Mystery of the Missing Ming

mingTanya Ikin is known as the “cat lady” at the Dunlop rubber factory across the bridge on the southern side of the Umgeni River outside Howick.   Tanya is passionate about animals and has taken it on herself to feed and monitor the feral cat colony at the huge factory and she knows every one.   As part of the programme Tanya sets traps to catch those cats that have not yet been sterilised.  A couple of weeks ago one of the traps caught a cat which Tanya did not recognise.   It was a beautiful dark chocolate coloured oriental looking cat which was clearly not feral so she opened the trap and it promptly climbed onto her lap, purring and rubbing against her.   Where had it come from and how did it land up at the Dunlop factory?   The cat was thin and had obviously had a run in with some of the local cats so Tanya called the SPCA and Michael immediately came to collect it.

Linda at the SPCA scanned the cat for a microchip and got a reading but before phoning Identipet for the details she checked the Missing Animals Register and saw that a cat fitted with a chip and answering to the description had been reported missing from Bevdon Place, near the High School, a month before.   She called Mrs June Turner to come in and see if this was indeed her cat, Ming, which happily it was.

Ming, a beautiful pure bred Burmese loved to visit various folk in the Bevdon Place area, some in Elizabeth Gardens, others in Springfield Gardens and probably several more in the general vicinity.   Walls and weld mesh fences were no impediment to Ming who spent many sociable hours visiting her friends before returning home.   She was never gone for more than a few hours and was always pleased to come home and pass on the local gossip to the Turners.   Of course not all the neighbours welcomed Ming.   Some chased her away, but then not everyone appreciates uninvited guests, even an oriental queen.

Ming was obviously highly traumatised by her month long misadventure and has not dared to set foot outside since she came home.  So here’s the big question.   Where was Ming for over four weeks and how did she land up in the Dunlop factory with that rough crowd of feral cats?   Someone, other than Ming, probably knows the answer but Ming is remaining mum.

Heather Somerville, PRO, uMngeni SPCA

Noo Noo’s Brush with Death

noonooOne morning a couple of weeks ago when we arrived at work a lady was waiting at the gate with a little wire haired Jack Russel puppy which she had found on the side of the road. This poor little chap had obviously been hit by a car and was in great pain and shock.

We rushed him down to our veterinary clinic where he was given emergency treatment and stabilised. Closer examination revealed that his pelvis appeared to be severely damaged as he couldn’t put any weight on his back legs. We were sure that his owner would be in to claim him shortly so he was made comfortable with pain medication while we waited. As his pain came under control his lovely personality became obvious. He really was the most delightful little dog.

Unfortunately after 2 days still no one had come to claim him. We had to find out exactly what was going on in his pelvis. He was taken to the Hilton Veterinary Hospital where a full set of digital x – rays revealed the extent of the damage. These x – rays were done for a nominal fee and we are most grateful to the Hilton Veterinary Hospital for assisting the SPCA by offering this service.

By this time Noo Noo, as we had named him, had stolen our hearts and we decided that we would go ahead with the necessary surgery and if his owner had not claimed him within the statutory 5-day pound period we would put Noo Noo up for adoption once he was sufficiently recovered. The surgery was performed by the SPCA veterinarian, Dr Tanya Hughes, and all of us were delighted with the outcome.

Noo Noo has recovered very well, both physically and emotionally from this roller coaster ride. Although he would love to be running around again, he does still need to take it easy for another week or so but he would really love for someone to adopt him and give him the home he deserves. Noo Noo loves being with children and promises never to go on the road again!

Dudu Abraham, Operations Manager, uMngeni SPCA

Medieval Torture – Is the End in Sight

PiggyAs a young boy my husband visited Madam Toussauds in London. One of the exhibits made such an impression on him he has never forgotten it. It was of a man incarcerated for years in a cage that he could barely fit into. Similar methods of confinement were used on American prisoners in the Vietnam War. Not just a way of holding men captive, these extremely cramped bamboo cages were a form of torture in themselves.

Men held in any of these cramped “bird cages” would surely empathise with the millions of farm animals held captive today, all over the world, under similar inhumane conditions for their entire lives. But at last it is possible that the end of this torture might be in sight.

