waggel interviews wahf

Waggel Interviews Carol Anne McMahon From Wild at Heart Foundation

Written by Steph McCulloch


Carol Anne McMahon is the Fundraising Manager for Wild at Heart Foundation, one of Waggel’s charity partners. We interviewed Carol Anne in Sheffield and visited Norwood and Brixton Food Bank to learn more about WAHF and how Waggel can help to reduce the population of stray dogs around the world.
The Waggel and Wild at Heart teams

Tell us about the charity and your mission.

At Wild at Heart Foundation we address the severity, scale, and urgency of the global stray dog crisis which is currently estimated at around 600 million dogs. We believe in Dog and we believe in helping every single dog that needs our help - regardless of their country of birth. A lot of people don't realise that about 75% of the population of dogs in the world are actually stray dogs who are out on the streets facing hunger, fear, and severe cruelty from humans.

Most of these dogs do not live past adolescence and they die having lived a pretty miserable life which is really heartbreaking. So, our mission focuses on working to compassionately reduce the world's stray dog population and we do this through sterilisation, welfare projects, and also through educational campaigns.

We fund and support projects all over the world, focusing on the areas where the need is greatest. We also like to keep our core values of kindness, compassion, and understanding at the forefront of all the work that we do.

What does a typical day look like at Wild at Heart Foundation?

There’s probably no such thing as a typical day because every day is very varied! However, Wild at Heart Foundation are a very small team. We only have three members of staff and we all work from home to keep our resources down for the charity.

So as you can probably imagine, a typical day consists of lots of video calls between the staff. As the Fundraising Manager, I work very closely with the Operations Manager and the Project Manager to ensure that we're meeting the objectives of the charity. So, a lot of my time is spent researching potential funders, whether that's an individual or a charitable trust or company and then approaching them to see if they're able to support us.

One of the best parts of my role is getting to work with the lovely supporters because without them we couldn't do the work that we do.

Another very rewarding part of my job is working with the projects that we support abroad and actually getting to see the impact that the work is making on the dogs that they work with.

a dog in the charity food bank

How would you use donations from Waggel customers?

Well, all the donations that would be made through this partnership would all be put to good use in helping us to achieve our mission.

Donations would help us to compassionately reduce the stray dog population through sterilisation, welfare and education projects. As a charity, we rely 100% on donations from the public to enable us to do our work globally.

Every single donation really does make a big difference. So anything that Waggel customers could raise will be very much appreciated!

What projects are you currently working on?

Wild at Heart Foundation work with project partners globally to fund the projects that will help us achieve our mission.

We have some long-term partners that we fund on a monthly basis around the world in places such as Greece, Romania, India, Mexico, South Africa, Bali and South Korea.We always focus on areas where the need is the greatest. Every project that we fund takes on different forms to suit the needs of the dogs who require our help.

We believe that sterilisation is the single most effective and compassionate method of controlling the stray dog population around the world. Since the charity was launched in 2015 we have sterilised almost 28,000 dogs which has resulted in the prevention of millions of unwanted puppies being born into a life or hardship and cruelty.

Although sterilisation remains the single most effective method of preventing further unwanted litters, it doesn't help the dogs who are already here and facing fear, hunger and cruelty daily.

Most of this cruelty stems from misinformation and also a lack of education which can lead to really shocking abuse of animals. Lots of our work overseas is in educating people on the benefits of respecting dogs. For example, we have educated over 25,000 children to respect dogs and appreciate the many wonderful things that they bring to our lives.

We also have an education programme in the UK which is called ‘Be Kind’. We work with schoolchildren to create a greater understanding between their own positive mental well-being and that of dogs. It really helps them to develop key skills such as empathy, compassion, kindness, and understanding.

On the welfare front, we also fund urgent veterinary treatment for any dog that needs it. In addition to this, we fund surgeries and also the provision of food and care and any items that the dogs need.

We also fund shelter extensions, transportation, and emergency evacuation.

We have supported over 30 global projects since the charity was launched in 2015 and we also provide emergency aid to individuals and their pets in areas that are rife with conflict. Historically we have evacuated dogs from Puerto Rico, supplied emergency funding for vet services in Bethlehem and Gaza, supported dogs in Afghanistan, developed outreach work in Mexico, aided partner shelters in Lebanon, and provided emergency funds during the Covid-19 pandemic.

We've supplied funds to a lot of our partner organisations, and at the moment much of our emergency aid focuses on dogs in Ukraine.

To do this, we’re working with partner organisations in Romania and in Poland who work on the border with Ukraine and help the dogs that have been displaced by war.

In the UK, we're working on a Pet Food Bank initiative that is addressing the current cost of living crisis where people very sadly can't afford to keep their dogs because of the rising costs.

We're trying to enable these people to keep their dogs because nobody wants to give up their dog but the situation is quite dire at the moment and we find that a lot of people are having to choose between feeding their kids and feeding their dogs, and obviously, the children have to come first.

