JOHOR BARU: Not only has the Covid-19 pandemic affected Malaysians from all walks of life, pets are also impacted in the changes brought on by the new normal.
HOPE (Homeless and Orphan Pets Exist), a no-kill animal shelter at Pekan Nanas in Pontian, saw an increase of abandoned animals by some 50% during the pandemic.
The shelter’s development team leader Francis Gan said the rescued animals were mostly those with owners stranded in Singapore and were unable to come home due to border travel restrictions.
Financial difficulties caused by affected jobs and pay cuts were also among the reasons why owners chose to abandon their pets as the easy way out, she said.
“Pet owners in such situations should think of a ‘Plan B’ for their pets, whether by making arrangements to place them at a shelter or ask help from their neighbours, friends or relatives rather than leaving the animal in the empty house unattended.
“There were also many instances of contractors trespassing into homes to catch the unattended pets after neighbours reported them to the local council, ” she said when interviewed.
HOPE used to receive about 15 to 20 reports of stray animals each month but since the MCO, this had increased to about 40 reports a month.
The organisation also spends RM170,000 monthly to run the shelter and care for the strays, with money mostly going to food, medication and neutering procedures.
Gan said there were more than 3,000 cats and dogs seeking relief at the shelter, including the abandoned, wounded and sick.
The shelter also organised an adoption drive in September and October but was forced to cancel it this month due to the conditional movement control order.
“We received warm response in the past couple of adoption drives but we also turned down a few people’s requests after interviewing them because we learn that they are not serious about the adoption.
“Some of them decided to adopt simply because they are unable to travel due to the pandemic and feel bored, ” she said, adding that owning a pet is a long-term commitment.
In addition to that, the shelter has also received many private messages from netizens online asking whether there are any pedigree puppies or dogs available for adoption.
“We hope that more people can understand that the real meaning behind ‘adopt, do not shop’, is to encourage everyone to adopt the poor animals from the streets to put an end to their misery and reduce the population of strays.
“That is much better than the distorted understanding where they select only pedigree breeds to care for, ” she said, adding that the public could visit the shelter to adopt by making an appointment to give the cats and dogs a home.
Those who wish to donate or adopt can get in touch with the shelter at 012-716 7123 from to 8pm.
Separately, Muar Animal Lovers Society founder Maggie Tay reminded pet owners not to use the conditional MCO and MCO as an excuse to abandon their pets, which added to the longstanding issue of stray animals.
She said that since the MCO was enforced on March 18, there was a noticeable increase in cats and dogs — many of which were pedigree breeds — being abandoned by their owners.
“We rescued many of them from houses that had been left empty for weeks, and from factories that had ceased operations where the dogs were left there to fend for themselves.
“We never stopped our rescue efforts during the MCO period, ” she said.
She added that they had worked hard to raise funds and had brought more than 400 stray dogs in the Muar and Tangkak areas for neutering to prevent them from breeding and adding more strays on the streets.
“I often pay out of my own pocket to hire foreign workers to help with the rescue efforts because I cannot manage on my own with only a few volunteers.
“Since March, we managed to place more than 100 abandoned dogs with new owners who are willing to adopt and give them a better life, ” said Tay.
She said neutering was still the best way to prevent strays from multiplying but not many owners saw its importance while some refused to fork out about RM150 for each procedure.
Meanwhile, the changes in business operation hours and the fact that many food and beverage outlets have been forced to close due to lack of business have also left the strays with limited places to forage for food and shelter.
The stray cats in Southern University College (SUC), Skudai here were not spared from the effects of the pandemic either as they were left to fend for themselves since the MCO.
SUC Animal Protection Society chairman Lau Han Yang said at one point, there were about 40 cats on campus before the pandemic but only 16 of them remained after some fell sick and died during the MCO.
He said that before the pandemic, the society’s 20 committee members would take turns to feed and care for the strays since they started turning up on campus a few years ago.
“During the MCO, students were told to stay at home and not allowed to attend physical classes. We found it difficult to take care of the campus strays.
“Luckily a 22-year-old student who is staying at the campus hostel volunteered to feed and care for them and is still doing so. The sick cats are also slowly recovering.
“However, we are now facing another problem, which is the lack of resources and our society funds are dwindling due to the cats’ medical bills, ” he said.
Lau, a diploma in business administration student, said that about RM500 a month was needed to take care of the 16 stray cats including paying for cat food, kitty litter as well as medical and neutering expenses.
“The Covid-19 pandemic has forced us to cancel our annual fundraising carnival, besides making it difficult for us to sell our society T-shirts to collect funds.
“Previously, our society received donations from other SUC societies but the funds have stopped as we are not allowed to conduct any activities or events on campus.
“Often, our members have to fork out their own money to pool funds for the strays, ” he said, adding that fewer people were willing to adopt the cats during the pandemic due to financial constraints.
Lau said he was also worried about the cats’ well-being as it took a lot of energy and time for one person to care for all of them.
He added that the society posts updates about the campus stray cats on its Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/SUCAnimalProtection where adoption information is available.
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