The NSPCA as well as Compassion in World Farming and many other animal welfare and animal rights organisations in South Africa and throughout the world have been working relentlessly on changing this dire scenario and at last there is some light at the end of the tunnel. On 23rd March this year the NSPCA issued a media statement reporting that Pick n Pay, one of our four biggest food chains, has agreed that the horrific “sow stalls” will be phased out of their pork supply chain by 2016. This is a major coup and places Pick n Pay “at the forefront of welfare standards. It is hoped that where they lead, others will follow.” These farrowing crates allow the sow no opportunity at all to follow her natural instincts to mother her piglets.

This follows hot on the heels of a newsflash in the January 2011 edition of Animal Voice, the official mouthpiece in South Africa for Compassion in World Farming, which states “Australian pig farmers have bowed to consumer pressure and have agreed to a voluntary phase-out of gestation stalls for pregnant sows by 2017. The decision to scrap stalls was taken at the annual general meeting of Australian Pork Limited on 17 November 2010.”

And now, in the April edition of Animal Voice, the headline shouts “A World First!” The new Consumer Protection Act came into effect on 1st April 2011 and Compassion in World Farming was ready, virtually as they opened their doors, with a Class Action Complaint. Animal Voice explains “In terms of the Act, consumers have the right to take action against conduct, in the course of production, that is ‘unconscionable’ (defined as being ‘unethical or improper to a degree that would shock the conscience of a reasonable person.’). Empowered by the new Act , South African consumers have joined together in a Class Action against some of the worst cruelties of factory farming, where animals live and die in states of mutilation, shocking deprivation, torment and suffering.”

“For the purposes of this Class Action we are focusing on pigs and chickens. We have come together as a voice of protest for the 23 million laying hens and the 103,000 breeding sows in South Africa who never see a blade of grass or a ray of sunshine in their lives and who are immobilised to a degree that they do not get to use the legs with which they were born! Yes, we are shocked and these practices offend us.”

Like voters, consumers have the power to effect changes. Let us all insist on humanely produced animal products.

Last Saturday at the SPCA

kylaLast Saturday was a miserable, cold, wet day with “intermittent showers”. It was also the day I had arranged to meet professional photographer Anneke van Schoor, at the SPCA Animal Shelter in Campbell Road for a photo shoot. Anneke had very kindly offered to take photographs of many of the animals in the shelter for the final stages of preparing our uMngeni SPCA website for its maiden flight. I had hoped for a lovely sunny day but no such luck.

Determined to do the best we could we sploshed around the kennels, shivering even in our warm clothes, taking pictures and recording the animals’ details. No dogs or puppies had been allowed out into the exercise yards due to the weather and so Anneke had to snap them through the bars of their kennel doors or go into their kennels for unimpeded close ups. Many of the smallest dogs and puppies were snuggling into their blankets on their beds but they couldn’t resist greeting the visitors so they had to brave the weather. Kennel Supervisor, Jean, lamented, “We are short of dog coats, particularly the small ones and it is the smallest dogs and youngest puppies who need them the most.” Jean continued, “We used to get a lot of them donated or made for us but our stocks are really low and with this foretaste of winter I do hope some of our volunteers will be able to make some polar fleece jackets for us, in all sizes please but mainly small and tiny.” I must say I was glad of my warm jacket and I felt really sorry for the fine coated little dogs.

It was a relief to get back into the shed where the cats and kittens were revelling in all the attention. I was surprised at the number of people who had braved the weather to come and look for a new family companion. There certainly are lots of cats and dogs of all ages, shapes, sizes and colours, each one a unique individual with his or her own personality and character. What a treasure trove to choose from.

I couldn’t help noticing a teenage girl going in and out of the cat cages. Jean reassured me, “That’s Kyla Hennig who comes regularly to walk dogs and then socialise the cats.” Kyla told me that she is a boarder at Treverton School outside Mooi River but her home is in Howick and she loves to come to the SPCA on Saturdays or during her school holidays. Kyla was standing resting her reading book on the high shelf in a cage containing three very small kittens. While we were there we watched as first one and then another of the kittens climbed up onto Kyla’s shoulder s and went to sleep while Kyla continued reading her book. This sort of interaction is wonderful for kittens and puppies. It is what makes them confident well balanced family companions. Thank you and keep up the good work Kyla and all our other animal volunteers.

