Top fundraisers Shanaika Perera and her chocolate Labrador, Thor, will walk 30 minutes a day for Walk This May, a month-long COVID-safe iteration of the RSPCA Million Paws Walk fundraiser, now in its second year.
The dedicated duo has collected about $10,000 for the local animal shelter over the past decade, and they’re sitting in the top five on the national fundraising leaderboard again this year.
Ms Perera approaches about 300 people to donate to the cause in the lead up to the annual walk, which she says is the most exciting event on her calendar.
“It’s like Christmas for me!” she said.
Thor has always loved the pre-COVID family-friendly day by the lake and – true to his food-motivated breed – the snacking opportunities that come with it.
“At the last walk (2019) he stole an empanada out of this kid’s hand, and the parents thought it was hilarious!”
Ms Perera has been an animal lover since she was a little girl and can’t stomach animal cruelty.
She said she became determined to support her local shelter after finding out how heavily it relied on public donations.
RSPCA ACT has a service funding arrangement with the ACT Government, which accounts for up to just 17% of the organisation’s cashflow.
Fundraising by people like Ms Perera is “absolutely vital” to the survival of the shelter, according to RSPCA ACT CEO Michelle Robertson.
“In reality, it’s because of donations and community support that we are able to exist,” she said.
“Shanaika is an absolute legend and so is Thor, we absolutely love them both to bits.”
Walk This May participants who select RSPCA ACT as their fundraising recipient will help pay for accommodation, medical care, rehabilitation, rehoming, community engagement and protection for animals in the ACT.
“That’s the beauty of it, if you register with RSPCA ACT, every single dollar goes local, to us,” Ms Robertson said.
Shelter animal foster carers are “angels” in the eyes of Ms Robertson, particularly while RSPCA ACT is experiencing an “incredibly long and intense” kitten season, with over 200 kittens in care, too young to be adopted.
RSPCA ACT cared for over 1,700 animals and placed 728 animals in foster care over the last financial year, to February 2021.
During the same period, the animal shelter provided emergency boarding for 114 animals whose owners were experiencing a personal crisis, be it mental or physical illness, domestic or family violence, or another life event.
Ms Robertson said demand for emergency pet accommodation was increasing year-on-year.
“So that is worrying on the one hand, because it’s a reflection of what’s happening in the community.
“We’ve been trying to build additional capacity to provide that service to the community, because it’s so necessary.”
RSPCA ACT also cares for animals who experience abuse at the hands of their owner, like a puppy called Bayley that last year lived at the shelter for nine months.
“He was rescued by inspectors and in awful condition; he was burned by cooking oil as a pup and never treated,” Ms Roberston said.
An expert team helped him heal physically and mentally before finding him a safe home with a loving family.
“That’s why this level of fundraising is so important; the animals that come in, they don’t stay with us for a day, they stay with us, some of them, for an immense period of time,” Ms Robertson said.
“But we focus on those good outcomes, we take a situation and try to make it better, so that animal can go on to live a happy life.”
Visit rspca-act.org.au for more information or sign up to participate in Walk this May at millionpawswalk.com.au; you can support Shanaika and Thor’s efforts via millionpawswalk.com.au/fundraisers/shanaikaperera/act
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