Pet Refuge Shelter Manager Louise Morley has been on the ground since the facility opened nearly two years ago at a secret location on the outskirts of Auckland. The shelter has provided safety for more than 300 pets affected by family violence, enabling their families to escape abuse, when previously many would have stayed.
Before Pet Refuge, opened in July 2021, 53% of women surveyed in a Women’s Refuge study, chose to stay in violent homes because there was nowhere for their pets to go while they secured their own safety.
Louise loves what she does and is calling on the public to help continue the work of the Refuge, during the facility’s May Appeal.
Below, Louise talks in her own words about what she loves about her job, how she developed an interest in animals at a very young age at her mother’s animal sanctuary and how she takes her passion to help animals on holiday.
Where did you develop your interest in animals?
My mum had an animal sanctuary for 30+ years, in Wales, so from a young age I helped on the farm with the rescue dogs, cats, horses, poultry and small pocket pets so this took up a lot of my time growing up. I helped out at a local riding centre so I could have free lessons and also at a wildlife centre that housed wolves and rare breed stock.
I knew from a young age I wanted to work with animals, so I worked at a vet clinic attending farm visits, assisting the vet part time and also did part time work in a wildlife park while I studied animal care and husbandry, mainly helping with primates, farm animals and doing the daily park talks to visitors about the reptiles and animals in the park.
What roles did you have before joining Pet Refuge? I started a casual role as a dog walker and trainer locally in West Auckland and then I applied for a role with Auckland Council as a shelter attendant which eventually gave me the opportunity to become the Shelter Manager of Henderson Animal Shelter.
Working in these roles gave me a better understanding of behaviour of dogs in a shelter environment and multiple training techniques for adoption dogs. I worked alongside dog trainers and rescues to get the best outcome for the dogs and during my time in Auckland Council I fostered a number of puppies and young dogs getting them ready for their new homes. I did end up with a foster fail who has proved with time and love rescues can make the best pets.
What drew you to Pet Refuge? Knowing that animals are used in cases of domestic violence really hits home and I wanted to help and be a part of something great. I have always felt you need to enjoy what you do, and for me I wanted to have a sense of purpose and make a difference!
What do you do day to day? My day starts at 7am when I arrive at the shelter to check all the pets and medicate anyone who is needing early treatments. When the team arrive at 7.45am we discuss the day ahead and any important business we are needing to share as a team, who needs treatment and who is heading to the vet or heading home to their family. If we have a new pet coming into our care, we discuss the needs of this pet if we know and plan for the arrival.
Once a week the vet visits the pets at the shelter, so this is always a busy day for the team. My days are always different. I may need to drop pets at the vets for treatment, train the team with handling techniques for more challenging new pets, help the team with the shelter chores and manage the day to day of the shelter.
What is your favourite part of the work? My favourite part of my job is knowing we are all making a difference, I love the challenging pets that come into our care, and we take the time to gain their trust. Giving the best care and treatment to them and seeing them being reunited as happy and confident pets. This is my “why”.
Your holidays always include helping animals, right? Yes, when I went to Asia and China backpacking from 2010-2013, I saw how the street dogs and cats were treated so poorly and with little to no vet care. This broke my heart and I wanted to make a difference even if it was one small thing I could do. So, I started to explore volunteering overseas. I wish I had done this much sooner knowing the difference I could make! I didn’t realise how much cruelty there really was in world.
My first volunteer holiday took me to Borneo 2018 where I helped for two weeks in an orangutan and sun bear rehabilitation centre. I learnt about the behaviours and provided enrichment. I also learnt about how they rehabilitated some of the primates after abuse. It was so sad to see but I was there to help and make a difference. The highlight for me was sitting watching them interact and watching them swing from the treetops.
I then stayed for 10 days in Bali helping in a dog rescue centre. This was truly an eye opener on how street dogs were so different to our dogs back home in NZ. I originally had gone to Bali on a holiday but went back to help once I saw the need. The highlight for me was living in a house with a pack of 30 street dogs and helping rehabilitate a dog that was paralysed in the back end who has since been rehomed to a lovely family in the UK.
My dream was to go to Africa someday, but I didn’t want to go on a safari along with the tourists. I wanted to get my hands dirty, help out and make a difference so I signed up to a volunteer programme for two weeks in Namibia in 2019 helping in a wildlife reserve with big cats, primates and wild dogs. It was an amazing experience and I learnt so much being in this beautiful country. It was hard to leave!
Sadly, with Covid my volunteer plans were put on hold to head over to Europe and see what other programmes I could help on. My heart is still set on wolves and even heading to Thailand again someday to help with the SOI Dog Foundation dog meat trade dogs.
If there is one thing you could wish for, for all animals, what would it be?
To be safe from abuse and harm.
What can people do to support Pet Refuge?
Go to The Refuge urgently needs people to get in behind it. To support the Refuge’s Monthly Giving Appeal, visit www.petrefuge.org.nz or call 09 975 0850 to donate what you can afford or join our monthly giving programme. $25 a month to give a pet a safe bed. Your monthly donation will cover shelter expenses such as a safe place to sleep at night, warmth, bedding, enrichment and exercise, transport, vet healthcare, animal behaviour therapy, and expert animal carers and case workers.