So that's what we're currently working with.

food bank image

What motivates you to continue to do the work you do?

Dogs are my absolute passion and they always have been. I have four rescue dogs myself, two are from Thailand, one is from Romania and one is from the UK.

I know my international rescue dogs had a very difficult start in life and I hate to think what would have happened to them if they hadn't been rescued by charities. I don't think they would have lasted more than a couple of months on the street.

I know that there are millions of dogs that are suffering in the same way and I really want to give them the opportunity to live a better life like my four dogs have. That's a big motivation for me, being able to make a difference to the lives of these dogs through my employment - it’s a real privilege.

To give you an example, before I started with Wild At Heart Foundation last May I had seen really harrowing scenes on the news from Ukraine concerning dogs that were injured, lost, scared, hungry and living in a war zone. Most of these dogs had been pet dogs with owners and families.

Because of the invasion of Ukraine, they found themselves on their own and in a really terrible situation. It broke my heart to see the owners that had to leave their dogs through no fault of their own and had to evacuate the area without bringing their dogs with them.

So, when I started at Wild at Heart Foundation, one of the first projects that I organised was a sponsored dog walk with all the money going to support the dogs of Ukraine. We had almost 1,000 people signed up to do that walk in the UK and they raised almost £50,000.

There are not many jobs where I could do something so rewarding. To be able to give that money to the project partners who are working with the Ukrainian dogs and receive photographs and video footage of what has actually been achieved is very, very rewarding.

I don't think there can be any greater motivation than seeing the end result of what your fundraising does.

Tell us one thing you think we can learn from dogs.

I think there are so many things that we can learn from dogs, it's quite difficult to choose just one thing.

But I think the thing that I would say is that dogs can really teach us to live in the present and enjoy every moment of life without worrying about what we've done in the past or stressing about what might happen in the future.

And I think if we paid less importance to material things in life and instead found the joy in simple things in life like dogs do, the world would be a much easier and much brighter place to live in.

Waggel Ross talking to Wild at Heart Foundation

Can you let us know what impact our donation will have on the work you do?

Of course. Waggel has donated a very generous sum of money to allow Wild at Heart Foundation to launch our Pet Food Bank in the UK.

At the moment, we're facing the worst cost of living crisis that we've had in decades. The sharp rises in essentials such as food and heating have resulted in desperate dog owners in the UK running out of options for how to meet the needs of owning a dog.

Also, the most recent lockdown in the UK saw pet ownership rise from about 9 million pets in 2019 to 12 million pets in 2021 which hasn't helped the situation that we now find ourselves in.

Sadly, the number of pet owners who now are having to surrender their dogs to a dog shelter is increasing at a really alarming rate.

The donation that has been made by Waggel has enabled us to join forces with the Trussell Trust and provide pet food to pet owners who are using food banks. Some of these people are reluctant to ask for help for their dogs because they're embarrassed or feel that it's not as important as asking for human food for their families. What we find is that they're taking their own allocation of food and they're using that to feed their dogs.

This means going without food for themselves, which is very sad as a balanced diet is essential for both human and dog well-being.

Through the financial support of Waggel, we can provide dog food to the owners and that allows them not only to keep their dog healthy but also prevents them from having to give up their dog and have it rehomed so that really makes a huge difference to the people who are really struggling at the moment in the UK and also to their dogs.

The money will also allow us to undertake various fundraising initiatives, which will then create more fundraising income for us throughout the year so it's been a huge help.

Do you have any events planned for the future?

Yes, we do. We rely quite heavily on event income to continue doing the work that we do so have recently teamed up with a company called Run for Charity and we can offer our supporters over 750 events that are happening throughout the UK this year.

This means offering events for all levels of fitness across different locations, wherever the supporter might be based. We also run virtual events as well as physical events so there's something for everyone depending on what their interests are.

All of our events are advertised on both our website and through our social media channels, so there'll be plenty of promotion for events and for people to take part in fundraising efforts throughout the year.

dog food in the food bank

What other ways can people support your charity?

There are lots of ways in which people can support Wild at Heart Foundation and that's from making a one-off donation or signing up via direct debit to give us a monthly donation or taking part in a sponsored event.

They can volunteer their time, they can ask their employer to support Wild at Heart Foundation through their business, or raise awareness. All of these things are vital.

We know at the moment that people don't have a lot of money to spare, so even if they were able to share our social media posts, that creates awareness for the charity which in turn results in greater support.

Anything they can do at all to support us would be very much appreciated.

What are your New Year's resolutions as a charity?

I think to continue to reach as many dogs as possible throughout the world that are in need through our sterilisation, welfare, and education projects. And to continue to relieve the suffering of man's best friend through the generous offerings of our supporters.

Waggel Ross discussing things with Wild at Heart Foundation

To visit Wild at Heart Foundation, make a donation, or find out how to volunteer visit their website.

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