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Covid-19: Animal shelters see surge in adoption and fostering interest, but face logistical constraints

SINGAPORE — Since safe distancing measures have been in place across Singapore to curb the spread of Covid-19, animal welfare organisations have seen up to a 10-fold increase in fostering requests as well as a rise in adoption requests.

Covid-19: Animal shelters see surge in adoption and fostering interest, but face logistical constraints

After a livestream on April 5, 2020, where the public was able to see some of the dogs in its care, animal welfare group Causes for Animals Singapore saw a good number of adoption queries.

SINGAPORE — Since safe distancing measures have been in place across Singapore to curb the spread of Covid-19, animal welfare organisations have seen up to a 10-fold increase in fostering requests as well as a rise in adoption requests.

Organisations and potential adopters told TODAY that work-from-home arrangements and the need for companionship were some of the reasons for this surge. 

Yet these organisations have also stopped processing requests, as many of them are facing a manpower crunch. 

Safe distancing rules have also made it difficult for the adoption process to proceed. 

The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) Singapore has seen a 10-fold increase in fostering queries since March, even though the society’s internal network of fosterers has been able to meet its needs for now, said SPCA Singapore’s executive director Jaipal Singh Gill.  

“People have more time now because a lot of them are working from home, so they want to help out,” said Dr Gill, adding that he knows people who wish they could do more, and now that they have the time, have offered themselves to help. 

Since the circuit breaker began a week ago, Dr Siew Tuck Wah, president of Save Our Street Dogs (SOSD), said that the group has received double the usual number of adoption enquiries and six times the usual number of fostering enquiries.  

After a recent livestream on April 5, where the public was able to see some of the dogs in its care, Causes for Animals Singapore (CAS) saw a good number of adoption queries, said Ms Christine Bernadette, the group's fundraising coordinator. 

In addition, CAS has also seen a 50 per cent rise in fostering queries as people look to take care of pets for the short term while the circuit breaker measures are in effect.  

TAKING THE LEAP

While people may have various reasons for wanting to adopt or foster a pet, the Covid-19 outbreak has pushed some to take the leap. 

Ms Elizabeth Teoh, a 24-year-old recent graduate, had previously planned to adopt a dog with her fiance. 

When her graduation trip was cancelled because of the pandemic, both of them decided to move forward with the adoption. 

Two weeks ago, they brought home a two-year-old dog named Taka from A Stray’s Life. 

"The routine of taking care of a living being has helped us during this period,” said Ms Teoh. 

Warehouse executive Jeffrey Soo, 48, had commented on one of SOSD’s Facebook posts three days ago, asking if he could adopt a dog. His dog died eight months ago. 

When contacted by TODAY, Mr Soo said: “I live alone (and would) like to have a dog accompany me wherever I go jogging.”

He added that he feeds stray cats around his block of flats as well.

Still, some animal welfare organisations are wary of the increase in such requests.

“For people who want to adopt for just this circuit breaker period, of course, we strongly discourage it,” said Dr Siew.

As part of SOSD’s screening process, potential adopters have to go through a number of stringent procedures before they are allowed to adopt a pet, said Dr Siew. 

These include phone calls as well as visits by an SOSD rehomer to ensure that the living conditions are suitable. There will also be a one-week homestay period when the adopted dog will stay with the potential adopter. The rehomer will then conduct visits during this period to assess the relationship with the dog and to check on its well-being. 

As such, Dr Siew foresees more work for the organisation in processing the increase in adoption requests after the circuit breaker measures are lifted, since some of these requests could have come from people who were “impulsive”. 

For now, Dr Siew and Ms Bernadette said their organisations intend to continue posting pictures of their dogs online, so that they can follow up with interested adopters when the circuit breaker measures are lifted. 

For those who are showing interest in fostering, the animal welfare groups said they must realise this is also a big commitment, even though it is a temporary arrangement. 

For example, SOSD prefers that fostered puppies are not moved around often. 

Animal Lovers League has a similar stance. Founder Cathy Strong said that those who foster dogs will need to hold on to them until they are adopted. 

“(Moving from) one foster to another foster is very traumatic for the dogs, as they get attached to the owner or whoever is taking care of them,” she said. 

Aside from the time commitment, fosterers also need to put in the effort to train their puppies, since some of them may be at a young, impressionable age. 

“We do have dogs that are given up to us that were adopted by unsuitable people when they were very young and then they develop very bad behaviours,” said Dr Siew. 

“When they grow older, these dogs become more challenging to rehome as they develop issues such as barking and biting.”

MANPOWER CRUNCH

Besides the need to be stringent with the adoption process, animal groups are also unable to process adoption and fostering requests on account of a manpower shortage due to the circuit breaker measures. 

At SOSD’s shelter, only three full-timers remain and they are focused on taking care of the animals' daily and medical needs, said Dr Siew. Volunteers are no longer allowed at the shelter while the circuit breaker measures are in place. 

This makes recruiting new fosterers near impossible, since they need to be screened and trained by experienced volunteers before they can foster a dog. 

Animal Lovers League has reduced the number of people helping out at its Sungei Tengah shelter to 10 people at any time, said Ms Strong.

This is down from the shelter’s usual 20- to 40-member workforce comprising volunteers and staff members. 

As a result, fewer dogs have been taking walks, and the bathing frequency for the dogs has also been reduced, said Ms Strong.

CAS has also fallen back on its core team more, as its volunteer numbers have fallen from eight members to between two and four members daily, said Ms Bernadette.

Despite the number of requests received in the past week, these have also been put on hold for now.

“We got a number of good queries, but we cannot physically meet the families or have them interact with the dogs, so again the adoption process is hampered,” Ms Bernadette said. 

Although SPCA Singapore still conducts critical animal welfare services, such as animal rescues, and cruelty and welfare investigations, adoption and other non-essential services have been stopped for now because of the circuit breaker measures. 

Still, Dr Gill believes that fostering can be helpful as some fosterers do eventually adopt the pets they care for, with others tapping their networks to try to get these pets adopted.  

“I think anyone who has had a pet knows that amount of joy that an animal can bring, and if an animal can bring joy to someone who is stuck at home, I think it is a win-win for both parties,” he said. 

Related topics

pets adoption Covid-19 coronavirus

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