The desire to help, protect and rescue animals and birdlife has always been part of Carolyn Press-McKenzie’s DNA. She has, in herself, been a one-woman sanctuary for living beings her whole life.
She and her husband, Jim McKenzie, bought a 13-acre paradise in Kaitoke and called it the Pakuratahi Farm Animal Sanctuary and there all creatures that needed help were treated with respect and compassion; they were promised a new life free of small cages, chains, boredom, ignorance and other forms of abuse.
As time went on, it became clear that many of the animals were not neglected or abused through conscious cruelty, but through ignorance and thoughtlessness; not behaviours of a criminally evil bent but the lesser, and fixable, condition of lack of knowledge, empathy and awareness. Sometimes people’s circumstances caused their lives to crumble about them and their animals became casualties of hard times.
So the real need to share knowledge with people to assist them in the choices they made that affected animals became apparent. It wasn’t enough to just rescue animals, but to get information out on how to care for animals, to understand them and consider them.
Meanwhile, the numbers of injured, damaged and unwanted animals increased and one thing became blindingly clear to Carolyn and Jim – two people alone could not do all that needed to be done. They would either have to limit the vision and leave some things unaddressed and some animals unrescued, or they would need to expand and get people to help.
HUHA was born.
In 2008, the Pakuratahi Animal Sanctuary was rebranded as HUHA – Helping You Help Animals. This was to put the “You” into the project; the recognition that it wasn’t just all about finding someone to take on the problem and walk away relieved. The community could take responsibility, wants to take responsibility, everyone (with help and knowledge) should be part of the solution. It began by providing an education resource online as well as the continued provision of a safe haven for injured, neglected and abused animals and wildlife. It was a place where all volunteers were keen to join up, helping with working bees, caring for the animals at the sanctuary, sharing ideas and their vision for the future.
And still the sanctuary grew. Perhaps now it was time to consider a limit? No.
In 2011, HUHA leased the Ashford Park stables in Otaki, north of Wellington. This was to be a place where dogs and horses, specifically, could be cared for. The dogs would be fed, have comfortable beds, and given time, respect and love; sometimes this was for the first time in their lives. The unwanted pregnant dogs could relax and have their puppies; people would take the time to groom the dogs, walk them, get them medical treatment and train them. There would be a Shelter Manager, duty managers and shifts of volunteers covering every day of the week for Otaki. This included a team for the dogs doing the walking, the room cleaning, the dishes and washing, the training and playing, introducing dogs to other dogs; and a team for the horses – feeding them, grooming them, helping them to adjust and grow and recover. Meanwhile Carolyn and Jim continued to run the Kaitoke Sanctuary and care for all manner of animals at the original sanctuary and a group of dedicated fosterers made their homes available for kitten and cat rescue.
And the growth continued.
A shop was established, selling second-hand goods and bric-a-brac and a wildly successful facebook page was set up. This page kept people in touch with animals coming in, animals for adoption, and shout outs for help with transporting animals from around the country to the shelters and such like. As well as a chance to see what beautiful dogs are ready for adoption, it has been used, for instance, as a contact point to home hundreds of ex-battery farm chickens on major rescue missions up and down the country, for informing people of opportunities to address central and local government about wrongs that need righting, to rally people to major demonstrations throughout the country and to inform people of rental housing available that will take cats and dogs. It was and is such a powerful link to the community, enabling us all to share our tears of joy and heart-break, happiness and grief, desperation, anger and jubilation, up and down the country.
And still it grew.
HUHA is now a leading organisation committed to finding an answer to stamping out animal abuse everywhere in all its forms. It successfully led the campaign against the use of animals in testing legal psychoactive substances (the legal highs); it collaborates with others, for instance, on the banning of animal testing campaign (Be Cruelty Free) and seeking legislation for the compulsory re-homing of ex-laboratory animals (Out of the Labs); and has its ongoing campaigns – for instance, raising awareness of the little-understood horrors of back-yard breeding of puppies for pet shops (Stop Breeding Puppies to Death). It undertakes school visits to educate children on the care and understanding of animals; it provides mediation for people, groups and local government to problem-solve together for the good and safe outcomes for animals (for example, assisting the Wanganui District Council with a humane solution after the “euthanasia by gas” furore); there is no aspect of animal care that HUHA doesn’t get involved in.
And the whole operation is community funded! The community responds to the need by contributing to the costs.
Now, a new, bespoke, sanctuary is being established in Manakau, south of Levin, which will be designed to suit the standards and meet the vision that HUHA has always had of a best practice, no-kill animal sanctuary.
Has it stopped growing? How can it. Is there a limit being considered yet? What do you think.