggestions to turn the situation around one of which was to open a charity shop.   We were offered shop premises in Bell Street, rent free for two months, and we decided to give it a go.   Flyers and posters went out calling for donations of goods and we were soon in business.   Maggi was the prime mover and her flair for sales was put to good use as we all got into a routine.   Our shop moved premises many times, always growing, and Maggi was the kingpin.   When we opened our second shop in Hilton, Maggi was the one who set it up and got it on its feet until we employed our first Shop Manager.  Later she was at it again, this time as a fully employed Shop Manager, setting up the spacious and popular Merrivale shop.   This one she refers to as her “baby”.

”I want to be able to spend more time with my family helping with our business at Alleman’s Drift” says Maggi.  Fortunately she will not be totally lost to us as we will still see her and Basil around Howick and we know she will always be ready to help wherever and whenever we need her.   She has a wealth of knowledge of all aspects of the SPCA, including the Animal Shelter where she worked for a while as Receptionist, all the different committees and of course, her forté, the Retail side.   There is no doubt about it, Maggi Speed set this SPCA on a course that not only turned it around but also developed a highly successful Retail component to keep us afloat.

Heather Somerville, PRO, uMngeni SPCA

Wild Animals Belong in the Wild

Nambiti Single cheetahHaving just had family visiting from UK we needed to find them some big game without travelling all the way to the Kruger or Zululand.   We’d heard about a private “Big Five” Game Reserve just outside Ladysmith.   We sincerely hoped that the big cats weren’t in small camps inside the main park as they are in the Lion Park at Ashburton and there was only one way to find out.   Having decided that what we would save in time and travelling costs we could put towards the seemingly expensive price tag we went ahead and booked three nights at Lions Rock Private Game Lodge within the Nambiti Private Game Reserve.   What a lovely time we had; worth every penny, and just up the road.

The park is rolling, rugged, grassland with bushy gorges, a river and plenty of dams.   The area of open plains reminded us of the Masai Mara in Kenya with a variety of plains game keeping a careful look out for the lions and cheetah that, after all, have to eat.   In a wetland area we saw pairs of blue cranes, crowned cranes and secretary birds and many other lovely birds including a first for us, a golden bishop.

On our first evening game drive our ranger took us to find the elephants.   We could hear them trumpeting but they were in thick bush so we didn’t see them.   We all wondered what they were making so much noise about and our ranger said that he had previously heard them making a big fuss when a new baby was born.   Two days later we found the elephants with several calves of varying sizes including one brand new one.   We also had the thrill of following two lionesses moving at a steady trot on some mission or other.    We encountered the buffalo on several occasions, saw rhino and spent a long time following a coalition of three young male cheetahs striding through the waving yellow grass, finally climbing up a fallen tree to take a good look at the plains beyond.

These animals have ten thousand hectares to roam in, living, breeding and hunting as nature intended, in the wild.  No cages for them, no human contact and definitely no circus tricks.   The National Council of SPCAs has always advocated that “Wild Animals Belong in the Wild” and has just launched a campaign against wild animals performing in circuses.   The picture of a cute lion cub walking on a collar and lead begs the question “What is to become of that cub in the years ahead?”

The NSPCA Campaign, “Celebrate the Wildness of Wild Animals”, encourages people not to support circuses which have wild animal acts. Wild animals should not be subjected to the conditions of circus life, which involve forced transport, human handling, noise, trailer movement, confinement and crowds of people. “We do not believe that performing inappropriate and unnatural tricks in the name of entertainment fosters respect for wild animals. Wild animals belong in the wild! We invite you to join the many famous celebrities and individuals who have joined forces with us and signed the pledge “NOT TO SUPPORT WILD ANIMAL ACTS IN CIRCUSES” on the NSPCA website www.nspca.co.za”.

Heather Somerville, PRO, uMngeni SPCA

Meet the team

Njabula Hlongwane

Njabula HlongwaneNjabula is a Receptionist and a Trainee Inspector. He helps out at the front desk with general office work and assists Jean and Linda when needed. He has been with the uMngeni SPCA for 18 months and is our friendly man who always has a smile on his face when you meet him.

Follow us on Twitter

Lots of people talk to animals.... Not very many listen, though.... That's the problem. ~Benjamin Hoff, The Tao of Pooh

by uMngeni SPCA

We support ONLY the circuses that DO NOT use animals of any kind to entertain the crowds. The use of wild animals in Circus acts is inhumane

by uMngeni SPCA

did you know ~ Elephants weigh about 5000kg, cows can weigh around 4000 to 5000kg! Like humans, Ellies tend to be right handed.Clever Ellie!

by uMngeni SPCA

It's raining, it's pouring...keep your pets cosy and warm with a blanket or two and give them lots of cuddles! <3

by uMngeni SPCA

"Until one has loved an animal, a part of one's soul remains unawakened."

by uMngeni SPCA