SPCA's new home may be a trip too far

Visitors to the SPCA's new premises in Sungei Tengah, which are bigger and have more facilities. However, adoption rates of abandoned and stray animals have dropped from about 95 a month at the old premises to about 66 a month. Visitor numbers have also d
Visitors to the SPCA's new premises in Sungei Tengah, which are bigger and have more facilities. However, adoption rates of abandoned and stray animals have dropped from about 95 a month at the old premises to about 66 a month. Visitor numbers have also dwindled. ST PHOTO: LAU FOOK KONG

Sungei Tengah site is served by just 2 buses and MRT is not within walking distance

Six months after the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) made its move from Mount Vernon to Sungei Tengah, its remote location appears to be causing problems.

Adoption rates of abandoned and stray animals have dropped from about 95 a month at the old premises to about 66 a month currently, SPCA acting executive director Jaipal Singh Gill told The Straits Times.

"Adoptions are one of the key ways that we save lives, so it's a little worrying and I think it's most likely because we are now a little bit less accessible," said the 33-year-old, who took over as SPCA head shortly before the move in January.

"We still have a fair number of people coming through, but they tend to be visiting farms and other attractions in the area and just coming through to have a look."

Visitor numbers died down after an initial flurry of activity in the weeks after it settled into its new home in Kranji.

While there is a bus stop outside the premises for bus services 975 and 172, the nearest MRT station - at Choa Chu Kang - is not within walking distance.

The SPCA's shelter currently houses about 208 animals, up from about 160 at the old premises. Its current capacity is about 300.

"We cannot go to full capacity overnight because we need to make sure we have enough resources to cope, so we will increase the numbers gradually," said Dr Gill.

Staff and volunteers have also been lost in the move from Mount Vernon's central location, though some fresh faces from the area have joined.

Another issue arising from the new location in the west is that its emergency services, which respond to calls about injured or stray street animals, take longer to get to locations - especially in the east.

"If we get a call from Changi or Pasir Ris, it takes us much longer to respond, especially during peak hour when we're stuck in traffic just like everyone else," said Dr Gill. "We do ask people to stay with the animal until we get there, but that's not always possible."

The new 7,700 sq m premises is three times larger than its former one, and houses facilities such as an open-air pavilion, which has hosted educational talks, a dog training session and two birthday parties, among other events.

Earlier this month, a movie screening under the stars was held at the events park in front of the building, and the SPCA will host an open house event this weekend with an art exhibition, public tours of the facility, games and other activities.

The space is a far cry from the cramped room that served as meeting space, dining hall and education centre at Mount Vernon.

Dr Gill, who hopes to have mini-camps and weekend events at the premises soon, added: "We have so many spaces now that we can use for education, which is so important to us. Everything else that we do, rescuing and taking in animals, it's firefighting."

Student Amy Tan, an animal lover, has not been to the SPCA's new premises because of its limited access, but plans to attend this weekend's open house event.

"With the new location, going all the way there is a bit of a hassle because I don't drive and it's far from the train station," said the 22-year-old, who lives in Queenstown. "But given that there's an open house this weekend, I'll make the trip down. I'm curious to see what it looks like."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 17, 2016, with the headline 'SPCA's new home may be a trip too far'. Print Edition | Subscribe