Amber (and her wee boy) spared some time to chat with me about her personal crusade to help Gisborne animal welfare. Gisborne Pet Adoption and Rescue (GPAR) is her Facebook group, from which she tries to create positive outcomes for animals in need.
It is an initiative started on her own. The intention was to provide another alternative when official options couldn’t or wouldn’t take on.
“I won’t do anything until local services have been contacted and if they are unable to help, then I will. I don’t want to be stepping on people’s toes”
Common circumstances included animals that presented infection risk for shelter populations or needed significant behavioural preparation prior to homing. She started using ads on the Buy/Sell forums and her own network of friends to home animals. The group came about in the hopes of finding more outlets and support. Not yet a registered charity, Amber hopes to get that process under way in order to access grants and other benefits.
When she started, Amber didn’t expect it to grow so large. With around 5,000 members, it is now a significant forum and has been doing what it can, when it can for over two and a half years. It is mostly about rehoming, but she also lends out a cat trap or helps fundraise for emergency vet care on occasion.
Local vets (particularly Vet Ent) have supported her efforts. When I spoke to her, she was managing 15 kittens and two puppies in foster care over six or seven local carers. She also had a kitten fostered at her home receiving treatment for several contagious diseases. All of this is done on a volunteer basis and is reliant on the generosity of community donations.
Usually, de-sexing or proof of payment for de-sexing is required prior to adoption. When not de-sexed prior to adoption, Amber reserves the right to reclaim animals if terms are not met within seven days.
One of the challenges with this mode of operating is that there are no guaranteed intake routes. Willing foster carers are hard enough to find. Those who are trustworthy and capable are even more scarce. Another is the impulsive nature of communication on Facebook. It can be difficult to maintain discipline in today’s instant communication world and back-biting is a hazard. Many Facebook users fail to appreciate that being a keyboard warrior can be counter-productive. This makes the moderation responsibilities of a group administrator challenging but vital.
“People that are found to be bullying, harassing, or just nasty get a warning. Their comment gets removed. It is in the rules… If people can’t stick to that, they get removed”
One big challenge in working with domestic animals is that everyone has an opinion on how to deal with problems from their own knowledge or beliefs. Amber gets frustrated with people asking for answers online to avoid paying a vet fee. If you are wondering about medical treatment, Amber says “the answer is: you go to the vet”. Online rehoming forums are not the place to discuss alternative treatments.
“[Vets’] advice tops anyone else’s… If you want to argue with vets, it’s not the place for you.”
Amber would like to see more childhood education and calls for owner registration or some kind of licensing. Her hope is that the standard of animal parents might improve. She hopes that owner responsibility might be better realised.
If people want to get involved, they can join the GPAR Facebook group. Don’t underestimate how much ‘small’ contributions help. Food, cash donations and reliable foster carers are always welcome. Amber is open to other offers of assistance too. If you are interested, get in touch via Facebook.
*all pictures are sourced from the GPAR Facebook group and used with permission