Tuesday, 6 May 2008

SPCA Weekend

Saturday, 3rd May 2008 - Sunday, 4th May 2008: SPCA Weekend.

Woke up at 0740h upon receiving a text message from Susan T. that she was free to come and help out at the SPCA today. Picked up my weekly 2 kilos of peeled garlic to be cooked in the shelter animals' food from the wet market and went to the foodstalls to see if they had any stray cats for neutering under Mission Help. The kind stallowners had managed to capture a grey tabby for spaying, but as one of their staff was holding on to the cat, she (the cat) clawed and bit her captor so fiercely that the poor girl screamed and had to let the cat go. After putting antiseptic from my First Aid Kit on the girl's wound and checking that she was okay, I left some cat food for the stall owners and told them that I would bring them a cage next week.

Put Felicity in the carrier to see if I could get her adopted this week. I would hate to have to say goodbye to her, but if I were to keep all the strays I found, I'd have no time, energy or funds left for my rescue work. I would much rather Felicity be adopted by a good family. I just hope they'd want to keep in touch with me and let me board Felicity from time to time if they want to go away on vacation.

Swung round to Bangsar to pick Susan T. up. We arrived at the SPCA around 1130h. Set up Felicity's cage and put up a sign stating her medical history and the fact that she is for adoption. Susan and I started walking the dogs from Kennel A, 2-by-2. Upon our return, I bathed and tickwashed the dogs, as Susan was not used to bathing dogs.

The Twin arrived around 1300h, bringing Bear (the fostered puppy) back for vaccination. Prasan waited in the car while the Twin surrendered Bear. Both of them were quite emotional about having to part with the puppy. Prasan's family did a great job with Bear, as he had grown much bigger in just 3 weeks and was a picture of health. The Twin took a frightfully long time explaining Bear's needs, likes and dislikes to me. As though I didn't know how to look after a dog!

I put Bear into an oversized, cavernous carrier on loan from Dr. Pushpa and resumed my animal care duties. I was pleasantly surprised to find that Susan had overcome her fear of bathing dogs enough to bathe and tickwash the dogs while I was dealing with the Twin. Well, miracles happen every day! We went on walking, bathing and tickwashing dogs until it started to rain. Susan and I then took a quick lunch break while waiting for the rain to let up.

It was still drizzling when we got back to the shelter, so we decided to clean the shelter instead. I made 2 pails of soap and disinfectant solution for our use. Susan and I cleaned the Catteries, the Maternity Kennel, Kennels E, F and G, the Puppery, the cooking area and the central area.

In the evening, Reve let the dogs out to play in the shelter compound while Susan and I cleaned the Reception/Admin area. Halfway through our cleaning, a Malay lady came with her daughters to surrender her cats. Apparently she knew nothing about neutering and had let her 2 female cats breed. Now she found that she was unable to look after all the cats and had to surrender them. Before I could talk to her, Reve started shouting at the lady and screaming things about "Muslims saying it's a sin to neuter pets but sending many, many cats to be put to sleep". The lady and her daughters started crying and apologising. It was clear that like so many members of the public, they have no knowledge of the harsh reality of animal shelter euthanasia rates. They had obviously thought, in good faith, that the SPCA was the right place to send animals that they could no longer care for. After all, the Malay name of the SPCA is "Persatuan Menolong Haiwan", i.e. Animal-Helping Society. The lady then asked for her cats back but Reve would have none of it. Susan asked me to intervene, and although I know better than to mess with Reve when she's angry, I intervened anyway. I know Reve wouldn't stay angry with me for long.

I explained to the distressed lady and her daughters about the animal surrender rates and the percentage of those euthanised. I showed them around the shelter so they could see how crowded our kennels are. We have grossly exceeded our limit of animals housed in the shelter and although we have executed new strategies including having outreach and adoption booths at shopping centres, the surrender rates still exceed the adoption rates tenfold. I then talked about the benefits of neutering and gave them our shelter literature on the neutering of cats. The lady and her daughters agreed to bring their cats home and have a neutering appointment fixed within the week. I gave them my number and business card in case they encountered any problems with the Neutering Clinic staff. I apologised on behalf of the SPCA and asked them to forgive Reve, as she "is a foreigner and not of our culture, and may be a bit too blunt and may have said offensive and unacceptable things".

