Fund-starved Cat Welfare Society barely manages to survive

Long-time CWS caregiver Doris Gwee, who is in her late 50s, with some of the animals she has rescued over the years. PHOTO: PHOTONX LLP
Long-time CWS caregiver Doris Gwee, who is in her late 50s, with some of the animals she has rescued over the years. PHOTO: PHOTONX LLP

After 16 years of looking out for its feline friends, the Cat Welfare Society (CWS) almost had to stop its work last month because of insufficient funds.

But the society, which is the main cat welfare group here, earned a new lease of life two weeks ago after extending its fund-raising campaign. It had initially failed to raise its target amount of $200,000 after its five-day online fund-raiser, which started on Sept 17.

However, after the campaign was extended on donation platform geofundit.com by two days, it received more than $231,550 in online and offline donations. A total of 1,220 donors had contributed $200,550 through the website.

Calling it a "fund-raiser for survival", CWS president Thenuga Vijakumar said the society would have had to cease immediate operations if it were unable to raise enough money. However, she described its latest fund-raising success as "short-lived", as the money raised will allow it to operate only till the end of this year.

Efforts are still ongoing to raise funds through other means to tide it over beyond December.

Like CWS, the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) does not generally receive government grants and finds it a challenge to garner donations.

SPCA requires about $2 million a year, largely raised through public donations and fund-raising activities, to fund its animal shelter, veterinary services and other services, including its 24-hour emergency service and sterilisation programmes. It is also raising funds for the completion of its new animal shelter and office complex at Sungei Tengah.

Said SPCA executive director Corinne Fong: "Donations made to the animal welfare cause have become increasingly divided among an ever-rising number of animal shelters and rescue groups."

The Sunday Times understands that there are, at least, 30 animal welfare and rescue groups in Singapore. Of these, four - CWS, SPCA, Acres and SOSD, formerly known as Save our Street Dogs - have Institute of Public Character (IPC) status, which means they can issue tax- deductible receipts for donations.

CWS was granted IPC status in 2013. While this led to an increase in donations, from about $440,000 in 2013 to more than $620,000 last year, Ms Thenuga said it is far from enough to cover its expenses.

"People assume that with IPC, donations will start rolling in from large corporations or foundations. The reality is that a lot of them don't include animal welfare in their portfolios," she added.

On average, CWS now requires about $70,000 a month to operate, up from $50,000 a month last year.

The bulk of its funds are channelled to nationwide programmes in sterilisation, and mediation services between those who find stray cats a nuisance and cat lovers - a service which CWS said is facing a growing demand as it looks to go beyond HDB blocks to include condominiums and commercial facilities.

Last year, CWS sterilised a total of 4,749 cats, from fewer than 3,000 in 2012. It aims to sterilise at least 5,000 cats this year.

Cutting back on its operations is not an option for CWS, as this would erase much of the progress it has made in animal welfare over the years, said Ms Thenuga. Agreeing, cat lover and National University of Singapore undergraduate Chesna Goh said: "I've seen CWS greatly improve the stray cat situation. Even if the cats don't get adopted, at least they are properly vaccinated and sterilised."

The 22-year-old, who donated $200 to the society recently, believes that if it were to close down, the stray cat population would increase drastically and the culling rate will rise as well. She said: "A lot of people aren't very tolerant of stray cats. The cats would lose a very important mouthpiece advocating for them and a lot would miss out on the opportunity of being able to find great loving homes."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on October 04, 2015, with the headline 'Fund-starved Cat Welfare Society barely manages to survive'. Print Edition | Subscribe