These Animal Rescuers Are The Real Super Women

If you’re a pet owner, you most probably love your cat or dog with your whole heart. Owning a fur baby is a huge responsibility, but it’s also extremely rewarding. Coming home to a wagging little tail, wet noses or purrs after a long day is one of life’s greatest spoils. 

However, not all doggos and kitties are lucky enough to have a warm and loving home. In fact, Cape Town is home to thousands of stray dogs and cats who have no owners and no food or shelter. What’s even worse, is that some animals are owned by bad people. The amount of dogfighting that goes on right here in our city is staggering. Other animals are left to starve or are beaten, tied up, or simply neglected. The reality is heartbreaking. 

That’s where these local heroines come in. Animal rescue centres play a huge role in rescuing these homeless or abused cats and dogs, rehabilitating them and finally caring for them until they are adopted. Being an animal rescuer is not for everyone, that’s for sure. It’s a thankless job, and might often feel like an uphill battle. That’s why we’ve taken some time to get to know two amazing women saving Cape Town’s pups and kittens one fluff ball at a time. 

Michelle Barnard, Co-Founder of Rescue is Life

Please tell us a bit more about how/where you get tip-offs about the animals that you go and rescue? 

We get many of our rescues via community members we have formed a trusting relationship with. They themselves have a love for animals and assist us with uplifting them. We also work or assist other organisations who are unable to take in due to being overcapacity.

Which areas of Cape Town do you mostly work in?

We work mostly with the Mitchells Plain community although we often get cases from Bonteheuwel, Lavender Hill, Valhalla Park, Grassy Park and Manenberg. We try and assist wherever we possibly can.

Where did your love for animals start? 

I have loved animals from as far back as I can remember. As a young child I was always bringing home stray animals I found asking “can we keep him”? In most of the cases, they did indeed stay! 

If you had to choose, are you a dog or a cat person?

Gosh, this is a tricky one! I would have to say I’m a dog person. I absolutely adore cats, but I find myself drawn to dogs. Their love, loyalty and ability to forgive humans is amazing to me. 

What does your daily routine look like?

I wish there was a routine. From the moment I wake up (coffee in hand) I’m responding to emails, Whatsapp enquiries and cases to uplift. I’m in touch with my fosters during the course of the day sorting out anything they or the animals might need. I network our animals for adoption and deal with various vets and suppliers. Every day revolves around animal care and rescue, most days I’m called out somewhere to assist in an emergency or to collect an injured animal or uplift a dumped litter. A fair amount of time in my day is spent cleaning up after the animals and working on rehabilitating the abused. I treat the sick animals that are in my personal care at our headquarters.

Every dog is special in their own way, but has there been one at the centre over the years that really stood out for you for a particular reason?

Yes. Many years before I started this organisation. Her name was Milly. She was a dog I was caring for, but she needed a procedure and time to heal. As I had no authority over the situation, my hands were tied. It was that day I decided I was going to start my own organisation where every life mattered and they would be given a chance. I can honestly say Milly had a huge impact on my life and the decisions I made going forward.

How can people get involved with Rescue is Life if they want to help, but might not have finances?

We are always needing people to foster animals. Puppies, kittens, cats or dogs. As we cover food and veterinary care, people don’t have to have the money, all they need is the love, time and care an animal would need until they find their forever homes. People could also do donation drives. Get your colleagues or your friends to join in and collect bags of food or blankets. It’s a nice team effort too. Anything helps! 

To find out more about adoption, donate financially or learn more about Rescue is Life, click here. 

Michelle Pansegrauw, Rescue Team Leader of Howlelujah Foundation

Please tell us a bit more about how/where you get tip-offs about the animals that you go and rescue. 

We initially started in the Wesbank informal settlement just outside Kuilsriver. Since then, we have built relationships with the community members and they advise us when there are situations that need immediate attention. Through education to the community members, they are also now much more aware of when a situation is critical and requires immediate attention.

Which areas of Cape Town do you mostly work in?

Should the need arise and we are advised of assistance required in any areas aside from Wesbank, we will help all over Cape Town. If we are unable to get to a specific area where we are closely acquainted with other rescue organisations, we will then ask someone in that specific area to assist. 

Where did your love for animals start? 

My love for animals started at birth. I have always in some way been involved with animals. Whether it was helping the neighbour’s cat or a family members dog…. If the situation included any type of animal, I was always the first one there.

If you had to choose, are you a dog or a cat person?

I am both a cat and a dog person and could not imagine my life without either one of them. I might even include some farm animals in that sentence as well! 

What does your daily routine look like?

There is never really a daily routine, as there is always something unplanned happening! 

Every dog is special in their own way, but has there been one at the centre over the years that really stood out for you for a particular reason?

Every dog and cat is special but we recently rescued a doggie called Athena. She was extremely malnourished and at death’s door. She was infested with mange and other very horrible conditions. Athena could barely stand – I had to physically carry her to my vehicle. After a couple of days, Athena started to flourish mentally and is also on the mend physically… This rescue is very close to my heart, as Athena has learned to trust humans again and she is literally now my big baby. She wants hugs and kisses and thinks she is the size of a lapdog. She completely stole my heart.

How can people get involved with Howlelujah if they want to help, but might not have finances?

We do many outreaches and we are always looking for volunteers. We are also always in need of households that will be willing to foster (food etc supplied by Howlelujah). All the foster parent needs to do, is to take care, love and support the foster animal until it is time he or she finds their own permanent residence. We would love for volunteers to assist at adoption days and fundraise as much as possible as well.

To find out more about adoption, donate financially or learn more about Howlelujah Foundation, click here


Here’s what to do if you ever come across a dog with no owner or one that looks like it is being mistreated: 

If an animal is found without an owner, it’s best to get them to the vet to check if they are microchipped. If you are not able to look after them, most vets hold strays for a few days. Take photos and share as much as possible on Facebook and community pages. Social media has reunited many animals with their owners.

Animal abuse or neglect can be reported to an organisation with inspectors. This would be your local SPCA, Animal Anti Cruelty League or Animal Welfare Society. The inspectors will, on the complainant’s request, withhold the complainant’s name (therefore the report will be anonymous) and the situation will be inspected. Should pictures of videos of the neglect or abuse be available this can be sent to the inspectors as well as proof of the situation. 

Anita Froneman
Anita Froneman is a travel enthusiast and outdoors junkie. She also loves seeing women step up and become everything they ever dreamed they could be, all while helping others do the same along the way.