Community: Animal Lifeline, Cape Town – volunteer led and run animal outreach

What: Animal Lifeline- Volunteer led and run animal outreach organisation, Cape Town
Animal Lifeline website:
Donation link:

During the devastating fallout of Covid, Animal Lifeline Cape Town has provided a vital lifeline, assisting people to keep their pets without abandoning or surrendering them to shelters. Animal Lifeline’s volunteer fundraiser Morag Wade Mackay talks to TheCapeRobyn, about this “volunteer led and run animal outreach organisation” which operates in destitute communities.

TheCapeRobyn: How did Animal Lifeline come about?

Morag Wade Mackay: Animal Lifeline grew out of Pet Connect, a social media networking initiative set up in 2017, born from frustration around the number of lost and found animals that were not successfully repatriated. Many pets landed at the pound and were euthanised. It became evident that it was essential to establish a database of lost and found animals, with funding in place to make this possible. To legally raise funds, an entity needed to be registered. When registering in April 2019, as a non-profit company the ‘trading name’ ‘Pet Connect’ was unavailable and ‘Animal Lifeline’ was selected.

TheCapeRobyn: Not long into its existence as a registered organisation, Covid brought in curve balls?

Morag Wade Mackay: Animal Lifeline was just hitting its stride, determining procedures and processes for operation when Covid hit. Due to the economic fall out of the pandemic, many owners of much loved animals have battled to feed them and provide medical care.

TheCapeRobyn: Does Animal Lifeline have statistics in terms of the numbers of people who have given up their animals – because of the pandemic –January 2020 versus January 2021?

Morag Wade Mackay: According to a recent article [Lansdowne Peoples Post 16 February 2021], in 2011 there were an estimated 230 000 homeless animals roaming the streets of the Cape Metro and now due to overbreeding and financial burdens placed on families because of Covid, it has skyrocketed. There has been a huge increase in the number of pets we feed – particularly over hard lockdown when it was not legislatively possible to fulfil our primary mandate of sterilisation as only emergency procedures could be undertaken by vets. Between March and July 2020 Animal Lifeline supported several communities in the Western Cape including Hout Bay – Hangberg, Atlantis, Masiphumelele and parts of the Overberg with supplemental pet food.

TheCapeRobyn: What is Animal Lifeline’s focus?

Morag Wade Mackay: We operate in destitute communities to impact the plight of vulnerable pets through education and sterilisation. Animal Lifeline adheres to a ‘duty to care’ code which entails the provision of kennels, supplemental feed and basic preventative care – parasite treatment- to pets that we sterilise, when funding permits. Our goal is an 80-20 split – primary prevention to intervention- of resources and capacity.

TheCapeRobyn: How do you operate in terms of costs?

Morag Wade Mackay: Overheads are low as we have no paid staff and no physical premises. We are passionate about the welfare of at-risk pets in under-resourced communities. Our operational approach is constantly adapted in response to environmental factors and the availability of funds. Our sustainability plan hinges on community engagement and the generation of funds through a variety of mechanisms including the sale of donated items, commercial ‘partnerships’, social media appeals and grant applications. Animal Lifeline is a member of the Cape Animal Welfare Forum.

TheCapeRobyn: Does Animal Lifeline assist with finding homes pets and is there a cost for placement?

Morag Wade Mackay: Following ‘duty to care’ principles we aim to keep pets in their homes rather than promoting surrender ( giving up for whatever reason) When an animal is surrendered it is more often than not replaced by another pet that will then, in turn, require assistance, placing more strain on an already over-burdened system. It is for this reason that we attempt to educate and collaborate with owners to allow them to keep their pets and afford their cats and dogs the best possible care. When we do encounter an unavoidable surrender we either collaborate with other organisations or we place the animal in foster care or kennelling as a temporary measure until a more permanent solution is available.

TheCapeRobyn: What does Animal Lifeline require urgently – February 2021?

Morag Wade Mackay: Our wish list currently includes the use of retail space so that we can open a charity shop to add another layer to our sustainability drive as well as a vehicle for the purpose of collecting/delivering/transporting animals, donated items, goods and pet food as well as a trailer so that we can transport kennels. We are also appealing for ‘animal handling equipment’ including catch-poles, animal ‘traps’ and nets and would like a sewing machine -for income generation initiatives. Pet food and pet accessories –such as collars, leads, harnesses, bowls, beds, cat litter- are also always in high demand and we have a waiting list for kennels. Any donations in terms of Rand helps us a lot. As a public benefit organisation, we issue tax exemption certificates for monetary donations

TheCapeRobyn: How did you get involved in Animal Lifeline?

