Forum: Take fresh look at situation at The Animal Lodge

The authorities did the right thing to consolidate animal shelters into one location at The Animal Lodge. However, this has created some issues (Address poor conditions of dogs in shelters, Nov 3).

I was a volunteer at one of the animal welfare organisations there and wish to share what I encountered.

The ventilation of the shelters is inadequate. The organisation I worked with had to install large industrial-sized fans to facilitate the flow of fresh air inside the shelter spaces.

The ventilation openings, narrow though they are, allow rain into the dog enclosures, resulting in wet floors and increasing the chances of fungal infections for the dogs. So individual shelters took to installing their own awnings for protection from the rain.

The drainage within the shelters does not cater for the realities of a canine shelter with a large number of animals. The animals defecate inside their enclosure. Even with manual removal a few times a day, the residue is washed into the drainage system. The same goes for the hair shed by dogs.

The internal drains are shallow and flow from one end of the block across the front of every enclosure. This is poor hygiene and is not good for disease control.

In the initial period after moving in, a small group of newly rescued dogs were infected with canine parvovirus. Because of the design of the drainage system, other dogs were at risk of infection.

The Animal Lodge has large outdoor enclosures for dogs to run about. These enclosures were locked up and not used allegedly because of drainage issues, and remain unavailable today.

The facility's design forces all occupants (human and canine) to live cheek by jowl. The proximity of enclosures and shelters and tight spaces create tension among the dogs. One stressed dog would cause other dogs to feel stressed, hence the continuous loud barking cited by Forum writer Lee Ying.

There are many canine welfare organisations in The Animal Lodge. Some of these shelters have rescued dogs, dogs that are not used to humans or dogs that are difficult to handle. There are no protocols or instructions on human and canine traffic, and safe separation.

There are different organisations housed at the lodge - commercial dog breeders and animal welfare charities. Some synergy could result from this at the national level.

Tenants could contribute to a long-term national education and outreach programme to address the problems of abandoned dogs, stray dogs and mistreatment of pets. But leadership is required.

Maybe it is time for the authorities to take a fresh look at the whole situation at this facility, and its issues and opportunities.

Mark Wong

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