Animal welfare? The buck stops with Marlene
Starting out with a complete revamp of the East London SPCA seven years ago, fine arts photographer Marlene Neumann and her Buckaroo project have since managed to sterilise 1,700 township dogs.
Neumann, who runs the programme from her home and studio in Vincent, spends every day fielding requests for help from owners and ensuring the initiative works efficiently and seamlessly.
“We work a lot in the background and go to the root of the problem by focusing on sterilisations in townships,” Neumann said.
“One un-spayed dog and her offspring can produce 67,000 puppies in eight years.
“It’s an epidemic and people need to be aware of it.”
Neumann said during her time at the SPCA she realised how important sterilising stray dogs was.
“There is no space at the shelters, but they keep getting more and more stray dogs and there’s nowhere for them to go.
“We’re looking at the bigger picture and trying to alleviate the problem so we stay in one area until as many dogs as possible are sterilised. We aim to make the biggest impact in each area.
We don’t have a shelter but I know all those township dogs by name and they run after the Buckaroo vehicle whenever we’re in the area
“We don’t have a shelter but I know all those township dogs by name and they run after the Buckaroo vehicle whenever we’re in the area.”
Neumann’s Buckaroo project sees her and a small team of two regular volunteers and a driver ensure that 60 dogs are sterilised every month.
The project runs in areas including Newlands, Ducats, Chintsa East, Brakfontein and Collondale.
Once each dog is sterilised by the SPCA or private vets, they are returned to their owners with dog food, a kennel, blanket and water bowl.
“We take in about 600kg of dog food every month and we also deal with a lot of injured animals so a lot of money and effort goes into that too.”
“You should see this place on a Monday, Wednesday and Tuesday morning at 7am.
“It’s madness, but we make sure everything runs efficiently and we have a very specific system in place.”
For Neumann the dogs are her priority, but her goal with Buckaroo is to have a holistic approach.
Anyone who knows me, knows that I have a very spiritual life and animals and nature are a big part of that and very important to me
“Anyone who knows me, knows that I have a very spiritual life and animals and nature are a big part of that and very important to me.
“Animals are my life,” said Neumann, who has been vegan for 18 years.
“The dogs are the most important, but we also try to teach the importance of dogs, how they are part of the family.
“If we don’t educate owners then we stand no chance in helping the dogs.
“Education is definitely key so we are very big on that.”
The project relies mainly on donations from the public, but with each sterilisation costing R1,000, Neumann said it was tough.
“Some months our vet bills are at R30,000 so it’s a lot.
“We tried for a long time to get funding and it was quite an achievement for us when we got international funding from The Dogs Trust Worldwide in 2019.
“It’s really helped us a lot but we’ve had to do a lot to maintain that funding, sending monthly reports and keeping our stats up,” Neumann said.
“The name Buckaroo actually came from the idea that if everybody just gave us ‘one buck’ [R1], imagine the amount of dogs we could save. We’re very grateful for everyone who has and continues to help us.
“Covid-19 hasn’t helped us, and we really need monthly contributions to keep us going.”
Neumann said a lot of hard work went into the Buckaroo Project but the rewards were endless.
“We really work in the trenches. I’ve crosses streams of sewage to get to an injured dog before,” Neumann said.
“But it’s really amazing to see how much of a difference just a few passionate people can make.
“People do volunteer and anyone is welcome to volunteer to help us out and go out to the townships, but more often than not its just three or four of us running everything.”
Would you like to comment on this article or view other readers' comments? Register (it’s quick and free) or sign in now.
Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.