Heather Somerville, PRO, uMngeni SPCA

Good News, Bad News

The bad news is that there has been a new spate of poisoning of pets in Howick.  Gill Smithers who works for Hospice came home from work last Friday lunchtime and found her beloved little dog Bonnie collapsed in deep distress, virtually paralysed and battling to breathe.  Despite rushing her to the vets, sadly she died while they were trying to administer oxygen.   Three days later Gill’s German Shepherd, Jessie, suffered the same fate but, thankfully, Gill was still at home and able to rush her to the vet just in time and she survived.  Gill wrote in an email,  “I would like to warn homeowners to be on the lookout for a dog poisoner who has succeeded in targeting 2 of my pets in the last three days.  Poisoning is a terrible way for a dog to die and the person/s responsible must be very, very sick indeed themselves.  Dr. Nyland said, that this was the fourth case he has handled in the past 2 weeks.  Very sad.  For the sake of your pets please all be very aware of this threat.”

Gill has kept us updated and wrote, “Thanks to all who have replied about my dogs.  It was definitely deliberate poisoning as Jessie vomited up a huge piece of what looked like chicken plus skin.  I am left with the uneasy feeling that it’s all to do with getting the dogs out of the way for a burglary or theft of my car.” This has proved to be the case as last night three men nearly succeeded in lifting Gill’s gate off its rails but were interrupted and ran away.

And now to the Good News!  The Hill’s SPCA Township Dog Show 2011 is on track for Sunday 15th May at Mafakathini.   This really rewarding initiative, uMngeni SPCA’s  flagship outreach event, expects to see up to 300 dogs from an area with virtually no access to veterinary assistance.  All dogs will be given collars and leads to replace the chains and wire they come with, will be registered, de-wormed, vaccinated against rabies, examined and treated if necessary by a vet or brought back to the SPCA for further treatment or sterilisation.   At the education stand spot prizes will be given out for a simple quiz and then all dogs and puppies will compete for those in the best condition and the best male and female handlers.  Hill’s is sponsoring prizes and everyone will go away with something and hopefully a better understanding of the needs of their dogs.   Entertainment and music will be provided so that a good time will be had by all.   We need lots of hands to assist on the day, especially if you speak some Zulu!  If you would like to help please contact me on 033 330 5299.

Heather Somerville, PRO, uMngeni SPCA

Love is in the Air

weddingAfter the incredible spectacle of the fairy tale royal wedding with the handsome young prince and his beautiful bride I learned about another wedding that took place recently in Howick at the other end of the age spectrum, bride and groom both in their eighties.  Nothing so unusual about that in Howick you might say, but this love story would never have happened were it not for Kobe, a four legged Cupid.

When Eileen Kerr’s granddaughter, Charlene, left South Africa she persuaded her grandmother to take over her little dog.  Kobe changed Eileen’s life more than she could have ever imagined.   She started taking him to “the green” on Main Street where many Howick residents gather daily to walk their dogs.   Up to eighteen dogs walk and play while their owners stroll around the green chatting and making friends.  One of these walkers was John Sampson with his SPCA dog Zoë.   Gradually Eileen and John were drawn to one another and a romance bloomed.   Kobe also seemed to take to Zoë.

Eileen laughed as she told me, “After “going out” for only six months John asked me to marry him and I accepted.   Six months would have seemed to me to be far too quick if we had been in our twenties or thirties but, at our age, every day we could enjoy together was a day to be treasured so, with the blessing of our families, we went ahead with a wedding at St. Luke’s Anglican Church on a Saturday early in March this year”.   The Church was packed as the bride was walked up the aisle by her two sons, Stewart and Malcolm Kerr. The organist was none other than Jacque Hains who played the Trumpet Voluntary on the organ accompanied by his wife Claire on the trumpet.   The service was conducted by Lloyd Smith and Tom Fawdry of the Anglican Church.

After the service a lovely lunch was enjoyed by both families; two sons and a daughter each and thirteen grandchildren between them.  This marriage has done more than join two people; it has forged a whole new extended family, not forgetting the dogs Zoë and Kobe.

Dogs can be responsible for many things but how often can they take the credit for bringing two wonderful people and their entire families together in such a magical way?   Move over William and Kate.

Heather Somerville, PRO, uMngeni SPCA

Guess What We Got?

I’m so excited; I’m like a kid with an amazing new toy.   I have been badgering the powers that be, on and off for years and now, finally, it is here.  It didn’t come easy; this kid had to work long and hard for the prize but, at long last, after a couple of false starts, the uMngeni SPCA finally has its own website and I’m thrilled.

Bridget of Chilli Pepper Creations in Howick, designed the website home page and did all the hi-tech stuff while all I had to do was supply her with all the data and pictures to “populate” it (strange language these “techies” use!).  I didn’t think that would be so difficult, I would just copy and paste the text from all our various printed handouts and pamphlets.

