15 February 2024

Illawarra pet rescue group in desperate need of donations to continue saving dogs' lives

| Keeli Royle
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young woman with two dogs

Best Friends For Ever Rescue foster carer Snezana Ljiljak with Mason and Ollie. Photo: Keeli Royle.

An Illawarra rescue organisation that saves dogs from being put down at the pound is at risk of going under before the year is out if donations don’t pick up.

Best Friends For Ever (BFFE) Rescue is the last beacon of hope for many pets facing death row across the state, with increased pressure put on families by the cost-of-living crisis leading to unprecedented demand.

“The way that the world is at the moment, pounds and shelters are overflowing with lots of dogs needing to be surrendered, so pounds can only hold so many dogs and the ones that have been there the longest or the ones that have behaviour issues generally go on to a euthanasia list,” BFFE director Katie Hill said.

“We, as a rescue, will look at those lists and save from them.”

On top of that, the group accepts private surrenders and helps prevent unwanted breeding.

“So when there is an accidental litter, if the people are not in the position to be able to afford microchipping, vaccinations and desexing for the dogs, we will often bring the pups into rescue, do all their necessary vet work and adopt them out and then we’ll also desex the parents to stop the whole backyard breeding process,” Katie said.

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The service is made possible by committed volunteers and foster carers such as Snezana Ljiljak, who has been helping the not-for-profit since 2018.

“Dad was very strict about us not having dogs growing up. We finally broke him and got a labrador when we were younger and that lab grew up with us,” Snezana said.

“Ever since then, I knew I wanted to be involved in some capacity and then when I learned the kill rate and the shelter rate and all that as I grew up, I knew that I had to do something even if it was just as little as volunteering and walking the dogs, and then eventually going to do bigger and better things.”

She is currently fostering six-month-old pups Mason and Ollie and they’ve quickly slotted into her family while they wait for their forever home.

“The biggest misconception I would say is that rescue dogs are aggressive or poorly behaved or there’s something wrong with them, whether it’s medically or behaviorally, and it’s so not true,” Snezana said.

“They’re just like any other dog down the road.”

But things are at crisis point, with the organisation receiving up to 20 messages a day from people wanting to surrender their pets, and BFFE just doesn’t have the capacity.

And the dogs that can be taken come at a significant cost.

“We only have three boarding kennels at the facility that we use because we rent them, and we have to pay for them so that’s a cost,” Katie said.

“We do have an extremely amazing vet on board that helps us with rescue discounts but by no means do we get free vet work and if we have a dog that comes in and needs desexing and vaccinations, that’s the better part of $400-$500 straight away.

“When a dog comes into our care, we provide all our dogs with really high-quality dog food, so that can be up to $150 per bag of food, and we supply bedding, we supply toys, we supply leads, collars, all that stuff, which is all at a cost to our rescue.”

The organisation relies on fundraising and donations to stay afloat, holding events such as barbecues at Bunnings, cake stalls, trivia nights and adoption days at local pubs.

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And although Katie said the Illawarra community was incredibly supportive, without more donations her service may be forced to shut its doors.

“It’s extremely important because if we don’t have some kind of regular income coming in, we can’t save dogs’ lives and if we can’t save dogs’ lives then they die in the pound,” she said.

“That’s the absolute blunt truth of it, it’s horrible to say but it’s reality.”

The community can support the organisation by donating, attending its events or just helping spread the word about the work it does.

”If you can’t help out in a financial way, which we completely understand as life’s hard at the moment, share our posts,” Katie said.

“The further our dogs get shared, the more chance we have of them finding homes and the more dogs that get homes, the more we can bring in and save.”

And just by starting a conversation about adopting rescue dogs, you can help pups such as Mason and Ollie find their perfect home, while creating more space for future animals.

“Mason’s the outgoing one, he loves my dogs and loves to spend time with them but he very much is a part of everything that we do,” Snezana said

“Ollie is the more independent, he beats to his own drum.

“He’ll venture out and take a toy and spend time in his crate or have a snooze and just more independent and calmer, so he would suit someone who’s got littler kids, where Mason might be a bit too much for them so might suit a teenager who loves the make-up routines or mirror selfies. He’ll be right there with you and participate with that.”

To donate or find out more about Best Friends For Ever Rescue, visit its Facebook page.

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