Animal crusaders

Animal rescue work is demanding but welfare groups here are dedicated to helping those in need
Cheryl Faith Wee Straits Times 13 Jul 13;

In the last three years, Ms Wendy Low has rescued at least 30 stray and abandoned dogs with injuries ranging from maggot-infested open wounds to broken limbs.

Such animals are often found near industrial or forested areas, where strays usually live.

Ms Low, who is in her mid-40s and runs her own business, is among a group of individuals here that work independently or with animal welfare groups to help animals in distress.

She is a rescue-work volunteer with Action For Singapore Dogs and is tipped off about injured dogs by members of the public.

She would line the back seat of her car with newspapers and drive the dogs to the veterinarian. Sometimes, blood, maggots and ticks are left behind, but she is unfazed.

"I just scoop up everything with the newspaper and throw it away. I wipe everything down and then spray disinfectant."

It is all in a day's work for the animal lover, who handles one to five dog rescues every month, ranging from those hurt in traffic accidents to sick strays.

Action For Singapore Dogs is among at least seven animal welfare organisations here that often receives calls and e-mail messages from people who come across animals in distress.

These groups, which include the Society For The Prevention Of Cruelty To Animals (SPCA) and Hope Dog Rescue, will assess the situation and decide if they will take action.

SPCA, which operates a 24-hour emergency hotline for animal rescue, received 2,955 calls last year and helped 1,828 animals. These ranged from dogs that had fallen into drains to cats perched precariously on ledges of high-rise buildings.

As for the rest of the cases, Ms Corinne Fong, 50, SPCA's executive director, says: "There have been times when we weren't able to bring in the animals because they were no longer at the location by the time our officer arrived, as the callers were not able to help confine them.

"We are also not able to send rescue officers down for all the calls as they may be in the middle of another rescue. So when people call, we must ascertain the severity of the problem."

The animals have to meet one of three conditions - injured, sick or distressed - before SPCA sends someone down, she adds. The SPCA has full-time officers to handle animal rescue work, which volunteers say can be challenging.

Mr Ricky Yeo, 45, president of Action For Singapore Dogs, says: "Volunteers are not raring to take up rescue work. There is the mental stress of it. Some people who call or e-mail can be very demanding and have all kinds of expectations - they do not want to do anything but expect you to."

At Action For Singapore Dogs, three people handle rescue work - Mr Yeo, another staff member and Ms Low, who has been a volunteer since 2005 but started helping with rescue work only three years ago. They receive at least one call or e-mail message daily asking for dogs to be rescued, but they can manage only one to five cases every month.

The non-profit organisation, which was set up in 2000, has 36 regular volunteers who help take care of close to 100 dogs at its adoption and rescue centre.

Some animal welfare groups take a different approach. The Cat Welfare Society has a network of about 1,000 volunteers in various neighbourhoods who keep a lookout for cats in their areas, from feeding them to helping those that are injured.

The society receives about 50 e-mail messages daily about cats that need help. It then puts these people in touch with volunteers from the various neighbourhoods.

Its president, Ms Veron Lau, 42, says: "We do not encourage people to think they can call a number and their problems will be solved. Animal welfare cannot rely on just a few people, there needs to be a community effort."

One of the volunteers in the Cat Welfare Society's network is Madam Law Mui Eng, 56, a stall owner in a wet market. She lives in Clementi West and has been taking care of the stray cats in her neighbourhood since 1995. She feeds them daily and checks that they are not sick or hurt.

Every week, she takes at least three calls - sometimes at midnight - from strangers, friends or neighbours who have spotted cats in her neighbourhood that need help.

She usually makes a trip down to check on the situation. "These animals need someone to look out for them. They have a hard life."

She also helps to pay for the vet bills of some of these cats, which can cost a three- or four-figure sum. If she cannot afford the expenses, she seeks help from other volunteers in her neighbourhood.

Besides monetary costs, animal rescue work is also time-consuming.

Ms Mumtaz Begam Aziz, 36, a warehouse coordinator, has cared for stray dogs on her own at a cemetery for the last four years.

Every Saturday, she drops by to make sure the animals are in good health. She even feeds the dogs health supplements.

These supplements are sponsored by donors she finds through Facebook. Ms Mumtaz, who is single, says: "I love animals a lot. I name some of the strays and become quite attached to them."

She tells those who work in the area to call her if anything happens to the dogs, and receives at least one such call every week. Once, a dog was spotted walking around with just three legs.

Rescue work can also take an emotional toll on animal lovers.

Ms Lisa Goh, 42, who runs her own creative business, has been doing rescue work with welfare organisation Hope Dog Rescue since 2010.

Every day, the group receives about 20 e-mail messages and calls informing them of strays as well as injured, abandoned or abused dogs.

She recounts one unforgettable case last year - a stray dog was found with such bad open wounds that its entire body was covered with maggots. It was hiding under a truck and she had to push the dog out with her bare hands and legs. She and other volunteers then rushed it to the veterinarian but it had to be put to sleep in the end.

"I can tolerate the maggots and the wounds. The main thing I want to do is to help them."

Whom to call for help
Straits Times 13 Jul 13;


What: The Society For The Prevention Of Cruelty To Animals helps sick, injured or distressed animals, including cats, dogs and birds. Response time ranges from one to three hours. Callers may be asked to stay with the animal until then or, in some cases, transport the animal to the vet themselves.

Info: Call 6287-5355 (extension 9) with the following details: the animal's condition, its location, your name andcontact number. Go to for more details.


What: Deals with wildlife, such as birds, squirrels, pangolins, monitor lizards and snakes, that are injured or outside their natural habitat. The group does not handle pets, stray dogs and cats. Response time varies between one and three hours. For non-urgent cases, e-mail Acres pictures of the animal, its location, your name and contact number.

Info: Call 9783-7782, e-mail or go to


What: Helps dogs with injuries or illnesses. E-mail pictures of the dog, its location,your name and contact number. Depending on the case, response time ranges from within a few minutes to a day. The group deals with severely sick and injured dogs.

Info: E-mail or go to


What: Offers guidance on how to help a sick or injured cat. The society has a network of about 1,000 volunteers spread across neighbourhoods here who keep a lookout for cats in different areas. Ask the society to put you in touch with the respective volunteers who live closest to you. You will get a response to your e-mail within two days.

Info: E-mail or go to