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Paws and noses
June 9, 2012, 8:52 am

 

Dear Family and Friends,
They say that a picture speaks a thousand words and that was never more true than in  Zimbabwe this week.

The  picture was of paws and noses.  Toes and little black noses could just be seen in a  gap the height of a brick, at the bottom of a trucks’ steel door. This picture came from Meryl Harrison, who became internationally known and honoured for her courage and passionate determination to save thousands of animals in Zimbabwe from 2000 – 2005. Meryl rescued cats and dogs, snakes and bunny rabbits, cows, pigs, horses, sheep and goats that were stranded on commercial farms which were being seized and violently taken over by war veterans and Zanu PF supporters.  Meryl went to places the rest of us were running away from. She faced drugged, drunk, armed men and youths and just would not give up until she had rescued the animals, her ‘innocent victims’ stuck in the middle of a political orgy. Meryl left Zimbabwe for a couple of years  when the worst of the farm invasions were over but was asked to return by old friends in the veterinary profession who told her "animal welfare has all but collapsed since you left." Meryl  came home in 2010 and her feet had hardly touched the ground before she was immersed in animal welfare problems. Controls had all but collapsed, regulations were being ignored, there was no money and everyone was struggling. Animal welfare was in a perilous state. A charitable organization led by vets and called VAWZ was established with Meryl appointed to lead the investigations in the field.

Meryl still goes where most people don’t or won’t and has just exposed the story behind the picture of paws and noses  under the truck door.  The first people knew about it was  an email from Meryl  looking for  homes for fifteen puppies and one adult Boerboel bitch that had been confiscated. The puppies  were  a mixture of German Shepherds, Boerboels and Great Danes cross Pointers. Meryl said they were all very traumatized but would be fine  with a bit of love and a lot of TLC. A vehicle had been stopped by police at a road block in Beatrice and the puppies were removed by VAWZ  for being transported in what a government vet described as ‘totally unsuitable” conditions.

Meryl’s words sent shivers down our spines as she described what she had found: “Conditions in the back of the truck were horrendous when we opened it up - the stench of stale urine and faeces hit us - the pups were all scrabbling to get out at the same time, many of them soaking wet with urine. There were several bags of dog food that had been torn open, they were also covered in faeces and urine - several patches of vomit were seen on the floor of the van. The three Great Dane cross pups were squashed in wooden travel boxes that were too small for them, they were unable to stand up or turn round - the wooden boxes were soaked with urine and faeces. The adult Boerboel bitch had been tied to a piece of metal inside the van - there were also two small white pups loose in the back that were constantly being bullied by the three Boerboel pups and we could hear their screams before we even opened the back of the van.”

The puppies had started their journey in Johannesburg, South Africa and were being taken by road, in a sealed van, on a 2,700 kilometre road journey through Zimbabwe and Zambia to a pet shop in Lubumbashi in the Congo.  Meryl’s call for homes for the puppies received 200 responses and offers of help almost immediately. The animals had  by then been checked out by VAWZ vets and were being temporarily cared for in an animal shelter.

Then things got nasty. A charge of theft of the dogs was made against Meryl but dropped when police finally admitted there was no case to answer. This had followed three days of harassment, intimidation and threats of arrest to Meryl by the driver of the vehicle whose owner had connections. When told that the owner could be charged under the Cruelty Act, the retort came back: ‘never – he is untouchable.’

He obviously was ‘untouchable.’ An admission of guilt fine – for cruelty - was paid by the truck owners, and then, unbelievably,  the police gave the go ahead for the journey to continue, in the same vehicle and conditions as before.  Meryl told the last of the story: “VAWZ Inspectors watched with very heavy hearts as the pups were loaded back into the same truck, the Boerboel bitch literally being thrown in the back - at one stage the driver taunted them by waving the puppies in their faces. The crying from the pups added to the sombre atmosphere.”

Walking past my own little dog, rescued from horrors by Meryl a couple of years ago, I stop to stroke and give a gentle pat. Meryl cannot win them all but we thank her for showing us what is right and being brave enough to fight for it. Meryl is our moral compass and if you would like to contact her or help VAWZ in their work, email ndirande39@yahoo.co.uk or
www.virginmoneygiving.com/charities/vawzuk

Until next time, thanks for reading, love cathy 



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