A resident of Sir Lowry’s Pass Village has for the past few years dedicated her life to actively ensuring the well-being of cats and dogs in her surrounding communities.
Accompanying Claire Knoop, on one of her animal welfare outreaches to the areas of Pinetown, Rasta Camp, Riemvasmaak, Sun City and other areas in SLP village ; the pressing need for what she does and the impact thereof on the community, is evident.
On the day of Bolander’s visit, she was treating three puppies that had been so badly infested with worms to the point of being immobile. Two of them were on the road to recovery and could move a bit, while the other one was still unable to walk.
“The kids who own the mom brought these to me in Sir Lowry’s Pass Village and they have suffered from toxicity brought on by the worm infestation. I’m helping them get better and as part of the deal we will need to sterilise the mom. I make that part of the deal with any dog that I help, they must agree for me to have the mom sterilised,” she explains.
The issue of dogs not being sterilised is a huge problem one and Ms Knoop shares they have recently been fortunate enough to benefit from the work done by non-profit organisation, Dancers Love Dogs (DLD). This year with their annual fundraiser—a dance production at the Baxter theatre—they also contributed to help the dogs in Sir Lowry’s Pass Village by sponsoring 100 sterilisations.
Besides the issue of sterilisations, the other side of the coin relating to promoting animal welfare, she says is to educate people on how to care for pets and getting them to see deserving equal care and respect and not just perceived as a ‘watchdog’ left neglected outside.
This is why she and her partner, James Smart, a dog trainer, started teaching the children and young people how to train their dogs. “Our goal with this is to start them young by teaching the kids how to train their dogs. In those who get it right you can see the difference it makes and the respect they show to the animals.” She says the concept of dogs obeying their commands makes the children see them in a new light, and not just an animal.
One of the participants in the training your dog programme is Craig Flusk, a young resident of Pinetown. Commenting on how he finds the training, Craig says it’s satisfying to work with dogs. “For me it’s something new and interesting now when my dog, Venom, listens to me and does what I tell him to.”
About how Ms Knoop has helped him he says: “She is very helpful in our community, and we are grateful for the work she does.”
In her ‘work’, which she does voluntarily, Ms Knoop has been called out to cases of severely injured, emaciated, diseased, horribly neglected dogs or cats.
Ms Knoop, or ‘Tannie Claire’ as she is fondly known as in the village acts as a contact point facilitating access between the community and animal welfare groups or facilitates medical care or medical interventions in cases of sick, injured, or malnourished animals.
Dogs locked up in bird cages in the heat of summer with not an ounce of water in sight, puppies kept under crates with no freedom to move at all and many other incidents which required her intervention or to raise alarm with animal welfare groups, are just some of the stories she has come across in the line of voluntary work she does.
On the drive through the area, she is inundated with requests ranging from organizing sterilisations, vaccinations, deworming, tick and flea treatment and pet food and other necessities.
Resident Porche Roberts stops Ms Knoop to enquire about the possible reasons why her dog is not gaining weight. Marian Cleophas, another also approaches to request for her two puppies to get vaccinated. In response as to why she regards this as essential she says: “I am scared they will get sick and die because my other dog that was not injected (vaccinated) became sick and died.”
She has become the go-to person to report animal injuries, sicknesses, or diseases to in a quest for help. She will then take these animals in need to the vet for medical care and help nurse them back to good health, where possible. “I try to get them once treated and healed, adopted through animal welfare groups,” she explains.
As people have come to know her as working with animal welfare, injured dogs have been left at her gate, one of these severe cases include a dog hit with a brick on the head, who now named, Tilt, because of her head’s position post injury, suffered consequent brain damage as a result.
On some of her community outreaches she has come across horrific scenes and incidents of animal cruelty.
One of these incidents involved a dog so badly hit by resulting in him losing the use of his limb, another dog who lost his eyesight due to human induced blindness, while another dog left with a leg injury which was left to rot and suffered from septicemia, these are just a few of the stories shares of dogs crossing her path in need of urgent need medical care.
She expresses heartfelt appreciation to Teva Veterinary Practice for really helping her out with dogs in need of emergency, or surgical veterinary care and accommodating her with discounted welfare costs.
The community has also started alerting her to cases where dogs suffer from mange, as she says now, they know that it’s a treatable condition and informed on it being contagious and a danger to all other dogs, where in the past, people thought there wasn’t a cure and dogs would just be left to suffer and die, without any intervention.
We visit a case where concerned neighbors of a dog suffering from mange reported this to Ms Knoop and she immediately administered treatment in the form of Bravecto to the dog. Upon our visit it two weeks have passed and the dog was no longer contagious and, on judging by the skin really on its way to healing.
For Gerhardus Klaaste, whose dog, Fifi, suffered from mange and is now thankfully on the road to recovery only had appreciation for how Ms Knoop has helped them.
“I thought my dog would die, but Tannie Claire helped me so much and now Fifi is getting better day by day,” Mr Klaaste said. He adds how Ms Knoop also assisted with taking his other dog to the vet when it was stabbed with a knife.
Her approach, she says, has changed tremendously since she started her outreach work. “When I would come upon these grossly cases of neglect and when I started confiscating puppies all I was doing was alienating people and creating distrust. I then stopped doing it and started helping people look after their pets at home. This built a relationship of trust.”
She attributes most cases of animal neglect and abuse to false information and lack of knowledge on caring for pets. “What we’ve come to realise is that the communities I work in are often under the wrong impression that worms are the only issues their animals are affected by.
“People assume everything that is wrong with a dog is caused by worms,” this was some of the myths she had to work hard to do away with by educating the public on animal diseases and conditions,” she says.
After an exhausting three-hour drive around the village, she says: “I do it as often as needed, but I know I need to take a break, but I just can’t stop helping people.”
She reiterates that caring for the welfare of animals is a calling; something she just can’t switch off. It’s something she pursues and devotes her free time to as an individual in her personal capacity.
And yes, she admits there have been cases in this position where she has in reaching out with a helping hand been ruthlessly taken advantage of; but these negative experiences will not deter her from continuing with her community work.
In answer to why she keeps at it? She says: “I can’t not help, the dogs in particular are innocent, they don’t ask to be hurt or sick or neglected and I can help. If the people don’t understand or they are unaware of the biology of an animal; I can help,” says this wildlife biologist by profession.
She shares the epiphany she had on the issue of animal care, or the lack and shortcomings thereof. “That day when that girl commented (a girl Ms Knoop took along when a dog was operated on at the vet) it’s just like a human, I suddenly realised that in these communities their concept of animals and humans are totally seperated, whereas I don’t think that way; so, it’s very quick for us to judge you know those that usually call us and report that there is a skinny dog in the village its terrible, poor thing.
“Or they’re the ones that try steal dogs from them and what I can’t get these people to understand is that some of these dogs have an amazing life; they get fed, they’re free to go where they want to, they got other doggie friends all over the show.
“There are also terrible stories, but it’s not every story; and that dog running down the road that looks a bit thin, don’t judge so quickly.”
“And often its an easy solution instead of just judgement.”
The public is welcome to donate to the work she does. Donations can be made to assist with vet bills, dog and cat food, kennels, beds, blankets, and other animal welfare necessities. Contact Claire on WhatsApp at 082 550 3863.