Animal shelters worry about costs after move to new home

Animal shelters moving from Pasir Ris to Sungei Tengah see rents skyrocket
NOEL LOW The New Paper 29 Jun 18;

It has been described as one of Singapore's largest animal "migrations".

More than 20 animal shelters are moving from Pasir Ris Farmway to a purpose built-facility called The Animal Lodge in Sungei Tengah to make way for industrial development.

Shelters told The Straits Times that they are facing a financial burden due to higher bills at their new home and the cost of renovating the units.

Some shelters that had been operating rent-free at Pasir Ris must now fork out thousands of dollars a month at the new Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority (AVA) facility.

Others have seen their rent increase fivefold and are questioning how long they can keep operating.

The AVA said The Animal Lodge has a capacity of 7,000 animals, which includes those from commercial enterprises such as pet breeders and importers.

Shelters based at Lim Chu Kang and Seletar will also relocate there later this year as they make way for redevelopment.

The AVA said it charges cost-recovery rates at the facility, which take into account land, construction and maintenance.

Animal shelters The Straits Times spoke to said they pay a monthly bill of close to $2,000 per unit, after adding service and conservancy charges.

A unit can house about 25 dogs, with some shelters renting 10 units.

Voices For Animals (VFA), which had not paid rent for four years at Pasir Ris due to a charitable arrangement with its landlord, must now pay for three units to house around 100 dogs.

Founder Derrick Tan expects utility bills to raise costs further, especially with the air-conditioning he had to install due to poor ventilation.

LEASE EXTENSION

Two animal shelters - Animal Lovers' League and Mutts & Mittens - remain at Pasir Ris Farmway after being given a one-month lease extension as their new units are still being refurbished.

Mutts & Mittens, a boarding kennel that doubles as a shelter, said renovating its seven units at The Animal Lodge will cost over $400,000. As it is not a registered charity, its owners are stumping up the cash.

The AVA and Ministry of National Development (MND) offered a grant of $7,500 per unit to defray renovation expenses, but the shelters have had to raise additional funds.

The smaller shelters are facing the biggest struggle, as they have less support and savings.

Lily Low Cat Shelter said it has just $1,723 left in its coffers, despite managing to raise close to $70,000 for the move. It chose not to take up AVA's facility, calling it a "dungeon".

The location of The Animal Lodge is another major bane for the shelters. It is 3.5km from Choa Chu Kang MRT station, and shelter operators worry they will attract fewer volunteers to walk dogs, feed animals and clean up.

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