Our story begins with Michele Augsburger Clairet Doucet. After a career abroad, Michele returned to the country of her birth in 2007 and decided to start improving animal welfare in the city of Agadir and the country of Morocco as a whole. Over the years she has invested all her worldly belongings to do this and now has no income other than a small pension.
Pretty soon she had around 100 dogs, countless cats and the occasional donkey, rabbit, tortoise and bird living with her.
In 2013 she founded the Association Le Coeur sur la Patte (CSP) to help further her aims of protecting the many animals living in the streets of Agadir and registered it as a charitable organisation in Morocco. Since then she has campaigned tirelessly throughout the country to try and improve the rights of animals in Morocco.
In 2016 after many meetings she persuaded the local commune in the city of Agadir to set up the first ever government subsidised TNR program in Morocco. TNR or Trap-Neuter-Vaccinate-Release schemes are recognised the world over as the only sure way of eradicating Rabies and the most humane and effective way of controlling street dog populations.
By April 2018 CSP had vaccinated, tagged and neutered over 1300 dogs which had mostly all been returned to the streets. But then the authorities in Agadir, responding to pressure from all directions, decreed that all dogs had to be removed from the streets. All dogs in Agadir, including all the dogs that CSP had neutered and vaccinated were now at risk of being picked up by the authorities, at best contained in very poor and overcrowded conditions, at worst culled. Michele refused to let this happen.
She moved quickly to find a suitably enclosed piece of remote land to rent and took 750 of the tagged street dogs to what is now the Refuge. Dog by dog they were recovered and moved to safety by December 2018. However, this refuge is far from ideal. It is over two hours drive along mostly dirt roads from Agadir. The dogs and small team of staff looking after them 24/7 need better facilities, reliable running water and some electricity. Also, as the land is only rented, there is no telling how long we will be able to stay there. Michele’s dream is to move them closer to her home base where she can keep an eye on everything.
Agadir city authorities have recently contacted Le Coeur sur la Patte to discuss setting up a new TNR scheme. We are extremely happy about this as we strongly believe that this is the only way to free Moroccans from the threat of Rabies and to reduce the street dog population and so improve the quality of life for the dogs. However, for the small team of people currently working for CSP, the priority must be to look after the animals already in our care. For this reason, we have decided to separate out the TNR, Educational and rescue aspects of the work from the Animal Refuge side. CSP will continue to campaign, educate and work with local authorities on TNR. SARA is being set up as satellite organisation to manage and maintain the large dog refuge and the smaller animal shelter at Michele’s.
The Sunshine Animal Refuge currently exists at two locations. The main refuge where 750 dogs live is on rented land some two hours away from Agadir.
In addition to the refuge Michele has over 100 dogs, more than 200 cats and the various rescued donkeys, horses and other animals living in her home. Any of the refuge dogs who are struggling come to Michele’s. Dogs who have been lucky enough to find a home abroad stay with Michele while they go through the necessary checks prior to travel. Abandoned puppies and other animals somehow make their way to her door… and she never turns them away.
Michele is an angel, but she is a very tired angel and every month struggles to find the money to feed and care for the dogs, pay the rent, make sure there is water, pay the wages of the team helping look after the dogs …..and on and on. There is no end in sight.
It was never her intention to find a home for so many dogs, but she could not leave them to certain death – if not by culling, by neglect.
In 2020 a new, small team of volunteers came forward to help Michele and to try and raise the profile of the work that she does and to increase the funding available to the association. After lots of consultation we decided to call the refuge Sunshine Animal Refuge Agadir. The name reflects both our hopes for a bright future for the refuge and the warmth of the affection that we all feel for these wonderful animals and that is returned by them.
We would like to find land to buy, with proper facilities, water and electricity, properly fenced off compounds to keep the dogs safe, medical facilities, decent living accommodation for the staff and any visiting volunteers.
We would like to be certain every month of having the money to pay vet bills, pay the wages of staff and most of all to properly feed and care for the dogs, cats, donkeys and other four and two legged friends.
They all deserve the very best we can give them. We hope you can help us.