Animal activist is Bloem's biggest superhero

2015-07-16 12:18

Bloemfontein – In the movies superheroes have big muscles and superpowers, but one of Bloemfontein’s real-life superheroes comes in the shape of a little old lady with a big love for animals.

Judy van Zyl has been involved in animal welfare for the past 30 years, the last 14 of which have been as the founder and only fulltime member of Pet Action, an independent pet welfare organisation.

Judy feeds a hungry hound. (Dirk Lotriet, News24)

Judy has a stall at the Vryfees, the Free State Arts Festival, which is held at the University of the Free State’s Bloemfontein campus, where she sells dog jackets and blankets and receives donations from the public.

“It is going well,” she said on Wednesday. “We made R1 220 on our first day.”

Not giving up

Judy helps between 50 and 60 animals in the Free State capital’s poorer areas with food, medical services, blankets, sterilisation and owner education.

“It is tough at times,” Judy said as News24 accompanied her on her rounds on Wednesday.

“It is not easy to get financial backing for the work we do. I have never in my 30 years as an animal welfare activist drawn a salary, and some of our six volunteers often sacrifice the biggest part of their salaries to enable us to do what we do.”  

Judy worked for the SPCA for several years, followed by employment with other animal welfare organisations before she founded Pet Action.

Sometimes she feels like giving up.

“I told one of the vets in the city that I am often tempted to throw in the towel. He said: ‘Judy, what you are doing makes a big difference. You can’t just leave it’.”

She says they have found a dire need for pet welfare in Bloemfontein. The biggest problems are ignorance and poverty as well as when people give pets as gifts to people who are unable to care for them.

Dealing with difficult people

“Pets are entrusted to us from above. One day, we will have to explain how we lived up to that trust,” Judy said.

“Sometimes, people are simply too poor to look after their pets as well as they should, and then we are glad to help. Simply because people are not in a good financial position at that particular time, does not mean they love their animals any less than people who have money.

“Sometimes I speak to people about the way they treat animals, and it helps. But sometimes it is a waste of time. If it is a particularly difficult person, it is as good as pouring petrol over a smouldering devil.”

She says that she often faces severe resistance from people who abuse their pets.

“I have been threatened that my throat will be cut, but I can’t allow people to intimidate me. I simply ask: ‘Who do you think you are to prescribe to my Creator when my time on this earth should be over?’”

Read more on:    bloemfontein  |  good news  |  animals

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