Hold their paws, and they will hold your heart
People generally think that animal welfare groups are a bunch of people who are too dedicated to the cause and…they think that we’re a crazy lot of people.
- Mohan, Co-founder, Animal Lovers League
Under the dim light from a row of street lamps, a group of individuals are eyeing a stray dog on the near-empty road. The animal looks around cautiously, curious about its new-found friends. Behind this motley crew, a parked van sits with its back door gaping, indicator lights blinking, waiting to welcome a new passenger - this time, a four-legged one.
The group soon lure the dog into a cage and carry it half-sprinting towards the vehicle. All the activity has made the dog anxious, though it has little to worry about. Its captors are not dog-catchers from the pound. These are volunteers from the Animals Lovers League (ALL), an animal welfare group, or AWG, in Singapore. And they are out to help, not harm, these strays.
“All we wanted was to trap, neuter, release (TNR),” says Mohan, ALL’s Co-founder. TNR involves trapping stray animals, usually dogs, and sterilising them before they are returned to their environment.
Most AWGs in Singapore do this in order to help control the stray population in the country, especially in industrial or forested areas.
But not all get released. Animal Lovers League ends up housing many rescued strays, including cats. They also take in those that have been abused, or left abandoned outside their premises. A trip to ALL’s shelter will confirm the need for places like this that offer a loving home for the dozens of wagging tails of all sizes and shades.
“Some of these animals are almost ‘half-done’. But even then we don’t put any down, we try to give them the help they require,” explains Mohan, whose philosophy is not to euthanise animals.
ALL is one of the many animal welfare groups in Singapore — organisations that dedicate their time, resources and expertise to care for stray, abandoned or abused animals.
These groups struggle, however, because of the lack of public awareness of issues related to animal welfare, and resources to maintain a shelter’s operations.
Space is an issue too. Over the years, AWGs have seen a steady increase in the number of pets being abandoned.
Want to help Animal Lovers’ League continue saving strays, and abused and abandoned animals. You can donate to their cause.
“In the Year of the Rabbit, we actually took in about 100 rabbits in one year alone,” says Betty, a fosterer with House Rabbit Society Singapore (HRSS).
This is the reality HRSS faces - impulse buying.
One reason, she says, is the “cute” factor.
Another, people think it is auspicious.
People mass-buy rabbits, believing that the fluffy animals bring prosperity. But this enthusiasm passes after the Year of the Rabbit ends.
In other cases, parents buy rabbits for their children, not knowing the amount of time and effort required to take care of the pets.
Rabbits can live up to 10 years, and breed quickly, which makes them challenging to care for and easier to be rid of. Betty says that these are common reasons people give for abandoning their pets.
“It all comes down to people not understanding the full commitment of owning a rabbit,” Betty laments. She hopes that through education and awareness, the public will understand that like any pet, rabbits are a long-term commitment, and not to be bought on impulse.
Avoid the impulse to buy a rabbit, find out what’s involved in keeping one for life.
Derrick, founder of Voices for Animals (VFA), is no stranger to the excuses for giving up pets.
For instance, expectant parents who claim the doctor says the pet will give children allergies, or parents-in-law, who are against keeping dogs.
He has also seen many cases of pet abandonment.
The reality, he says, is that people abandon their pets, knowing there are many shelters like Derrick’s and Mohan’s who will take them in.
To prevent as many new cases as possible, VFA holds regular adoption drives to encourage people to adopt, and not buy.
Get in touch with Voices for Animals to engage in their advocacy programmes.
For us the choice was very clear, to adopt. Because there are so many dogs out there that are waiting to be adopted.
- Michelle, Kiki’s owner.
Meet Kiki, a mongrel. Kiki was a year old when Fabrice and Michelle adopted her. The couple decided to do so after dog-sitting for a friend. They started searching online and found Action for Singapore Dogs (ASD), a dog shelter that helps potential adopters through a thorough adoption process.
ASD introduced them to Kiki and they fell in love with her instantly. But getting Kiki to be comfortable and trust the couple was tough.
“They (ASD) pair you with the dog for a minimum of two to three weeks,” Fabrice says. This allows prospective owners and the dogs to familiarise with each other, and ensure they are suitable companions.
Kiki’s journey took a long time. She suffered from separation anxiety and chewed the cables in the house, and even bit through an aluminium-plated door.
Determined not to give up on Kiki, Fabrice and Michelle enrolled her for training with ASD, and learnt to manage Kiki’s behaviour and their actions, to foster Kiki’s trust.
“My advice is don’t wait for the training, just go for it immediately,” Fabrice says. Both Michelle and him have benefitted, and so has Kiki.
“She’s starting to accept us as family, and she’s accepting the new baby as well,” Michelle says.
Adopt, don’t shop. Let Action for Singapore Dogs show you how.
Kindness towards animals comes in other forms. Not everyone chooses to own a pet.
Paneerselvam, also known as Paneer, goes to work in the day, comes home at about 8pm, has dinner and goes back out again to feed his neighbourhood’s cats. This has been his daily schedule for almost two decades.
A part of the Cat Welfare Society’s cat feeder network, Paneer not only feeds the cats, but also gives them supplements and vitamins.
Most of the time, he pays for the food and supplements out of his own pocket. “Sometimes I get donations, if not most of the time I pay using my own money,” Paneer says. The cost of feeding can add up to S$600 (US$453), a month.
At first, it was hard for the cats to warm up to him. “Some of the cats would be so stressed that it would take at least a few months to get used to me,” say Paneer.
The stigma of cat-feeding is something that Paneer has to deal with too. Many believe that cat-feeding is illegal, because it can create a mess, and encourages cats to return.
But Paneer remains unfazed. While, education programmes by Cat Welfare Society has encouraged responsible feeding, and helped to change people’s perceptions about it.
“At least I’m doing something for the poor voiceless animals, and that keeps me fulfilled.”
Mohan, Betty, Derrick, Fabrice, Michelle and Paneer have one thing in common - a love and compassion for animals, shown in different ways.
As Mohan mentioned, a love for animals starts young, so kids learn to be comfortable with animals, and treat them as a part of nature, and the environment.
“Education involves this kind of thing, being friendly with nature...they will think it is normal to like animals, and anything that is created. They won’t be frowning upon strays with disdain, and that is nurtured from young.”
Cats need love too. Support Cat Welfare Society’s initiatives to give our feline friends a fighting chance at survival.
About these organisations
Action for Singapore Dogs
Action for Singapore Dogs is a non-profit, volunteer-driven organisation set up in 2000 to improve the welfare of stray and abandoned dogs. It rescues and shelters abandoned dogs with the aim of rehoming them with responsible owners, and works with public institutions and other NGOs to raise awareness on animal welfare.
Cat Welfare Society
Cat Welfare Society has advocating against cat abuse since 1999, and is now a registered charity with strong network of volunteers who care for Singapore's stray cats and run a sterilisation programme to manage their population. It sterilises between 4,000 to 5,000 cats a year.
House Rabbit Society Singapore
HRSS is an all-volunteer group that rescues and re-homes abandoned rabbits, and advocates for rabbit welfare. The group rescues over 100 rabbits a year.
Voices for Animals
Voices For Animals is a non-profit in Singapore that rescues, rehabilitates and re-homes retired breeding dogs. It holds regular adoption drives while advocating responsible pet ownership.
Animal Lovers League
Animal Lovers League is a labour of love by two animal lovers that became a registered charity in 2002. It now runs a shelter that is home to about 700 rescued dogs and cats. Besides promoting the adoption of animals, volunteers also feed and vaccinate strays, and sterilise and neuter them to manage the stray population.