Nuala Morgan visits one of Belgium’s most well-known animal rescue centres
In the heart of Belgium, Help Animals is making a profound impact in the lives of countless animals. With not one but two shelters, they are on a mission to provide a haven for all creatures great and small. I sat down with Nadège, a passionate advocate and operations manager at Help Animals, to learn more about their remarkable work.
Engaging the range of animal needs
From dogs and cats to farm animals and horses, Help Animals has extended their care to pigs, sheep, rabbits, and even an unexpected visitor—an alpaca named Macintosh. But why such a diverse range of animals?
“Since we started in 1981, the demand for care just keeps on increasing”
“There aren’t many refuges for large animals,” she says. “We saw the need to cater for all animals. Since we started in 1981, the demand for care just keeps on increasing. Thanks to donations, legacies, and dedicated members, we’ve expanded our shelters over time, buying more parcels of land here in Anderlecht, and in our farm in Braine-le-Chateau in the Walloon Region.”
Raising awareness and adoptions
With growing interest in animal welfare, Help Animals has experienced both increased awareness and a surge in rescue requests. “We receive between 1,500 and 2,000 animals a year,” says Nadège. The summer months are the most critical, with pets often left behind as owners go on holiday. Yet, they also find forever homes for around 1,200 to 1,300 of these animals, thanks to a diligent adoption process.
“Most of them do find loving homes,” she affirms. “But for farm animals like pigs, it takes more time.” Indeed, it made me wonder how one goes about adopting a pig…
Animal adoption: A thoughtful process
When it comes to adopting animals, Help Animals places emphasis on thorough vetting and responsible pet parenting. “We ask potential adopters about their living situation, garden space, and family dynamics. For farm animals, we ensure they have enough space. The adoption process is meticulous, as we’re committed to the well-being of both animals and humans.”
“Help Animals strives to match every adopter with the right animal”
There are no blanket criteria for adoption at Help Animals. “Every case is unique,” she says. “We consider factors like living arrangements, other animals, and the needs of the animals themselves.” Some cats prefer to live in apartments, sometimes dogs need another animal for company, Help Animals strives to match every adopter with the right animal.
Help Animals doesn’t stop at rescue and adoption; they also focus on education. “We work to raise awareness, even in retirement homes. We’re educating school children on animal well-being because it’s an upstream process.”
“We’re educating school children on animal well-being”
“Saving animals is teamwork,” she says. Help Animals welcomes volunteers with open arms, as they believe everyone can contribute. “Even a few hours a week or a small donation can save a life,” they emphasize.
I took a walk around the Anderlecht shelter with Laetita, an intern studying to be an animal caregiver. While the dogs are housed in cages, they have adequate space, indoor and outdoor access, and daily walks. Volunteers can sit in the cattery, simply to read and allow the cats to get used to human presence. Two volunteers were playing with a large black Belgian Malinois, and talking to a litter of puppies who had just been brought in with their mother. It’s hard not to want to leave with one.
“Seeing animals thrive, evolve, and find happiness makes it all worthwhile”
Dealing with animal distress can be emotionally challenging, but the team at Help Animals finds solace in success stories. Nadège says, “Adoption is a powerful antidote to the distress we encounter. Seeing animals thrive, evolve, and find happiness makes it all worthwhile.” Working with animals is also a great antidote. ‘If I’m feeling overwhelmed or a bit blue, I just take some time sitting with the cats, or take a dog for a walk. Having a little cuddle recharges my batteries!”
Nadège, who has a background in sculpture for opera sets, came to animal welfare through volunteering at a care centre for wild animals, before dedicating herself to domesticated ones. “I didn’t think before how sensitive these animals are. A wild animal won’t show emotion for fear of showing weakness, but it’s incredible to see the extent that domesticated animals are as sensitive as humans,” she explains. “Not just dogs and cats, but even cows love to cuddle and scratch!”
Never Gift an Animal for Christmas
As the holidays approach, Help Animals issues a critical reminder: “An animal is not a gift. They are sentient beings, not objects. We urge everyone not to give animals as presents – give a stuffed toy instead!”
Hope and resilience
Nadège leaves us with this touching message: “Saving animals brings hope and meaning to life. It’s a reminder of the profound connection between humans and animals. We’re here to help animals in distress, and every act of kindness makes a difference.”
Help Animals continues to be a beacon of hope for animals in need, demonstrating that each rescued life is a triumph worth celebrating. To learn more about their work, visit their website at Help Animals.be or plan a visit to their shelters to see these remarkable animals and perhaps make a difference in their lives.
Help Animals Anderlecht – Rue Bollinckx 203, 1070 Anderlecht
Help Animals Braine-le-Chateau – Chemin du Bois du Chapitre 10, 1440 Braine-le-Château
Open every afternoon Mon-Sat.