Cape Town - Meet 12-year-old Riley Valentine who has become the youngest Animal Welfare Ambassador because of his of love and admiration for dogs.
Riley, who is in Grade 7 at Seaview Primary School in Mitchells Plain, began volunteering at the Animal Welfare Society of South Africa at 9.
Riley was diagnosed with epilepsy when he was 6, which prevented him from enjoying outdoor activities because he used to get seizures.
He was not allowed to be out in the sun or play extreme sports because he had to prevent his head from being knocked.
Riley was kept away from flashing lights and couldn’t take part in his school concerts nor be in spaces and areas where there was loud music because it would cause seizures.
He used to feel embarrassed but today, he is a brave champion who has defied the odds and shares his love in abundance with his furry friends.
Riley believes being around animals is therapeutic for him and after a year of volunteering at AWS, he was cleared of his diagnosis.
“I wish to be an encouragement to kids my age, to get involved in animal welfare,” said Riley.
“We must also talk about animal rights and their safety; the people sometimes get dogs and do not care about the pets which must protect their homes.”
Riley’s mother, Venecia Valentine, shared how he joined the Cause-4Paws project for his birthday every year where he would ask friends and family to donate dog food and blankets to AWS instead of receiving a gift.
“He cleans the kennels, cleans the bowls and takes the dogs for individual runs in a field at the AWS,” she said.
“The dogs that he works with are either abandoned or neglected. They remain in the care of AWS for months and, sometimes, years.
“He spends time showing them love and affection. He also does his special Cause-4-Paws Birthday project every year in September and he doesn’t want gifts or parties.
“Instead, he asks friends and family to donate dog food, dog blankets and toys which he drops off at the AWS on his birthday.
“Today, he received this award along with four other recipients, including the mayor of Cape Town.
Allan Perrins, of AWS, said they were proud to present Riley with the award: “We laud our youngest Animal Welfare Ambassador, Riley ,for his devotion and selfless decision to forego birthday presents in favour of his family and friends donating pet food and spoils to his campaign, aptly called Cause-for-Paws.
“May his compassion for animals serve as an inspiration to others who have yet to experience the joy of helping those less fortunate.”