Covid-19: Animal shelters and vets hit hard by coronavirus crisis

  • Animals
  • Thursday, 09 Apr 2020

Staff members still go to the shelters to feed, bathe and look after the animals, but the public and volunteers are not allowed at animal shelters during the MCO. —

Target, Swooner and Tic Tac are delighted that the humans are staying at home. They have company all day long and cuddles on demand.

In fact, our fuzzies are demanding five-star service. Target has decided he wants his biscuits handfed, and Swooner is seeing how often he can con double treats out of us. As for Tic Tac, she is purring all day long.

But for animals in need, and the people who tend to them, the situation is far from happy.

Small-shelter struggles

Singaporean S. Loganathan runs ESA Animal Shelter a sanctuary for 1,300 stray pets in Johor Baru as well as feeding strays and conducting animal rescue.

"We stockpiled as much food and supplies as we could, which was a challenge," Loganathan says. "It's not just space, we cook several hundred kilos of food every week, but it's also a big investment."

"As we are still allowed out, one person at a time, but we have to be careful, I now get up and go to the market at 4am – that's three hours earlier than usual."

"We've had to halt the normal pickup of street strays, like pups on the street. As for feeding, all the street animals are suffering. There are so many warungs who care for a stray or two, but as they are all closed, the animals are starving. The authorities really need to consider this. Ideally, I really hope that we can go as one person and start feeding because they are all God's creatures."

"As for emergencies like injuries, we still tend those. However, as we can't go in twos or threes, it's a challenge. You can't just walk up to an injured stray by yourself, they're often really afraid, so helping is much less efficient. Still, it has to be done.

"Also, vets are working reduced hours so we can't get the neutering slots we usually do for the month. Luckily, we can make appointments so we're still able to source medical help. Interestingly, a lot of people think clinics are all closed so I'm trying to get the word out about that and referring them when I can."

Big-shelter woes

"Just before the MCO, we put out the word to extend our foster programme," Lily Leng at SPCA Penang shares. "Thankfully, some of the international school teachers volunteered to foster our kittens – at the time, we didn't have any puppies. And now the MCO has been extended, they have very kindly extended too.

"Though we ordered food through the parent company, we hope donors could also arrange to purchase food online and send it to us.

"Although it's MCO, shelter staff come in daily because the animals need feeding, bathing and looking after. The vet also comes but it's by appointment and we try to limit visits as much as possible.

"But we have no public visitors, so adoptions and cash donations have dried up. I'm really worried because without our fundraising activities we may have reduce our work drastically.

"I also feel sad because the animals miss their walks, their visitors and there's no chance to bond with humans. We're so limited in what we can do for them. We're arranging pet play parties within the shelter but some of the pets who need extra care to overcome trauma may be extra stressed."

Spokesman Kelvin Cheah for Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Selangor (SPCA) shares his concerns.

"We do have some fosterers and when the MCO was announced, we had some more volunteers step up. However, they couldn't travel to see us, which left us in a bit of a pickle.

"Luckily, we are managing it well, for now. We've been operating at full capacity for years so, luckily or unluckily, we are used to it. Dumping is still happening but it's less than normal.

"For us, the biggest issue is to ensure our rescuers have enough food to keep feeding the animals, as our long-term plan is that even after the MCO is lifted, we will keep bringing in animals to be neutered and spayed.

"We think that worse is yet to come, donations will drop, adoption rates will drop, and surrendering rates will likely climb after the MCO is lifted. Most shelters will be overrun, again."

Edward Lim, shelter manager of PAWS Selangor echoes these worries. "We’re not allowed to have volunteers until the end of June. As the volunteers walk the dogs, they are restless. We're seeing some of our dogs becoming a bit anxious although overall they're well behaved.

"We staff are maintaining the shelter by cleaning, feeding and having the vets in to make sure everyone is healthy. It's a lot of work but thanks to the MCO, there are fewer surrenders too.

"Our biggest problem is that our walk-in donations have dried up, as have fundraising activities. Our funds are depleting fast. If you want to help, donate to us so we can buy food."

Vets going broke

As might be expected, the MCO has impacted veterinary services too.

"As suppliers are closed and they need to go to the police to get permits to travel, some areas are experiencing a shortage of drugs and specialised pet food," Dr Gopinathan Gangadharan, President of the Malaysian Small Animal Veterinary Association, points out.

"A lot of us are one-man shows and we survive on pet lovers coming in for vaccinations, routine checkups, teeth-cleaning, buying pet food, and so on. With the MCO in place, a lot of vets are facing financial difficulties. Most of the clinics say there is a 70% to 80% drop in business. It's tough for me too because I'm on my own but hopefully I'll survive.

"I am concerned for dogs that need walking. I mean, you can't keep a big dog like a Lab at home all day. My top tip to pet owners is that you should call the local council and see what they advise. If you can, get a permit.

"Also, as so many clinics are closed, go to our web site to see what's open and then phone to make sure they're taking appointments."

Want to support animal shelters and NGOs?

If you're short of cash, you can help by:

  • Liking their social media pages
  • Sharing posts that talk about their work
  • Advocate for animal issues such as neutering
  • Directing richer friends to links where they may donate!

If you have a little spare cash, you can help by direct support.

ESA Shelter ( shares their bank details and they would also appreciate likes and shares so they can adopt out their rescues.

PAWS Malaysia – Paws Animal Welfare Society ( will let you donate online and you get a Tax Exemption Receipt too. If you prefer, you can sponsor a pet in the shelter. As a sponsor, you can choose to be public or anonymous, and you will receive updates on your charge.

SPCA Penang ( will let you donate or sponsor a shelter spot, and they're a registered charity so you get it off your taxes. You can also, order reusable shopping bags, T-shirts, keychains and other gifts for friends – but you may have to wait for delivery after the MCO is over.

SPCA Selangor ( takes donations, has a shop packed with goodies, but more interestingly, you can also sign up for kid-friendly events, pet workshops and dinner offers – or give them as gifts.

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Covid-19 , MCO , animal shelters , veterinarians


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