Saving lives, one animal at a time

2015-08-04 06:00
Eric Zungu saves dogs in rural areas.
Photo: supplied

Eric Zungu saves dogs in rural areas. Photo: supplied

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DOCTOR Mike Hardwich (Lowry) is a veterinarian in Hillcrest, whose busy practice spends 90% of its time treating the average dog and cat.

“It really struck me one day when I drove through underprivileged areas to get to a film shoot that not 15 kilometres from my practice were hundreds of dogs that had never seen a vet in their lives,” he said.

“More concerning was that these dogs were not spayed or castrated and were procreating at a rate that is almost incomprehensible when you think about it [and I wondered] what was happening to all those puppies,” said Hardwich.

He estimates that two unsterilised dogs produce 456 000 offspring in five years.

Repeated pregnancies cause strain on a female dog, but those belonging to underprivileged people find it difficult as they are often underfed, leaving their bodies weak to begin with.

The female’s life span is also drastically reduced and she has the increased risk of breast cancer and uterus infections.

Many of these dogs live in townships and informal settlements where financial resources are tight and knowledge and education about animal care and health needs is lacking.

His solution to the problem he saw on his doorstep was to get stuck in and take action.

Three years ago he and his assistant, Eric Zungu, started going out to the local Shongweni community and collecting the dogs in need of sterilisation or other veterinary care such as vaccinating, deworming, treating of mange, and more.

They would bring them back to the practice and operate or treat them in their lunch hour.

“We have perfected the art of sterilisation against the clock,” he laughs.

“Collecting the dogs from informal settlements is no walk in the park, but we think we have come up with an efficient means of doing so in the shortest amount of time. It is crucial to get one person, usually a non-working gogo in the community to understand what we do and encourage her neighbours to let us help their animals.

“Once the owners understand why we are doing this, that we are not there to pass judgment, but are trying to help their animal have better health and address the problem of their dog having unwanted puppies and that their dog will be returned to them in the afternoon [it’s not difficult], then we have to catch the dog,” adds Zungu.

Hardwhich says that once they have established a presence in a community and the awareness of what they are doing spreads, the response is overwhelming.

Gratitude certainly warms the heart and makes any job worthwhile, but there are hard costs associated with Hardwhich’s commitment to the sterilisation problem.

The drugs and equipment, as well as running costs of the vehicle’s daily trips into the townships equate to R500 for every sterilisation undertaken.

To help cover costs and raise funds to continue the work, Hardwhich started a non-profit organisation, the Dr Mike Hardwich Foundation three years ago.

His vision doesn’t start and end in the suburbs surrounding Hillcrest however, as his long-term vision for the foundation is for it to become a national fund-raiser whereby other vets, who identify similar needs within reach of their practices, are able to volunteer their surgical skills and time, with costs covered by the foundation.

To donate to the Dr Mike Hardwich Foundation and help keep doing what he believees we were put on Earth to do, visit www.mhfoundation.org.za or email foundation@mhfoundation.org.za

For more information contact fundraiser, Melissa Schreiber, at melissa@mhfoundation.org.za or phone 031 765 2123

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