Help Barefoot Rescue save animals

Barefoot Rescue take in cats, squirrels, birds, rabbits, guineapigs and other domestic and wild animals.

A non-profit company in Tokai that rescues domestic and wild animals, rehabilitates them and educates people on how to treat them is in dire need of funds due to effects of the Covid-19 lockdown.

Michelle du Toit, founder and director of Barefoot Rescue, says their usual sources of funding dried up during lockdown, at the very time their services were most needed.

“We work with a lot of rabbits, cats, squirrels and birds, and we found that during the lockdown, more people were surrendering their pets because they can no longer keep them, they can’t afford the medical bills when they get sick because they have lost their jobs.

“Some have also had to move in with family members because there’s no income, and couldn’t take their pets with. There’s also been a lot of people dying in relation to Covid so those animals have been left alone.”

Founded in 2016, the organisation promotes the ethical care of pets.

“You would never consider keeping your canine companion locked away in the back yard in a forgotten corner, or chained to a wall. So why then do people consider it acceptable to keep a rabbit in a tiny cage? In the wild, rabbits would run the equivalent of 30 rugby fields a day, and they need space to demonstrate natural behaviour.”

Rabbits often die in a year or two from living in a cage, when they can live to up to 16 years if left to roam free, she says.

“We also encourage people, for example, to train their cats to sleep inside, on a bed, so that they become more part of the family and so that they are valuable to them. That way it’s also easier to consider paying medical costs (for the animal) when they need to.”

Ms Du Toit says she developed her love for animals as a child growing up in an “animal mad family”.

“We always had orphaned animals coming and going. I raised my first bird when I was 5. Back then, we used to chew up food and then spit it out and feed it to the birds, so I’ve just always loved animals.

“I also had a mom who believed that education started outside of the classroom so even when I worked in corporate, I was always doing rescue work in my free time.”

The name Barefoot Rescue, originates from the fact that Ms Du Toit is always barefoot.

“Everyone knows me as permanently barefoot, and when I dare to wear shoes at the vet, all the nurses get the shock of their lives.”

Barefoot Rescue deals with about 80 squirrels a year and orphaned birds from all over Cape Town, and with it currently being squirrel season, she is advising people to not just pick up abandoned baby squirrels but to observe them first.

“Right now, there’s obviously more people at home, and they’ve noticed more urban wildlife in distress so they are discovering more baby squirrels and baby birds on their own and we’re trying to get them to first observe them for an hour or two, before picking them up and calling us to rescue them. They don’t always need vet services.

“A lot of the time, the mom will probably come and fetch them (baby squirrel or bird), and if she doesn’t come in half an hour or so, then you can rescue it. Just make sure that you lock up your cats while they’re outside.”

Email barefootrescue@gmail.com, call 082 780 3955 or visit the organisation’s Facebook page for more information.