TREKKING on foot with her rescue pooch in tow, Janet Thomas is journeying from Victoria to Perth to raise awareness and funds for working animals abroad, who often suffer horrendous cruelty.
Setting off from Federation Square in Melbourne on March 29, Ms Thomas’ mammoth march will see her walk 4,000 kilometres.
As CEO and founder of Animal Aid Abroad, Ms Thomas has witnessed first hand the mistreatment of working animals around the globe and hopes her $250,000 fundraising goal will help to alleviate the suffering.
Dubbing her organisation a workers’ union for animals, Ms Thomas said if they had to work they needed to be treated humanely.
Volunteer veterinarian Kirsten Jackson, who has been helping Gili ponies in Indonesia, said the animals were emaciated, overworked and had countless wounds when AAA first visited.
Dr Jackson said she witnessed many instances of horrendous cruelty due to a lack of education and the employment of ‘traditional methods’ such as pouring boiling water or diesel on wounds.
“The picture on the island is completely different now, with the ponies in good body condition,” Dr Jackson said.
“Through Animal Aid Abroad and other work (Gili Eco Trust, Horses of Gili), we developed better relationships with the drivers, were able to give them better equipment and padding to prevent the wounds and taught them how to better care for the ponies.”
Calling the Herald from Balladonia, Ms Thomas said her body was “hanging in there” and she had become accustomed to canned food.
Despite weathering conditions that are not for the faint hearted, Ms Thomas said that paled compared to the working animals abroad who did the hard yards all day, every day – and often until they dropped down dead.
Ms Thomas said it was easy for Australians to forget or be ignorant of animals like donkeys, horses and camels “doing it tough the world over” as taxis and trucks.
Colleen McKenny, an AAA committee member for eight years and a volunteer at Native Arc in Bibra Lake, said the group spent many years fundraising to keep the charity continuing and that Ms Thomas was the “glue that holds it all together”.
“This walk that Janet has undertaken is a huge task but is a symbol of her commitment to this cause,” she said.
Ms Thomas arrives in Perth on October 4 and will be greeted by supporters at City Beach near Clancy’s at 10.30am.
by AMELIA CHANNER-HOLMES