Riley recognised for work with animals

Riley Valentine, 12, from Rocklands, received a certificate of appreciation from the Animal Welfare Society of South Africa in Philippi.

A 12-year-old Rocklands boy’s love for animals has seen him receive a certificate of appreciation from the Animal Welfare Society (AWS) of South Africa in Philippi.

Instead of parties, Riley Valentine has been marking his birthdays by collecting gifts and donations for his furry friends at the Animal Welfare Society (“Birthday boy Riley collects gifts for four-legged friends”, Plainsman September 15, 2021; and “Make Riley’s birthday wish come true”, Plainsman September 13, 2023).

Animal Welfare Society SA hosted a ceremony on Monday, January 29, to thank five of their loyal donors who play a special role in advocating for animals and sustaining the organisation.

Patron Pamela Isdell, who has gifted AWS almost R3 million over the past six years, was also awarded with a certificate of appreciation.

As was Mayor of Cape Town Geordin Hill-Lewis who pledged his continued support and awarded AWS R500 000 for their transformative outreach campaigns.

Animal Welfare Society SA chairwoman, Pam Hart with Riley Valentine and Animal Welfare Society SA CEO, Dr John McMullen.

The two other ambassadors were world famous animal activist and founder of Dancers Love Dogs, Brigitte Reeve-Taylor who sponsored their Mass Animal Sterilisation Campaigns as well as volunteer and graphic designer Cindy Kooi, who does their designs and layouts for their annual reports and Pawsome Stories booklets.

Riley is the youngest Animal Welfare Ambassador said Allan Perrins, head of communications, resource development and fundraising at Animal Welfare Society SA.

“Riley is devoted and selfless by allowing his family and friends to donate pet food and spoils to his campaign aptly called Cause-for-Paws. May his compassion for animals serve as an inspiration to others who have yet to experience the joy of helping those less fortunate,” said Mr Perrins.

“I want this award to be an inspiration to other children to get involved in AWS SA and become activists for the rights of animals.”

Mr Perrins paid tribute to the fallen heroes who generously remembered AWS SA in their wills.

Riley has been a volunteer at the AWS since he was 9.

He cleans the kennels, cleans the bowls and takes the dogs for individual runs in a field at the AWS.

The dogs who he works with were either abandoned or neglected. They remain in the care of AWS for months and sometimes years. He spends time showing them love and affection, said his mother, Venetia Valentine.

Riley Valentine’s family supported him at the award ceremony. From left are Venetia, Marley, Riley and his dad, Rick-Lee.

The Grade 7 Seaview Primary School boy had suffered seizures in the past.

“He was not allowed to be out in the sun, not allowed to play extreme sports to prevent his head from knocking, not allowed to sit close to any flashing lights so he couldn’t take part in school concerts or attend those concerts because strobe lights affected him,” his mom said.

He withdrew himself from other children as he felt embarrassed and scared that it might happen at any time, she said.

“Riley who previously suffered with epilepsy, said dog therapy healed him and has a dream of becoming a veterinarian,” said Mr Perrins.

His special Cause-4-Paws Birthday project takes place every year in September, where he doesn’t want gifts or parties, instead he asks friends and family to donate dog food, dog blankets and toys which he drops at the AWS on his birthday.

“I wish to be an encouragement to children my age, to get involved in animal welfare. We must also speak up for animal rights and their safety. I also feed stray dogs in my community when I come across a need,” Riley said.

If anyone wants to donate to his project and donate dog food, blanket, toys, you can WhatsApp Venetia Valentine on 072 220 4255.