‘She was starved - she was skin and bone’
SICKENING cases of animal cruelty, abuse and neglect are all in a day's work for Kerrie Williams.
As the co-founder and president of Precious Paws Animal Rescue, the Brisbane woman has seen more distressing images of dogs and puppies than anyone should ever have to see.
But in three years - with the help of a dedicated band of south-east Queensland volunteers - she has helped rescue around 1300 dogs from pounds across Queensland and New South Wales.
"We're part of a collaboration of a lot of rescues where we get information about dogs in rural pounds that don't have access to rescue groups," she said.
"They may be collected by rangers or they may be surrendered. They're just somebody's unwanted junk but they're our treasures."
Macy is just one of the group's success stories after she was found in a pound in north Queensland earlier this year.
"She had demodectic mange and she was full of worms," she said.
"She was starved - she was skin and bone - and she'd been traumatised. It took us a while to get the tail out from between her legs."
Macy was terrified when people approached her too quickly, but that was overcome by a tried and true method for winning the trust of abused dogs.
"The carer picked her up from the airport and sat down with a cooked chicken to let Macy know she wasn't to be feared," Ms Williams said.
"On the car trip home, she was wrapped up in a nice blanket, and two days later, we got a photo of her tail slowly starting to wag. A week later, we got a video of her playing chasey around the house with her carer's dog. She's living in the lap of luxury now."
Precious Paws relies entirely on fundraising and appeals on social media to fund their work and attract the one thing they can never get enough of - foster carers.
"Dogs like Macy promote awareness for the cause because they pull at the heart strings," Ms Williams said.
"Our Facebook post about Macy was viewed by 45,000 people. Most times, we're lucky if we can get a post viewed by 1000 people."
Macy's recovery is well underway, thanks to her foster family, vet care, food and skincare.
"Her soul is a different thing and that will take more time and tender loving care. But out of that (Facebook) post, I picked up a fabulous carer," Ms Williams said.
"Our motto is 'from pound to paradise' and for us, that's more than just words - that's the reality. That dog was living in fear. She was starved and neglected, and that mange must've been driving her nuts. Now she's sleeping at the end of someone's bed and eating cooked chook. She must think she's won doggy Gold Lotto."
Faith was another rescue from a pound in central Queensland.
"She was a cruelty case. She had mange then contracted parvo as well. She was so bad, it took us two months to identify what breed she was because we could not tell from her skin condition, her stunted growth and her parvo," Ms Williams said.
"But we have a thousand stories. It's the ones like these that get people thinking about rescues and about adopting rather than shopping from the pet store."
Precious Paws currently have 140 dogs in carer's homes and have rehomed 1300 dogs since they began in July 2016.
"It doesn't matter where the dog is in need. We take dogs out of Mackay, Rockhampton, northern New South Wales, and north Queensland from the remote communities," Ms Williams said.
"Rescue groups get no government funding. 90 per cent of us are volunteer-run which means we all have full time jobs."
The group sells sausages at Bunnings to fund their lifesaving work, but Ms Williams said there were some key things people could do to ease the burden on animal rescues.
"What we need more than anything is to educate the public to desex their animals. We don't rescue cats but the amount of kittens that die in pounds is relentless," she said.
"Vaccinating is a big thing. We got five puppies out of Emerald last week. Every one died after costing $2000 a puppy in parvo treatment at the vet."
Above all else, foster carers are always needed.
"If you say to me you've got a foster carer, the first thing I do is go to the pound list, and I ring the pound and save that dog's life," Ms Williams said.
"If I don't have a carer, that dog faces being euthanised and there's not a thing I can do about it because I don't have anywhere to put it."
Sponsorship, donations and even Facebook shares can also help rescues like Precious Paws.
"We picked up five or six carers from the post about Macy. Now that doesn't sound like much, but that's five or six dogs that we can save. Then when those dogs get adopted, they might go again and the number of dogs might double," Ms Williams said.
"Some people only foster one and then they realise it's harder than it looks. But I've also got a dedicated group that've fostered 80 dogs. I've got one carer who's fostered 138 puppies."
Precious Paws are also funding $10,000-worth of vet bills for a German Shepherd called Nullah who was surrendered after the owner discovered the pup would need both hips replaced.
"The owner allowed the vet to rehome her, and he's been with us for 18 months and she's about to get her first hip replacement," Ms Williams said.
"She's booked in for her surgery. That's a lot of sausage sizzles, but we have raised the money."
Nullah's new owners will only have to pay her adoption fee of $395 which covers desexing and vaccinations, and Ms Williams said people who baulk at the cost of adoption suggest they won't be able to cover the ongoing costs of the animal.
"If people ask us for a reduced price for the dog, I'm not even interested," she said.
"We've got another dog out of Bundaberg who needs a full hip replacement or an amputation or euthanasia. But we won't euthanase. We will raise that money. So that's another dog that will need a massive amount of surgery, but it's what rescues do."
"We get no funding and we're 100 per cent volunteers. We have over 300 carers and volunteers who are beautiful, dedicated people and we get nothing. That's okay, we don't care."
But that's not to say rescue work isn't without great reward.
"If ever a dog needs us, there's never a time where we say 'no, euthanase'. We fight it every step of the way. It has to be at the point where there's nothing more we can try," Ms Williams said.
"We bought a lovely little fluffy dog in from Warwick. When he came in, his eye was grey. Our beautiful friends at Petbarn groomed him for us, and we thought there was something wrong. We desexed him and removed his eye which was badly inflamed and infected and that cost us $2000. He was adopted just last week for $295," she said.
"We see a dog that has been so badly neglected and then we see their tails start to wag... When you bring a dog in and it's terrified and then it realises its safe, you hear them sigh where they actually close their eyes and sleep contentedly. That's our pay packet."