Thinking about how you can make an impact this holiday? If you are an animal lover, try volunteering at an animal shelter – it’s fun, it’s meaningful and you’ll get to meet many new furry friends! In this article, we interview Yoke Teng, the Project Director of NUSPAWSnThink, to find out more about why she and her team decided to partner up with OSCAS (Oasis Second Chance Animal Shelter) to create an online awareness campaign, garnering support for stray animals. She speaks on the impacts of her project, the misconceptions of stray dogs in Singapore (also known as Singapore Specials), and how we – as NUS Students – can do our part to help.
1. Hi! Let’s first get to know who we are speaking to. Can you introduce yourself and tell us a little more about NUSPAWSnThink?
Hi, I am Yoke Teng, the Project Director for NUSPAWSnThink. My four other group mates are Tammy Koh, Beth Eng, Samuel Pasaribu and Ian Cheng, but I’ll be representing the group for today. We first initiated the Project in light of the Seeds of Good Programme where Scholars in NUS have to come up with a novel community project in an area of their interest. In coming up with an idea for our project, we were strongly drawn to helping Singapore Specials. Our Singapore Specials are often overlooked as a group and there’s still room for them to grow to be heard.
2. What can visitors find on the NUSPAWSnThink Instagram page?
Our three-month long online campaign is centered on creating awareness for the non-profit dog shelter, OSCAS. This is done mainly through our Instagram page @NUSPAWSnThink, and these informational materials will be left online for visitors to refer to. We have a total of seven videos on the Instagram page covering topics like the backstory of some Specials, common misconceptions about strays and what volunteering at the shelter is like.
3. Why did you choose to partner with OSCAS?
In our research process, we discovered that there are actually many dog shelters in Singapore. Amongst them is OSCAS, a lesser-known dog shelter – compared to more commonly known organisations like the SPCA. We chose to partner with OSCAS as we wanted to help them gain more exposure, especially since smaller non-profit shelters like them tend to receive less help in terms of donations or volunteer work from the public.
4. Is there anything you learnt along this journey?
I think this was a good learning experience for me, as I was previously a little scared of stray dogs. Stray dogs are sometimes portrayed by the media to be aggressive and violent, and that’s how I think my fear developed. However, when I stepped into the shelter for the first time, I realised all the dogs were actually not like what I had initially imagined. Most were quite shy and would crawl up into a corner instead. I later learnt that this behaviour could have resulted from mistreatment by irresponsible ex-owners or just simply from having to tough it out on the streets.
5. Why is it important that we care for Singapore specials?
In light of reclamation projects set up by the government and the lack of natural spaces in Singapore, many strays have lost their homes, and are forced to look for food and shelter amongst our concrete jungle. They also often end up staying in dangerous locations like construction sites or roadsides. This is why volunteers rescue these animals, leading to most of the stray dog population in Singapore residing in the shelters.
However, this would then lead to the rise in constraints due to limits in resources and capacity. There are a lot of costs involved – renting a space, providing food for the dogs and taking care of the dog’s well-being in general. This is especially troubling as such organisations typically do not receive much government funding. As the needs of these dogs will always exist, the current support from the public is not enough to sustain the shelters over the years. This is why more has to be done to support these forgotten animals.
6. What can we do to help?
Firstly, you can donate. While monetary donations are always welcome, those who already own dogs can also donate in kind – by passing along old leashes, dog food or toys that may not be in use anymore.
If you would like to be more involved, you can go a step further and offer your time by volunteering at the shelter. Duties range from rehabilitating, bathing and walking the dogs, to updating the OSCAS website and social media platforms. So even if you don’t feel confident enough to interact with the dogs directly, you can always offer your services in other ways that are equally important.
Lastly, you can choose to adopt or foster a dog instead of buying from pet shops. As the number of stray dogs in shelters will increase as time goes by, if we do not adopt, some dogs may spend the entire duration of their lives in the shelter and eventually pass on there as well. It’s a rather sad plight for these animals so do adopt if you are given the choice.
7. What are the main differences between fostering and adopting?
Fostering is providing a dog with a temporary home while adopting is a more permanent commitment. While of course, adopting a dog and caring for it over its entire lifespan would be most ideal, we understand that not everyone is able to make such a big commitment. Hence, the option of fostering exists, where you can make a more short-term commitment but still make a huge impact in the dog’s life. By providing it with a home-like environment, it is able to be exposed to a home environment and get the socialisation it needs. When it is finally adopted, it would adapt more quickly to new home environments.
If you are interested to find out more about how you can volunteer, foster or adopt a dog, head down to OSCAS’s Webpage to find out more. There, you can read more about the ways you can help, the dogs currently housed in the shelter, and blogs articles featuring fosterers or adopters and their experiences.