However when I read through them with the web site in mind I realised that that just wouldn’t work.   The whole style of writing needed to be far more crisp and punchy.   People who browse on websites tend to have short attention spans – they want answers quickly – so long explanations (like this) would lose them.   Practically everything had to be re-written and additional photos needed to be taken to illustrate specific aspects of our SPCA.   Old photos that I knew I had on my computer had to be dredged up, leading to a re-sort of My Pictures on my system.

Some pictures which I knew I had somewhere, took ages to find.   Bridget kept saying to me, “We’re nearly there.   We’ll go live in a week’s time.  Just bring me this, and that, and we’ll be ready.”   Well, “this and that” would take me another couple of weeks to write or source, a new downloadable Membership Form had to be designed, it just went on and on.   Facts and figures had to be checked because when people go onto your website they expect to find absolute answers.

I can hardly believe that it’s actually out there now, in cyber space for anyone, anywhere in the world to visit.   Just last week we happened to receive an email enquiry from someone in the United States and were able to reply and proudly give him our website address so that he could get acquainted with us and “visit” our animal shelter in Campbell Road via our “Virtual Tour”.

We do still need to grow the site and continue “populating” it.   Some links are not activated yet but we are uploading adoption animals regularly and we would be delighted if you would visit it and give us your comments.   The address is

On a totally different subject, we apologise to anyone who experienced difficulties getting through to the SPCA last week.   We initially had a problem with our answering machine and then the whole of our switchboard died on us.   The technicians worked on it for three days before finally sorting it out.   We are fully aware that ours is a 24 hour emergency service for animals and we need to be accessible at all times.   We are doing everything possible to ensure you can always get through.

Heather Somerville, PRO, uMngeni SPCA

3 Nights, 3 Cats

Last week Victor and Maria Minnie from Hyslop Crescent, Greendale, came to the kennels enquiring about hiring a cat trap. They had been feeding a feral cat which had since had three kittens. They wanted to trap the mother and the kittens together, have the mother sterilised and returned to them and leave the kittens with us.

The plan worked perfectly and the Minnies brought the whole family in to us a couple of days later. Socks was duly sterilised and was ready to go home. She was put into a basket and while being transported from the clinic to reception she managed to break out and escape over the road and was last seen bolting towards the Lawn Mower Shop opposite. We were all devastated and assured the distraught couple that we would do everything possible to find Socks.

They were very upset saying, quite rightly, that the cat is feral, they have been feeding it for months and still can’t get close to it, so how were we going to catch it, especially after it has already been trapped once?

The following day, a Wednesday, Linda went to all the businesses in Campbell Road to inform them about the escaped cat and ask them to contact us should they spot her. Later that day we set a trap at the Lawn Mower Shop and on Thursday morning they called us to say the cat is in the trap. Great news!  Except it was not the missing tortoiseshell cat but a huge ginger tom. He was promptly neutered and released late that afternoon. Another trap was set at the Taxidermist as they had spotted our cat on their cameras.

Lo and behold, next morning we received a call that the cat had been trapped but, once again, it was not Socks.  This time it was a large tabby and white male which we also neutered and released.

Our vet, Tanya, suggested that we set another trap on Friday as, should we be lucky and catch Socks, we could phone her carers on Saturday and they would come immediately to fetch her and, since Tanya would be coming in on Saturday to see patients, if we caught another cat, she would just sterilise it and release it later like the others.  So, once again a trap was set at the Lawn Mower Shop as they were the only business open on a Saturday. Bingo! This time there was Socks in the trap. We were all overjoyed.

The Minnies were contacted and they came immediately to fetch her.  Socks soon settled back on her familiar territory, asking for the bowl of milk she was used to, clearly happy to be home after a harrowing week.   Hopefully she will think of it all as just a bad dream.

Trapping three cats in three nights right on our doorstep indicates that there are a lot more ferals along Campbell Road so this one incident will lead to many more cats being trapped, sterilised and released in our own neighbourhood.

Dudu Abraham, Operations Manager, uMngeni SPCA

The Lure of Exotic Pets

The headlines on page 12 of the Witness on Thursday 26th May filled me with dismay.   “Aussie lizards die after eating local grasshoppers” and “Exotic pet lovers’ delight”.   Why, oh, why, are we allowed to import and sell, without a licence, all these animals from other countries?

