Coronavirus: Animal shelters take adoption drives online amid drop in adoptions, donations

SINGAPORE – Animal shelters are finding it harder to get their pets adopted, given the cancellation of in-person adoption drives.

The National Parks Board (NParks), which the Animal and Veterinary Service (AVS) comes under, says it understands from its animal welfare group partners that there have been fewer adoptions as they cannot hold outdoor adoption drives.

Animal welfare groups told The Straits Times they have seen a rise in online inquiries since the coronavirus outbreak, but have also found it harder to get their animals, especially the older ones, adopted.

Causes for Animals Singapore (CAS) fundraising coordinator Christine Bernadette, 31, says: “Most of them were just seeking to foster animals for a couple of weeks while their time has been freed up. They have good intentions, but it doesn’t help to rehome our dogs.”

She said older dogs at its shelter are most affected by the cancellation of the adoption drives as they usually need more time to bond with families.

She noted that in contrast with older dogs, “if you post a picture of a puppy on Facebook, plenty of people immediately want it”.

Donations to pet shelters have also been hit.

Dr Jaipal Singh Gill, 37, executive director of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA), says the group can usually raise $100 to thousands of dollars from events. Its fundraiser scheduled for next month, the Tux for Tails benefit gala, had aimed to raise about $500,000 for its Community Animal Clinic, but has since been cancelled.

Action for Singapore Dogs can raise about $1,000 an event from donations and the sale of merchandise. Its two shelters in Lim Chu Kang and at The Animal Lodge in Sungei Tengah usually need about $66,000 a month to cover costs such as medical expenses and rent, says its president Ricky Yeo, 51.

Boytjie, the seven-month-old Singapore Special Ms Seah adopted from Causes For Animals Singapore. PHOTO: GENEVIEVE SEAH

Meanwhile, Save Our Street Dogs has seen one-time donations plunge by about 40 per cent from January to February this year.

Animal welfare groups say they are trying to cope by holding more online donation drives and boosting their online presence.

NParks group director of community animal management Jessica Kwok said AVS is working with the animal welfare groups to profile the animals which are up for adoption via online or e-adoption drives.

One volunteer group has also stepped up to help. Hope for Animals, founded in 2011 by creative designer Melodee Tan, 28, has started Project Pet Live, a series of virtual adoption drives that aims to be a “Tinder for pets”, she says, referring to the dating app.

Ms Tan has gathered 35 people, mainly freelance photographers, videographers and emcees, to help with the project, on top of regular volunteers at Hope For Animals.

They are working with groups such as Causes for Animals, Exclusively Mongrels, Love Kuching Project and Friends of Seven to hold the online adoption drives via livestream on Facebook.

The first of these adoption drives will be held on Sunday at 12.30pm on the Hope For Animals Facebook page, together with CAS.

Ms Tan says the project aims to increase the adoptions of pets at animal shelters and raise donations for them.

“It also helps to bring together professionals who may have lost their jobs during this period and provides them with a sense of unity and belonging,” she adds.

One couple who recently adopted a dog is project manager Genevieve Seah, 34, and her husband, primary school teacher Tuan Smit, 36. They had been looking for a canine companion since buying a three-room Housing Board (HDB) flat in Bedok last year.

They adopted the seven-month-old mixed breed dog from the CAS after a visit to the shelter about three weeks ago. Mr Smit, who is from South Africa, says the dog is “exactly like the farm dogs back home”.

Boytjie, which means little boy in South African slang, joined them at their home on March 7, after a new rule allowing larger dogs to live in HDB flats kicked in.

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