Morag Wade Mackay: As an animal lover I was active on Facebook trying to match up lost and found dogs and cats with their owners and I had a good success rate. Carynne Hooper, wanted to start a user friendly database for lost/found pets that would make matching quicker and easier and she thought that with my ‘eye’ we would be able to recover/reunite more pets. That was ‘Pet Connect’ and Carynne is now Animal Lifeline’s director. She wasn’t aware at the time that I was in a wheelchair because I hadn’t said what my situation was and in fact I felt that it had no bearing on what I was doing.

TheCapeRobyn: You say that the organisation has been a lifeline for you?

Morag Wade Mackay: It’s been nearly a year since this pandemic started and it’s still surreal – it’s irrational and dreamlike quality is something not of this world. Everyone has been affected one way or another. Whereas humans can speak out and try to understand, animals can’t. Being forced to stay inside during lockdown wasn’t a problem for me as being reliant on others to get me around is a permanent lockdown of my own. Working with Animal Lifeline has broadened my awareness of the need for sterilisation of pets and during the lockdown phase I found myself wanting to be part of the plan to prevent unwanted litters. Being a voice for the voiceless through letters of appeal became ‘nourishment’ to me and when the first monetary donation arrived I knew that I was a lifeline for animals.

TheCapeRobyn: Can you tell us about your journey and how you navigate living with physical disabilities?

Morag Wade Mackay: On the 7th June 1980 I turned 17, and after spending the evening celebrating my birthday at the Windjammer Hotel – long gone – in Gordon’s Bay, my navy boyfriend and I were involved in a motorcycle accident. I was a passenger and after being thrown from the back of the bike I was run over by a car and dragged by my neck for 75 metres. I am a C3/C4 incomplete spinal lesion with a total brachial plexus lesion on my right side that caused me to lose my right arm. I learnt how to walk, talk and breathe again and to lead a very productive life albeit with limitations. However, in 2014, I was diagnosed with a progressive nerve disorder that started to destroy my already traumatised spinal cord, its intention being to make my walk in life a wheeled one. A complication of the nerve disorder is the development of scoliosis (curvature of the spine) which has deteriorated significantly in the last two years. I am now due for corrective surgery which may or may not improve my quality of life. Being disabled has made my life very challenging but it was through this that I found my gift in writing. I have penned successful adoption appeals and am administrator on four animal Facebook pages .,  aims to provide relief and upliftment for farm worker’s dogs in under-resourced rural areas and the group Project Pooch for the re-homing of Uitsig Animal Rescue dogs in Melkbosstrand that had to close its doors-

TheCapeRobyn: You don’t get paid as a volunteer for Animal Lifeline, so your books are your income?

Morag Wade Mackay: I was medically boarded in April 2015 and I get a monthly payment from an Income Continuation Benefit. Very little money has come from the sales of the books as they were not written as a means of financial gain but rather as a message to people in the hope that from reading of my experiences they would understand that one could deal with past conflicts and traumas. I’ve written two books: Faces and Footsteps – A Simple Celebration of Life -R200 – link and The Will and The Way – The Celebration Continues -R300 – link website

Community activism: Animal Lifeline’s volunteer fundraiser Morag Wade Mackay, pictured here with the two books that she has written about her own journey, navigating physical disability. Working with Animal Lifeline, has provided her with a personal lifeline. “It’s been nearly a year since this pandemic started and it’s still surreal – it’s irrational and dreamlike quality is something not of this world. Everyone has been affected one way or another. Whereas humans can speak out and try to understand, animals can’t…Being a voice for the voiceless through letters of appeal became ‘nourishment’ to me and when the first monetary donation arrived I knew that I was a lifeline for animals.”

Animal Lifeline, Cape Town info February 2021- check back for updates

Physical address: No premises but donations may be arranged – in Marina da Gama Website:

Donate link: Donate via EFT: First National Bank (FNB) Name: Animal Lifeline NPC | Account # 62813977983 Branch code: 200409 | Branch name: Tokai | Swift code: FIRNZAJJ Ref: Donor Name Donate via Snapscan: To volunteer: Call 0844275687 or e-mail