Homeless dogs get a new leash on life


Oscar spent months languishing in a cage at a Cape Town animal shelter. He could never have imagined the life that awaited him. In 2004, one day before he was supposed to be put down, Joanne Lefson rescued him. “We became best friends instantly,” she says. Together, they embarked on a global trip to raise awareness for homeless dogs. Oscar rode camels in Pakistan, encountered lions in the Maasai Mara, fished for piranhas in the Amazon, zip-lined across Costa Rica, hiked in Machu Picchu, traversed the Great Wall of China, and explored the streets of New York. “We travelled around the world together and it was the adventure of a lifetime,” Lefson says. When Oscar passed away in 2013, his adventures came to an end – but his legacy lived on.

“I became more aware that our animals don’t have a long time on this earth,” Lefson says. “So my intention was to create the world’s most inspiring dog adoption centre.” South African animal shelters are overflowing with canines waiting for a family. Meanwhile, thousands more live as strays on the streets. Inspired by Oscar, Lefson set out to help other mutts find a home. But instead of waiting for potential owners to visit a shelter and rescue a dog, Lefson brought the shelter to them.

Oscar’s Arc is a pop-up mobile adoption platform that moves between busy spaces such as beachfronts and weekend markets in Cape Town. This way, the dogs are introduced to a wider range of people who may not have considered adoption before. “We give them the exposure and marketing they need in order to find a forever home,” Lefson says. And for interested people who may have been held back by initial expenses, the initiative covers vaccination, sterilisation and chipping of the dogs, as well as the cost of doing strict background checks on potential owners. Since its start last year, the organisation has rehomed 871 dogs. Through Lefson’s project, more and more people are seeing that pavement specials like Oscar are capable of being the perfect companion. All they need is the right human to give them a new leash on life.