Rise in number of animal welfare groups

Joy Fang Today Online 25 Mar 14;

SINGAPORE — The number of animal welfare groups has burgeoned in recent years, doubling in only five years, said advocates.

While some feel this may result in the dilution of donor dollars and an overlap of work scope, others applaud the growth as a sign of greater awareness about animal welfare.

Some groups, for instance, feel that the newcomers will bring about new approaches to tackle perennial problems. In a sign of increasing cooperation, some have also begun talks with the Ministry of National Development (MND) to share a piece of land and build a joint shelter.

Mr Ricky Yeo, President of Action for Singapore Dogs (ASD), whose group is one of those involved, said they are proposing a piece of land that is about 1ha to 2ha in size to house around 400 dogs.

When contacted, an MND spokesperson confirmed that it has received a joint proposal from ASD, Animal Lovers League and Save Our Street Dogs, on a proposed national adoption centre.

“We are currently evaluating the proposal and seeking clarifications from the animal welfare groups on the details of their proposal,” said the spokesperson.

Nonetheless, animal welfare groups TODAY interviewed felt there is a need for a centralised body to coordinate efforts.

Currently, a group can choose to be registered as a society, a charity or a public company limited by guarantee, so advocates say they have to rely on anecdotal evidence to suss out how many there are. Informal groups formed by like-minded individuals have also sprouted up in recent years, as they increasingly take advantage of cyberspace.

New registered groups in recent years include Humane Society (Singapore), Save Our Street Dogs and Causes for Animals.

Some informal groups that have surfaced in the past five years include LostPaws Singapore, which helps abandoned animals find a home, and Pets Looking For Adoption, which coordinates adoption requests.

Ms Cathy Strong, Founder of Animal Lovers League, feels that there should be fewer groups, as she fears that resources may be overstretched.

“This is Singapore, there is not much land. So people should think twice, three times, before they start a shelter.”

Ms Corinne Fong, Executive Director for the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, noted that informal groups are not required to comply with financial regulations, but may ask for donations, risking the abuse and misuse of funds. She said receipts should be made available on request and that a regulatory body should be set up to oversee all animal welfare groups.

Informal groups TODAY spoke to say they have their place, too, as many were formed out of passion or to tackle gaps that they think are unaddressed. They say donors need to be discerning and make responsible decisions, such as visiting the animals at the shelters, checking bills and donating to vets personally.

Mr Louis Ng, Chief Executive of Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (ACRES), said the key is for everyone to collaborate and work together to tackle the issues.

Meanwhile, Ms Eunice Nah, Volunteer Chief Advocate of Agency for Animal Welfare, suggested that an “official council of animal welfare leaders” could be formed to set “a gold standard of practice”.

A spokesperson for the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) said animal welfare issues have gained prominence in recent years, which reflects civic consciousness and a maturity about the treatment of animals.

The AVA is currently working with 12 registered societies.

“While the AVA does not govern nor accredit any animal welfare groups, we are open to working with all registered animal welfare groups to achieve common goals and outcomes,” she said.

“Everyone has a part to play in enhancing animal welfare in Singapore.”

Much to consider before starting animal rescue
Corinne Fong, Executive Director, Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals
Today Online 29 Mar 14;

Besides what was reported in “Rise in number of animal welfare groups” (March 25), I was asked another question. “If someone wants to form an informal group and go around saving dogs and putting them up for adoption — is this allowed or encouraged? What do you think should or should not be done?”

I responded: “Go for it.”

But starting an informal group, saving dogs and putting them up for adoption is not as easy as it seems. Any group wishing to start a rescue group must consider several factors.

First and foremost, is it a long-term objective and does the group have a viable financial plan for the long haul? Can a continuous income stream be secured to take care of rescue, feeding, and veterinary and other operating costs?

One must realistically assess income needs and the amount needed in order to raise funds to sustain operations. One must be transparent when dealing with public funds and open the books for auditing.

Second, does the group have enough volunteers to feed, retrieve and foster the animals? Rescuing animals is an exhaustive affair not for the faint-hearted. Thus, a big support network of rescuers, feeders, fosterers and vets is needed.

And how long can these volunteers last? Can they identify successors to carry on, should the founders leave the group?

A third major consideration: Has the group identified a place to house these animals? Whether it buys or rents land, building and cleaning costs must be considered, along with a utilities connection and payments.

Does it depend instead on existing shelters and commercial boarding places? Due to the oft-heard “land is scarce” and “shelters are full”, rescue groups often look for alternative sites or temporary foster care to house their charges.

Running a rescue requires a huge financial commitment and is a major responsibility, which requires passion and belief.