Since 2010 a group of big-hearted people in the Avon Valley have been working tirelessly to rescue, rehabilitate and rehome animals of all shapes and sizes. Over the decade this has included 1135 dogs alone, and they have rescued more than 300 cats this year - that's more than one a day! SAFE Avon Valley don't discriminate and will open their homes to any animal in need, which sometimes includes rabbits, guinea pigs, rats, birds and lambs.
The group formed to address the standard practice of dogs being euthanized once they
had completed their impound time as there was no avenue through the ranger services for rehoming at all at the time, and any unclaimed impounded dogs were disposed of.
The organisation faced a number of challenges and ultimately stopped operating in late 2013, but it found its feet again in 2015 and is now an affiliated branch of the statewide SAFE Inc (Saving Animals From Euthanasia).
As far as rescues go, SAFE Avon Valley operate with a very small number of volunteers compared to the enormous number of animals they help. Their branch coordinator, Freedom, says:
"I consider what I do to be like a full time job, although for most of the time I have been doing this role, I've been in paid employment too. I'm now a Mum to a wonderful 12 month old baby but I haven't been able to slow down much. I laugh about the fact that almost everyone who has had a message or email from me in the past twelve months probably had it written while I was breastfeeding or nap-trapped by my daughter!"
Another core volunteer is Freedom's mum, who initially got involved as the
treasurer/finance extraordinaire, but now also does data entry, emails, makes vet bookings and phone calls, and organises fundraising events. She dedicates hours and hours of her time to this rescue.
All the dogs who come through this rescue are cared for by foster families. If they have to take one in urgently they sometimes have availability at a handful of boarding kennels who will house them at discounted rates until somewhere suitable can be found. Cats, however, end up at Freedom's home initially. She's set herself up a mini shelter and can happily house an extraordinary number of cats - the record being 86 at one time! Freedom says that anyone involved in cat rescue will tell you that there are two seasons - kitten season and non-kitten season! Cats are seasonal breeders, so SAFE Avon Valley find that they are super busy from October through to January, but this is dragging on later and later each year. In the week leading up to Christmas last year SAFE Avon Valley took in 44 cats - 10% of their annual intake in just one chaotic week!
They try to place cats with foster carers but this involves an awful lot of organising and liaising. When possible they try to have cats adopted quickly to fur-ever homes, which is ultimately much less stressful for the cat. SAFE Avon Valley have built close relationships with other like-minded rescues such as the Cat Haven, Perth Rescue Angels, and Mad Catters Rescue. They will share the volume of rescue cats between them so that it's more manageable for everyone, and to ensure a good outcome for the feline friends.There are so many reasons why animals find themselves needing the care of the SAFE Avon Valley team, but Freedom says that they do sometimes notice trends.
"When it comes down to owner-surrendered animals there are a few things that crop up often - housing issues (moving to a rental and can't find one that allows pets); behaviour problems (in dogs this is commonly a case of a puppy who didn't receive adequate training and has become a problem once they reach maturity) or unplanned litter of kittens or pups. Perhaps the kids have become bored of the animal - all are common.
Ultimately though, the majority of cases we take in are strays or from the pound.
This boils down to an excess of animals breeding without enough suitable homes for them to go to, which is why sterilisation is so important!
We assist people in the community to access low-cost de-sexing wherever we can."
The team that make up SAFE Avon Valley are all volunteers with normal lives, like everyone else - they just happen to fit in rescue too, between families, kids, sick relatives, cars that break down, jobs, study, and rescue pets of their own. They play a vital role in saving and enriching the lives of many creatures, great and small, just a stone's throw away from our beautiful vet clinic. We cherish the partnership we have built with SAFE Avon Valley and include them in the extensive charity work we provide to rescue groups across WA. If you're thinking of adopting or fostering a pet, stay tuned for next week's article!
If you'd like to make a donation to the wonderful work of SAFE Avon Valley, this is how:
SAFE AVON VALLEY
Account Number 173549923