For the love of pooches
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Fifty kilometres, twice a day, is just one measurement of Thabang Mabasa’s passion for animals.
As a schoolboy, the Springfield-based SPCA inspector walked that distance from his home in Soweto to volunteer at the Booysens SPCA in the south of Johannesburg.
Another was his drive, as the youngest and smallest child in his neighbourhood, to try to persuade his peers to be considerate towards animals.
”People thought their dogs were ‘just animals’. Those my age weren’t interested in animals, just soccer.
“They never bullied me physically but they called me names like Dr Dolittle,” he told the Independent on Saturday.
His worst experience was when he saw people all laugh after inserting a fire cracker up his neighbour’s dog’s rectum one New Year’s Eve.
Mabasa desperately tried to save the animal.
“I took it to its owner and he too just laughed. He had about six others.”
The dog died.
“After that, I thought there must be something I could do. Fighting with people won’t work.”
So he took it upon himself to look after the dogs in the street: wash them, walk them and check them for ticks.
Then he learned about the SPCA and started beginning his day at 4am, returning home at 10pm, to walk to Booysens at weekends while he was a schoolboy and, after that, every day for a year. He was mugged three times during this commute.
“My foster parents wondered what I was up to.”
Eventually the institution employed him as an inspector, first at Booysens, then in Germiston and Boksburg.
A visit to Ballito and a taste of KZN’s weather was a turning point in 30-year-old Mabasa’s life. He applied for a transfer to Durban and, since February, has been covering the northern areas of Phoenix, Verulam, Avoca and Durban North.
Some of the calls he has attended have involved wildlife at Mount Edgecombe. Like the time he was led on a long chase by a hadeda with an injured wing which kept flying away from him.
And when a troop of monkeys turned on him when he went to the rescue of a baby with a hand injury.
“It was scary. They came showing their teeth. I didn't expect that. I thought they would be friendly. But I just stayed calm.”
Mabasa loves snakes and hated it when people cruelly disposed of the rinkhalses in Soweto by burning them.
“Here it’s mambas, and I have not yet come across one, but I’m looking forward to when I do.“
How did he manage to beat the odds and end up making his passion his career?
“I always knew what I wanted,” he said.
The SPCA is in need of funds to buy a van to help inspectors like Mabasa pursue their passion more effectively. People can make donations through https://www.spcadbn.org.za/
The Independent on Saturday