1,500 stray dogs in need of a home

Animal welfare groups step up cyberspace outreach, adoption drives

RESCUED stray dogs are continuing to crowd shelters, with about 1,500 dogs held in 15 to 20 shelters around the island.

And animal welfare groups are increasingly taking to cyberspace and holding more regular adoption drives to find them good homes.

In the last two months alone, five adoption drives have been held, including Singapore's largest dog adoption drive held by the National Geographic Channel earlier this month. Previously, only a few would be held every year.

The groups have their own Facebook pages, on which they post photographs profiling the strays.

These efforts have borne fruit, with shelters reporting a 35 per cent rise in adoptions last year.

Mr Ricky Yeo, president of Action for Singapore Dogs, said that social media has been a game-changer, allowing groups to reach out to more people than ever before.

His group, which runs a shelter in Lim Chu Kang, re-homed 100 dogs last year compared to 61 the year before.

"It has helped create more awareness, and with the awareness has come more acceptance for strays," he said.

Co-founder of Gentle Paws Loh Wanying said that social media has enabled them to forge connections between the stray dogs and the wider public, who previously may not have cared much for them.

"They get to hear of the dogs' stories, see their photos. They know they exist, and it makes them want to help," she said.

"After hearing about cruelty at puppy mills, people are more open to the idea of adopting (a stray)," said Ms Christine Bernadette, 24, a volunteer at Animal Lovers' League.

All this bodes well for the animals, said Mr Yeo, but he pointed out that adoption rates could be even higher.

The vast majority of adopted dogs go to owners living in landed homes or condominiums.

This is because under Housing Board rules, only about 60 toy breeds - dogs usually no more than 40cm in height (measured up to the shoulder) and no heavier than 10kg - are allowed in flats.

This rules out most strays, which are medium-sized, and prevents HDB dwellers - who make up more than 80 per cent of residents in Singapore - from adopting them.

Groups told The Straits Times that they regularly receive inquiries from HDB residents keen to adopt a stray, but are forced to turn them away.

But a pilot HDB stray adoption programme begun in April last year and supported by the National Development Ministry is doing well.

Run by Action for Singapore Dogs and the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, it has found HDB homes for 22 stray dogs so far, with no reported problems.

"All this is gaining momentum, and this bodes well for the animals," said Mr Yeo.