I read an interesting article in the March 2011 National Geographic concerning research that was being undertaken on the role of genetics on evolution and whether selective breeding of the study group, arctic foxes, could produce a fox that behaved just like a pet dog and what, if any, changes occurred in its physical appearance over many generations.   A graphic used to illustrate this article explained that “only a few animal species have proved to be capable of being domesticated”.

Dogs, descendants of wolves, were the first, 15,000 years ago.   10,000 years ago sheep, goats, pigs, cows and cats became domesticated followed in the next 5,000 years by chickens, Llamas, alpacas, horses, camels, water buffalo, donkeys, yaks and lastly turkeys.   All these animals have lived and worked very closely with man for thousands of years.   No mention is made of any other animals in that graph or article.  I believe all of these domesticated animals will go feral without regular interaction with man except for dogs and cats which will hang around near humans to varying degrees. Dogs and cats can be described as pets, all the rest as farm or work animals.   Everything else to my mind is exotic, defined in the Collins English Dictionary as “rare, unusual, having strange or bizarre allure”.

To paraphrase the old saying, “Given its freedom, if it comes back it is indeed yours; if it never comes back it wasn’t yours in the first place.”   All these exotic pets never wanted to live out their lives in cages or tanks.   Like slaves, they or their ancestors were seized from their natural habitat and confined at the whim of people who were only interested in what they could gain out of them.    Trade is supply and demand.   No demand, no supply.   As long as people see something unusual, different, exotic, rare, expensive or cute and want it, without thought for what the animal might want, there will always be those ready to supply it by whatever means.

Exotic animals are smuggled across borders in the most horrific manner, many dying en route, just so that buyers can incarcerate them in cages and tanks and brag about them.   Once the novelty wears off far too many of these animals are neglected.  Some outgrow their tank or cage, are fed the wrong food, their water is left to become a noxious soup, or they are just dumped outside to fend for themselves.   Most of those perish but some survive and can become a menace to native animals or the environment.

I believe I can bang on this drum in the name of SPCA as our mission is to Prevent Cruelty to Animals.   We would all be preventing cruelty if exotic and wild animals were left in the wild where they belong and we concentrated on taking better care of our dogs and cats.

Heather Somerville, PRO, uMngeni SPCA

Winter Woes

As I write this my feet are frozen and I am wrapped up in layers of clothes culminating in a thick fleece jacket – and that’s inside my house!   I do feel sorry for all the dogs out there with fine short coats or those which are young, small or underweight if they are not provided with somewhere snug and warm to sleep during the day or night.   Our own dogs are German Shepherds and they make full use of their cosy baskets.

The dogs and cats at the SPCA have recently been spoiled with blankets, baskets, warm jackets and jerseys very kindly supplied by thoughtful supporters including Yvonne Churley, Dot Randall, Gaye Grenfell, Karen Vickers, Kirsty Hayward, Jenna Hornby, Isabelle Strauss, Cynthia Wright and Robin Farina.   Their kindness and compassion has made a huge difference to our precious charges.   The last two ladies mentioned have been making jackets for the smallest dogs and puppies from off-cut polar fleece obtained at a very special price from Elaine’s Fabrics in Campbell Road.   The trouble with dogs is, like young children, they forget that you told them, “Now, you lot, look after these lovely new jackets, keep them clean, and keep your warm dry blankets off the floor”.   You can imagine how many jackets and blankets have to be washed and dried every day so as to be sure that there are enough to go round each night.   Do please keep them rolling in, they are put to such very good use.
We are not sure whether we can blame the winter chill for the current situation we find ourselves in where our stocks of dog and cat food are running very low.   When we phoned around our suppliers, who usually generously donate damaged bags or even saleable product to us, they told us that they have had a huge demand from all the animal shelters country wide and therefore they couldn’t help us at this time.

Obviously we will not let the animals go hungry but it does mean digging into our limited resources to purchase dog and cat food at retail prices.   We are so grateful for the pet food that is regularly donated to us.  If every one of you who cares about animals would give a few cans or a bag a month we would be virtually set up to see us right through the winter.   If you would like to help the animals at the SPCA please drop your contribution either into the food collection dog at the Pick ‘n Pay or at the kennels in Campbell Road or at any of our outlets from Hilton to Greendale Acres.   If everyone regularly donated something we could probably feed all our animals solely through the goodness of the animal lovers of Howick and Hilton.

Keep warm everyone and please make sure your animals are warm too.

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.

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

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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

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

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

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

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