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Coronavirus: Animal Welfare Groups To Meet MND, NParks

May 8, 2020

The Covid-19 outbreak is taking a toll on the operations of animal welfare groups in Singapore as donations drop and fewer volunteers are allowed on the premises.

Social distancing measures and circuit breaker regulations have prevented groups from holding regular fund-raisers and limited the number of volunteers who can care for the animals under their charge.

Ms Jessica Kwok, group director for community animal management at the Animal and Veterinary Service under the National Parks Board (NParks), told The Straits Times that a video conference will be held between the groups and the Ministry of National Development (MND) and NParks today to discuss the situation.

Social and Family Development Minister and Second Minister for National Development Desmond Lee and Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Home Affairs and National Development Sun Xueling, along with representatives from NParks, will meet the animal welfare groups “to better understand how they are coping during this challenging period”, said Ms Kwok.

She noted that as part of the Resilience Budget announced on March 26, animal welfare groups at The Animal Lodge received two months’ rental waiver. The Animal Lodge is a purpose-built facility in Sungei Tengah; more than 20 animal shelters moved there from Pasir Ris Farmway in 2018.

Ms Kwok said NParks took over direct management of The Animal Lodge last December, reducing the service and conservancy charges significantly.

Ms Mary Soo, 72, founder of Oasis Second Chance Animal Shelter (Oscas), said the rental waiver for April and May helped her save on the monthly rental cost of $7,000 for five units in Sungei Tengah.

“For us, we tend to have many handicapped and senior dogs, so a lot of our money is spent on medical or vet bills.”

Donations to Oscas have dropped substantially. Big donors have disappeared as they were also facing problems, with businesses shutting down due to the poor economy, said Ms Soo.

Oscas’ sponsorship programme, in which people pay a minimum of $50 to fund a dog’s upkeep, has also seen fewer new sign-ups. The programme typically brings in between $3,000 and $4,000 a month for the group.

Action for Singapore Dogs (ASD) president Ricky Yeo, 52, said his group used to hold one or two events a month to generate publicity and collect donations. But all outdoor events are currently suspended, and ASD has lost around $6,000 in donations.

His group has now tied up with local brewery RedDot BrewHouse to raise funds.

“Pictures of the dogs that are up for adoption are printed on their beer labels, and we get a percentage of the proceeds. The first run of the campaign, which kicked off in late February, was sold out and they are doing a second one,” he said.

The Animal and Veterinary Service has also been helping the groups with adoption efforts.

Ms Kwok said: “As animal shelters have limited capacities, cessation of adoption and rehoming efforts hinder their ability to take in more rescued animals and could cause overcrowding. Long-term housing of an animal in a shelter environment is also detrimental to the animal’s health and welfare.”

She said NParks has made arrangements to let the groups carry out rehoming, adoption or fostering of their animals remotely during this period with no physical interaction, such as through video calls. Once the adoption or fostering has been agreed upon, the animals are transported using an approved pet transporter or by the animal welfare group itself, with safe distancing measures observed.

Ms Soo also spoke of the lack of manpower, noting that she usually had about 50 volunteers. During the circuit breaker period, however, only 11 are registered and allowed to enter the premises.

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