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Animal rescuer saves their souls

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Tracy Mclelland Smit is a busy lady, so much so that she gets up to 90 e-mails and messages a day from strangers asking for her help.

She runs a pet rescue organisation called Soul Survivors Dog Rescue KZN which she does in her spare time – she also has a full-time job in the payroll sector.

I first came across the inspiring work she does with abandoned dogs via a Facebook post by Michelle van Rensburg.

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Girl was fetched from Chatsworth last year April. She was starving, mange, ticks fleas and bad worms. Picture: Supplied

Van Rensburg's husband had been fishing in the Inanda Valley when he came across the pup. “He knew it needed urgent help so he picked it up and planned to take the pup to the SPCA,” she says. But this wasn’t an option for her, knowing that if they took it to the SPCA, they would put it down.

Her alternative was to contact a friend who suggested she get hold of Smit. “We didn’t know Tracy, and she explained that she relies hugely on donations from the public for the bills.”

The pure-bred whippet was emaciated and in urgent need of medical help. A call to action with an urgent Facebook post saw donations pour in and, with Smit's help, the puppy was eventually placed in a loving home and given the name Hunter.

Not all stories have a happy ending. She sadly tells me how, just before taking my call, she was forced to put down one of her kittens diagnosed with parvo, an infection that is highly contagious in mostly dogs. Also called panleukopenia in young unvaccinated kittens, it’s usually fatal.

Since starting up Soul Survivors in February 2016, Tracy and her husband have taken in over 120 rescued dogs and kittens.

The penny dropped when she saw a Facebook post of four dogs chained up in Tongaat. She rescued the animals and took them to Hillcrest Veterinary Hospital, raising the funds on her own to cover their hospital bills.

Just as it takes a village to raise a child, in this case it’s rescued animals. The organisation has a wide network of volunteers – people dedicated to the survival of sick and abused animals that cannot fend for themselves. “We have a lovely community," says Smit.

Her main aim is to find good, loving homes for stray dogs and cats. But she also puts mountains of effort into raising funds for the abandoned animals which, when found, are in need of medical attention 90 percent of the time.

Currently in the process of registering her NPO, Smit says all donations go towards paying for medical procedures which are done exclusively by the Hillcrest vet.

When placing a dog with a new family, Smit explains there is a series of steps that potential owners have to go through. The requirements are there for a reason. Tracy stresses the importance of home checks, and touches on the issue of stolen puppies being used as bait in illegal dog fights. She recalls an incident when she rescued a dog used in fighting games from a township. Because of its aggressive nature, it attacked her.

Even the risks of not knowing what she’s up against haven’t stopped her from going into some very dangerous areas. She explains the importance of educating dog owners and offering services such as de-worming, vaccinations and spaying in communities where owners can't afford to take their pets to the vet.

It takes a special kind of person to undertake such a huge responsibility, but Smit seems to take it in her stride: “I cry a lot because of the abuse I see. However, I get to smile again when I am able to save another soul.”

Soul Survivors' procedure for adopting a puppy:

Home checklist:

Volunteers look at the relationship between owners and current pets. Animals should be living inside the home with the family. Do dogs have a dog bed and blanket? Is the property secure? Owners to show up-to-date vaccination books.

Integration:

The animal gets a chance to socialise with other dogs in the family.

How comfortable is the dog around the family and other pets?

Adoption fees:

Soul Survivors KZN charges R800 for adoption fees, which includes vaccinations, sterilisation and one month’s supply of dog food.

How you can help:

Visit Tracy Mclelland Smit’s Facebook page for more info on adopting a pet or volunteering (KZN).

Donations are also welcome:

Hillcrest Vet

Standard Bank

250828030

Branch code: 045726

Ref: T SMIT/38967

DARG animal rescue: 021 790 0383 or www.darg.org.za (Cape Town)

Ark Animal Shelter: www.arkanimalcentre.co.za (Joburg)

National Council of SPCAs: http://nspca.co.za/ (countrywide)

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