Upcoming animal shelter in Sungei Tengah to have flexible layout configuration: AVA

Animal shelter Voices for Animals is one of shelters that will be relocated. PHOTO: ST FILE
Madam Chaya Koi Kim, owner of Mdm Wong’s Shelter, with some of the cats in her Pasir Ris Farmway 2 shelter on Oct 19, 2016.

SINGAPORE - The upcoming government-built animal shelter in Sungei Tengah will have a variety of layout configurations, to cater to the needs of different animal welfare groups that will have to move there when the facility is ready by mid-2018.

The two-storey facility is expected to house some 7,000 animals from the cat and dog shelters in Pasir Ris, Loyang, Seletar and Lim Chu Kang.

The animals have to move as land leases of their present, single-storey shelters are due to expire in the coming months.

Some units in the new facility will have kennel partitions, while others will be developed without partition walls, grilles and gates for the communal kennels, said the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) on Saturday (Sept 16).

"Some stakeholders have requested air-conditioning, while others have asked for exhaust fans. Power points have been provided so that fans or other ventilation can be provided within each unit. AVA has tried to make provisions to allow tenants the flexibility to retrofit units to suit their individual needs," said the spokesman.

It has also made provisions for better natural ventilation in the facility.

"We have designed the units to facilitate natural ventilation and comply with the building code of practice. The floor to ceiling is 2.5m in height. Most walls are 1.5m high, with the remaining 1m covered by wire mesh. Only the fire escape-facing wall on the first floor will be 1.8m high to comply with the fire safety code. The remaining 0.7m for this wall will be covered by wire mesh," said the AVA spokesman.

AVA's update on the facility comes after a petition calling on the agency to review the design of the shelter started circulating on social media on Wednesday (Sept 13).

The petition, started by one Josephine Lim, said that based on photographs circulating online, "the shelter looks just like a concentration camp... which does not have any outdoor space for animals to get natural sunlight and is totally boxed in".

However, it is not clear where the photographs she is referring to are from, as the facility is not yet fully built.

Construction of the new shelter has been slightly delayed due to the need for additional earthworks, AVA said, and the facility is now scheduled to be progressively ready from the end of this year to mid-next year.

Animal welfare groups were expected to move to the Sungei Tengah shelter by the end of this year.

But AVA said it has worked with the relevant agencies to provide short-term extensions for tenants whose leases are expiring this year.

Mr Derrick Tan, founder of animal welfare group Voices for Animals (VFA), which has a shelter at Pasir Ris, said it is not clear who Josephine Lim is, and if she had been part of the engagement sessions that animal welfare groups have been having with AVA.

"The facility is a shelter for the animals to stay temporarily, while we find them their forever home. It is not a permanent place we want the animals to stay in forever. And whatever space we get, we can make good use of it to allow the animals to be comfortable. AVA has been very flexible with the layout that different groups want," said Mr Tan.

VFA has been allocated three units for its 150 dogs, Mr Tan told The Straits Times.

Of this, he had negotiated with AVA to have two of the three units built without any partitions, allowing the dogs to roam free as they do in the current shelter. The third unit is kept for less socialised dogs, he said.

Animal welfare group Voices for Animals' proposed changes to configuration of units in upcoming government-built animal shelter in Sungei Tengah. PHOTO: VOICES FOR ANIMALS
AVA agreed to make changes according to VFA's requirements. PHOTO: VOICES FOR ANIMALS

"AVA has been very flexible, and we need to be fair to them," he said.

Taking on board the suggestions at the design phase would help animal welfare groups, which are often already cash-strapped, save costs, Mr Tan added.

His views were echoed by a number of other animal welfare groups, including dog rescue group SOSD Singapore.

The group said in a Facebook post on Friday (Sept 15): "Can the situation be better? Yes - if we were in New Zealand or Australia, where there is ample land. In land-scarce Singapore, this is as good as it gets, for now. The National Development Ministry (MND) is building the premises, with space allocated for animal welfare - and we move in and pay rent; This is much better than the original plan, where animal shelters had to bid for land, and build our own premises - an undertaking which would have cost millions."

MND is the parent ministry which AVA falls under.

The new two-storey facility will also provide different services, such as pest control, waste disposal, cleaning services, which can be shared, AVA said.

"The facility is custom-built for housing animals and meets AVA's animal welfare standards. There will also be common facilities, such as dog runs and a pavilion for events. The facility's Managing Agent will carry out routine pest control and provide security services," said AVA.

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