The Animal Lodge tenants to pay lower rents as NParks takes over management of animal facility

In 2018, more than 20 animal shelters moved from Pasir Ris Farmway to the purpose-built facility, The Animal Lodge, to make way for industrial development. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Tenants at The Animal Lodge can expect to pay lower rents as the National Parks Board (NParks) is set to directly oversee operations at the facility for animal welfare groups, independent shelters, and pet farms.

NParks said on Thursday (Jan 2) that the total rental charges for commercial tenants at the facility in Sungei Tengah will decrease by about 15 per cent, while non-commercial tenants including animal welfare groups and shelters, will see their rental charges fall by about 30 per cent.

Previously, there were some concerns from tenants over the rentals being high.

In 2018, more than 20 animal shelters moved from Pasir Ris Farmway to the purpose-built facility, The Animal Lodge, to make way for industrial development.

The facility was developed by the former Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA).

NParks has now taken on the animal-related responsibilities of AVA.

Shelters said at the time that their financial burden increased due to higher bills at their new home and the cost of renovating the units to make them fit for purpose.

Some shelters operated rent-free in Pasir Ris. Others had their rent increase fivefold and questioned how long they could keep operating.

This was on top of the physical challenge of moving thousands of dogs, cats and other unwanted pets back then.

The Animal Lodge facility has 112 units housed in 20 two-storey blocks. It contains shared facilities such as dog runs, as well as commercial spaces.

In its statement on Thursday, NParks said it phased out the managing agent at The Animal Lodge since Dec 5, 2019, and is now managing the facility directly.

Mr Mohan Div Sreedharan, 54, co-founder of the Animal Lovers League is a tenant at the facility who believes the move by NParks is a good one.

"Earlier, we would pay about $600 as conservancy charges but since the external management has now been phased out, we are relieved of this charge. It eases the financial burden on us," he said.

Mr Mohan, who runs the registered charity which tends to over 500 cats and dogs, claimed there were maintenance and cleanliness issues at the facility before NParks took over.

In July 2018, Mr Marc Ha Tzen Wye, a tenant at The Animal Lodge, wrote in to ST regarding issues with the facility.

Calling the facility "unfit for purpose" in his letter, Mr Ha had said his shelter encountered blocked pipes and windows without weather-proof meshing to protect the animals in case of rain.

"There is a raft of other issues that is costing significant money to fix," he said.

In their response to letters, including Mr Ha's, AVA had said it provided the animal welfare groups with a one-off relocation assistance package worth $7,500 per unit, among other things.

The agency also said it worked with stakeholders to address the concerns that were raised, such as removing the waste that caused the blocked pipes Mr Ha mentioned and taking steps to ensure it did not happen again.

In a Facebook post on Monday, Ms Sun Xueling, Senior Parliamentary Secretary for National Development, said there would be no change to the support offered to tenants of the lodge with NParks' move.

Ms Sun said that monthly service and conservancy charges for tenants were expected to reduce significantly with the change in management.

The change aims to help tenants lower their monthly payments at The Animal Lodge.

"We recognise that the non-commercial tenants at (The Animal Lodge) - the animal welfare groups and shelters - provide shelter and care for abandoned and stray animals before they are adopted," she said.

"We are grateful for the services they have provided towards furthering animal welfare in Singapore."

Ms Sun said further improvements were planned for the facility, and NParks would work closely with the tenants on these changes.

NParks said it will be engaging with tenants to improve The Animal Lodge as an animal facility.

Some of the improvements NParks has made to the facility include improving navigation on site through the provision of directional signs and developing dog runs on existing turf areas.

"We are continuing to work on more infrastructural improvements and these will be shared when ready," the spokesman said.

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