Adoption rules stringent

This story was first published in The Straits Times on Nov 30, 2013

It took two attempts over about two months for Ms Veronica Chung to successfully adopt a dog from animal welfare group Causes For Animals Singapore.

The 32-year-old housewife went through a two-week foster period with two dogs, which were siblings, but found them too much to handle because of their aggressive behaviour.

So she and her husband, Mr Terence Lee, 34, who works in the finance industry, had to return them to the shelter after eight days. The couple's second attempt, with just one dog, worked out better.

Besides the trial period, Causes For Animals Singapore requires adopters to fill in a questionnaire, have a bonding session with the pet and allow home visits.

Ms Chung says: "The process wasn't a burden to me. It is necessary for the process to be stringent to make sure that the animals are protected."

The steps that the couple went through is common practice with animal welfare organisations here.

Eight of them, including animal welfare groups Action For Singapore Dogs, Oasis Second Chance Animal Shelter and Save Our Street Dogs, screen potential adopters through an e-mail questionnaire, telephone conversation or face-to-face meeting.

They ask adopters about their lifestyle, such as the number of hours they spend away from home and how often they travel. A bonding session with the animal will then be arranged. Some organisations will make mandatory visits to the adopter's home, followed by a one- to three- month trial period with the pet in the home.

It is little wonder then that some people such as Mr Edward Yeo, 48, a property agent, bought a rabbit from a pet shop instead.

He considered adopting one, but changed his mind when he found out that the House Rabbit Society requires people to go through a one- to three-month probation period.

Mr Yeo says: "It is important to make sure that their rabbits go to good homes, but the process is a bit long and I wanted a short-cut."

Some pet owners, such as Ms Low Li Zhen, 25, who works in an investment firm, find that adoption requirements can be "a bit intrusive". She has two dogs which were bought from shops.

She says: "I understand that they want to give their dogs to people of a good background but I honestly find it a turn- off. It takes too much effort."

One of the reasons animal welfare organisations take such precautions is the rising number of animal abuse cases.

According to the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA), 484 cases were reported last year, up from 377 in 2008.

Adoption should not be an easy process, says Ms Thenuga Vijakumar, 28, a volunteer who helps manage adoptions for the Cat Welfare Society. She has heard of potential adopters who pass the initial screening stages but eventually say that their cats have gone missing or died after the trial.

The society recommends that cat owners put wire mesh on their windows and allow cats to roam freely indoors. But there have been potential adopters who put the cat in a cage and also remove the wire mesh once the home visit is over.

She says: "Many of these cats are rescued strays or abandoned pets. We want them to go to a safe environment."

Ms Audrey Cho, 34, a business analyst who helps with adoptions at the House Rabbit Society, says: "If we are too lenient, the abandonment process might start all over again."

Despite these measures, there is a limit to what animal welfare groups can do.

Ms Wendy Low, who is in her 40s and runs her own business and handles adoptions for Action For Singapore Dogs, says: "At the end of the day, unless they are abusing the dog, we cannot take it away from them. We can only follow up closely to check on the dog."

Still, some animal lovers are perfectly happy to go through the adoption process.

Early last October, Mr Keith Lum, 31, answered a long list of questions - more than 20 - posed by Action For Singapore Dogs.

These included questions such as "Are you prepared to consider the dog's needs when choosing a new home?", "Why are you a good home to place a dog in?", and "State whether your dog will be affected if you are separated from your spouse".

He also visited the dog twice - first on his own and then with his wife.

Says the logistics lecturer at the Institute of Technical Education: "My wife and I wanted to adopt because we felt empathy for abandoned dogs and strays.

"The process was not a hassle for me. It helps to protect the dogs and also the adopters because the questions made us consider whether we are sure about getting a pet."

This story was first published in The Straits Times on Nov 30, 2013

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