A second chance for every dog & cat

Animal shelters slated to vacate Pasir Ris by year end hope their new premises will suit their various needs

For years, a section of Pasir Ris Farmway has been home to a small collective of animal shelters housing a staggering number of rescued animals - 1,000 dogs and 800 cats.

Split between seven animal welfare groups and several passionate individual rescuers, the space is also shared by commercial pet farms and private boarding houses.

When the Singapore Land Authority (SLA) announced last October that the shelters had to vacate by the end of this year to make way for industrial development, it sent tenants into a panic as the process of finding new shelters to move to in a year seemed like an impossible task.

Their initial worries were alleviated a month later when the Government said it would build new rental facilities for the animal shelters in Sungei Tengah by December this year.

The existing shelters vary in size and financial capability, and the dogs and cats in every one of them have their own stories.

Save Our Street Dogs (SOSD) volunteers Vivian Ng (left), 21, and Poh Xuan Lin, 19, take a break with shelter dogs Rookie (hidden), three, and Krunchy, six months, during a dog walk. At SOSD, volunteers walk the dogs about four times a week. SOSD volu
Cola, a six-year-old poodle, perches on a fence at animal shelter Voices for Animals (VFA). Like Cola, most of the canine residents here are former breeding dogs, abandoned or given up after they had passed their prime. VFA, like other shelters, holds regular adoption drives. But not all dogs end up in a new home and a large number remain permanently at the shelter. These include abused dogs that cannot get used to new handlers, old and sick animals, or dogs that cannot be adopted because of the Housing Board’s size restrictions on dogs in HDB flats. Overzealous owners who adopt animals on a whim or adopters who are not mentally prepared for a new and possibly difficult pet often end up returning the animals after a while. As a result, shelters have strict policies on adoption, and a shelter representative will closely monitor the dog and owner to make sure that both are coping well. ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

Many are strays that were rescued, found with injuries or taken over from the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) after being rounded up.

Some were given up by breeders when they became too old to breed.

Another perennial problem is dogs which are abandoned by owners who do not want to care for them anymore. This results in many animals being dumped near shelter entrances.

Save Our Street Dogs (SOSD) volunteers Vivian Ng (left), 21, and Poh Xuan Lin, 19, take a break with shelter dogs Rookie (hidden), three, and Krunchy, six months, during a dog walk. At SOSD, volunteers walk the dogs about four times a week. SOSD volu
Jack, a one-eyed dog, was found abandoned near Mdm Wong’s Shelter four years ago, covered in blood and with a bad skin condition. Last February, it was diagnosed with cancer. Chemotherapy treatments did not help and it was given only a month to live. A volunteer took Jack in for palliative care last December and the dog found an unlikely companion in an anaemic cat named Olliy. Olliy slept by Jack's side every night until Jack died on Jan 12. Volunteers often take in animals for palliative care to ensure they have a peaceful and comfortable setting in their final weeks. ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

Mr Mohan Div is the co-founder of Animal Lovers League, the biggest and oldest shelter at Pasir Ris Farmway. It has 300 dogs and 200 cats, and its motto is "Every animal deserves a second chance."

He stressed that everything the shelter does for the animals is motivated by compassion.

"People are getting too detached from nature and its attributes because we want to be sterile and squeaky clean," he said.

Save Our Street Dogs (SOSD) volunteers Vivian Ng (left), 21, and Poh Xuan Lin, 19, take a break with shelter dogs Rookie (hidden), three, and Krunchy, six months, during a dog walk. At SOSD, volunteers walk the dogs about four times a week. SOSD volu
Mr Mohan Div and Ms Cathy Strong, co-founders of the Animal Lovers League, believe that every animal deserves a second chance, and this is evident in the many dogs and cats at the shelter. The shelter’s newest addition, Captain Hook (on Mr Mohan’s lap), was found behind a bush at Coney Island, with its left front leg almost severed. After going through a risky operation to amputate its leg, it made a miraculous recovery. Naturally, it was named after the infamous pirate. ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

"We have less fervour and a lot of disdain for animals, but animals, like humans, have every right to live."

Although the future of the animals has been settled, some shelter owners, while grateful, are worried about the built-up nature of the new space. The facility, which will be managed by the AVA, is slated to be two storeys high.

For Mr Mohan, whose shelter has an outdoor area for animals to run around in, the new space will be a far cry from the existing premises.

Save Our Street Dogs (SOSD) volunteers Vivian Ng (left), 21, and Poh Xuan Lin, 19, take a break with shelter dogs Rookie (hidden), three, and Krunchy, six months, during a dog walk. At SOSD, volunteers walk the dogs about four times a week. SOSD volu
Save Our Street Dogs (SOSD) volunteers Vivian Ng (left), 21, and Poh Xuan Lin, 19, take a break with shelter dogs Rookie (hidden), three, and Krunchy, six months, during a dog walk. At SOSD, volunteers walk the dogs about four times a week. SOSD volunteers undergo training on handling shelter dogs. The shelter also has different teams to attend to the dogs’ various needs, including food preparation and rehabilitation. There is even a medical team in case a volunteer is bitten during walks. ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

"We are grateful for the space, and the good thing is that the animals won't be stranded," he said.

"But here, the animals can soak up the sun and watch the world go by... With the new arrangement, the freedom and space they enjoy now will be compromised."

As he aptly put it, "it's like moving from a bungalow to an HDB flat".

VIDEOS

Meet the dogs and cats of the Pasir Ris Farmway shelters http://str.sg/4Wjh

•Watch the latest episode of the eight-part video series, Heroes Among Us, where SOSD president S iew Tuck Wah talks about the challenges of dealing with Singapore's stray dog problem. The series explores the lives of ordinary Singaporeans who overcome personal struggles to achieve greater things. http://www.straitstimes.com/videos

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 23, 2017, with the headline 'A second chance for every dog & cat'. Print Edition | Subscribe