Reve apologised to me later for snapping at me, and although I was by then very weary from brainworm (i.e the kind of headache that leaves me lethargic, depressed and nauseated), I told her that there was little point in shouting at people and offending them because it would not help the cause of animal welfare. You can't educate people by angering, intimidating or humiliating them. There are many, many cruel people out there who kick stray animals for fun and ill-treat living beings, but this lady wasn’t one of them. She had apologized and had wanted to bring her cats home. You should always give someone a chance if they apologise, because it means they have learned from their mistakes and are willing to do better. If you don’t give someone the opportunity to make amends, how could we ever become a more caring and more civil society?

I know Reve cares very deeply about animals and is one of the best animal welfare workers you can find, but you won't be able to accomplish much if you can't engage other people and get them to help you in your fight against animal abuse and pet abandonment. You can't keep on believing that you can't change the way people are, and that if they've made up their minds to abandon their pets, they will. That is a defeatist attitude that demonstrates a lack of faith in the innate goodness of people.

If you had asked me 5 years ago if I liked animals better than I liked people, I would have said "Yes" without hesitation. Today, however, I believe there is no real choice between which one I cared for more. I work for animal rights and welfare because animals and the environment have no suffrage, and I strive to give them a better life because I can. But at the same time, I don't believe that humans are less honest or less likeable than animals. I believe that deep down inside, people are essentially good, and people do the best they can, in what they believe is in the best interests of their families or community. People's values are often influenced by their religion, culture, economic exigencies and even the policies of the government of the day (e.g. "if the Internal Security Act has been passed by Parliament, it must be necessary and it must be for the good of the country").

So in our case, the lady was of the opinion, in good faith, that instead of abandoning her cats at the roadside, the best thing she could do was to surrender them to the SPCA. She was not aware that she had the option of neutering them and bringing them home. In my opinion, many people act the way they do out of ignorance and lack of awareness. To bring about change and to reform animal welfare policies in this country, we have to take this approach:
1. Create awareness on the benefits of neutering/spaying your pets.
2. Provide access to affordable spaying/neutering.
3. Create awareness of shelter and pound euthanasia rates.
4. Use schools and the mass media to disseminate information on responsible pet ownership.
5. Create incentives for people who neuter, vaccinate and provide proper care for their companion animals.
6. Instill pride in a society that cares for its animals.

In dealing with this issue, anger is counterproductive. Reve may have the best of intentions but she doesn't realise that she's alienating people and making the public wary about having to work with the SPCA. People could be negligent or uncaring or downright cruel, but people could also be agents of change and reform. Susan reminded me never to become "angry and bitter like Reve", because "you may be the best animal shelter volunteer on Earth, but if you can't work with your fellow man, then I can't say very much for your effectiveness as a volunteer". I agree with you, Susan, and I thank you for your reminder. I pray I never become angry or bitter either. Each day, I learn better ways of communicating with people and helping them make better choices that will result in less harm to other living beings.

Susan and I finished cleaning the shelter, cleaned ourselves up, picked up Felicity (who wasn’t adopted today) and Bear (who is to be fostered for 2 weeks by Jessica’s father) and drove on home. Dropped Susan off at her home, went back to the ‘Quarters. Got my animal babies fed, cleaned up and settled down.

Rolled on back to the parental home on Saturday night. I think the Battletank’s driveshaft is rumbling. I hope it’s not going to be expensive to repair. Completely flaked by the time I was done having dinner with the parents and doing the washing up. Could not sleep thanks to the brainworm. I wonder if this warrants an MRI scan, or if I’m just being a hypochondriac.

Sunday wasn’t a productive one for me. Bathed Amber, tidied up the insides of the Battletank, cleaned the living and dining rooms, took Amber on a walk and a car ride and that was all. No major projects undertaken.

Went back to the Bachelor Officer’s Quarters late Sunday night, cleaned the cages, did my laundry, cleaned the ‘Quarters up and was stayed up until morning replying to e-mails and typing my blog entries.

Project Second Chance would like to thank all its donors, sponsors and volunteers for their contributions, assistance and kind support:
1. Bernadette Chin
2. Lillian Danielle Khoo
3. Serina Rahman
4. Zawalan Razak
5. Jacobus Raj
6. Jessica Ng
7. Susan Thomas
8. Hazel McClure

Thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

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