Programme educates about animal care

Faustina Gardner addresses the pupils at Disa Primary School.

Disa Primary School pupils are learning more about animal care thanks to a partnership with the Domestic Animal Rescue Group (DARG).

In recent weeks, rescue centre staff have been engaging with the pupils in a programme aimed at teaching them about the dangers of dog fighting and the importance of caring for pets.

In Imizamo Yethu and Hangberg, dog fighting remains widespread.

Dargmanagingdirector, Faustina Gardner, said that during the first engagement with the Grade 6 and 7 pupils about a month ago, it was clear that some pupils were terrified of dogs.

“One of the key areas we focused on was teaching the kids what physical signs dogs display when they are not feeling comfortable. We then took a tour of our facility, and introduced them to some of the animals. At the end of the day, it was wonderful to see some of our dogs kissing the children,” she said.

After educating the children about animal care, with a focus on dogs and cats’ daily needs, the children returned to Darg’s education centre where they were asked to draw the animals they had seen.

“The children were also asked to write letters to the dogs, expressing their concerns for them. What we wanted to get across is that dogs are sentient beings, and so we wanted to emphasise why dog fighting was such a bad thing.”

Darg staff introduced the children to one of the facility’s well-known patients, Pirate, who was rescued from last year’s fire in Imizamo Yethu.

In a delightful letter to Pirate, a pupil wrote: “I am sorry that you had to be taken from a horrible fire. I am happy that you survived. At first, I did not think that dog fighting was a bad thing. I used to like watching dogs fight.

“Now I know all the bad things and I regret that I used to like the ‘sport’, and I wish that it would end and dogs do not have to die because of humans’ desire for aggressive entertainment. Dog fighting is a bad thing and I am happy that Darg took you at the right time because you might be a bait dog or a stray dog. You wouldn’t have known love if Darg hadn’t taken you in.”

Another quirky poster created by one of the children reads: “Stop dog fighting – start job hunting.”

Since the first meeting, Darg staff have also been running animal education programmes at Disa Primary.

Disa Primary Grade 7 teacher, Mariana Oberholzer, said many of the pupils were not even aware that dog fighting was illegal.

“It was eye-opening. Now the children know how to report animal cruelty, and also to look out for cases where pets have been neglected,” she said.

One of her pupils had never even touched a puppy before, she said.

“There was pure joy on her face.”

The pupils will now be collecting pet food and blankets for Darg and Ms Oberholzer will approach staff to get involved.

Looking ahead, Ms Gardner said it was an unfortunate fact that case of abuse, neglect and animal emergencies increased over the festive season.

“Our staff will be working on Christmas Day, caring for more than 220 animals. Unfortunately that is the reality of the situation at this time of year.”

Given the high costs involved in caring for the animals, Darg is appealing to the public for donations of books, furniture and bric-a-brac which can be sold to raise funds for the centre.
Monetary donations can also be made directly to Hout Bay Vet or Penzance Vet.

Darg can be contacted at 021 790 0383.