Suffering from poor health, a skin infection and malnourishment, Tinkerbelle was in a bad shape when it was rescued from a puppy mill.
Shocked by its dishevelled state, Ms Marie Choo decided to foster the three-year-old Shetland sheepdog.
Saving Tinkerbelle in 2011 inspired her to begin volunteering at dog shelters and to eventually co-found a dog welfare organisation, Dogs Owners Guidance Support (D.O.G.S).
Ms Choo, who is in her 30s and is the founder and director of Alchemy Consultancy, a public relations, events and marketing company, said: “I was guilty of buying my first dog from a pet shop.
“After volunteering at animal shelters and learning about the horrors of puppy mills, I was gradually inspired to start my own group and help more dogs. I didn’t want to join existing organisations and simply donate money.”
Like her, others have started their own animal welfare groups, resulting in a proliferation of such organisations.
Mr Ricky Yeo, who founded Action for Singapore Dogs (ASD) in 2000, thinks the number has risen from fewer than five in 2000 to more than 15 this year.
Part of the reason is that the rise of social media has made it easier for many animal lovers to set up and publicise their own organisations.
They also operate differently from traditional animal rescue groups.
For starters, many do not own a physical shelter for the dogs they rescue. Instead, volunteers temporarily foster them until a permanent owner is found. Most are also self-funded.
D.O.G.S, for example, which started last year, is a non-profit organisation that helps shelters and individual dog rescuers find adopters for abandoned or stray dogs. It publicises the adoption drives mainly through its Facebook page.
In its recent adoption drive The Kindness Project, D.O.G.S successfully rehomed eight dogs in 10 days.
Ms Choo said: “Social media has helped us a lot. It is easier for us to find adopters in a short period of time.”
Voices for Animals, an organisation founded by MrDerrick Tan in 2009, also operates on Facebook.
To date, it has rehomed close to 400 dogs, some of which are former breeding dogs that are no longer useful to dog breeders.
Said Mr Tan: “Funding is always a problem because we (Voices for Animals) are still an unregistered organisation. A check-up and small surgery alone can cost up to $9,000.”
Although small, some of these groups take great pains to prove that they are as professional as the larger and more established animal welfare groups.
Ms Choo said that D.O.G.S posts pictures of receipts on its Facebook page. She also highlighted that it screens potential adopters with a stringent list of questions, asking about their housing type, household members and experiences with dogs.
Ms Choo and Mr Tan, along with three other animal welfare groups The New Paper spoke to, said they would prefer to remain as small independent outfits rather than join up with more established ones.
‘Ability to react faster’
Most small groups interviewed cited “ability to react faster”, “prompt decision-making” and “closer relationship with the dogs and their adopters” as reasons.
Dog welfare groups have also cited the presence of differing objectives as a reason they prefer to stick to their individual organisations.
The differences range from fundamental issues like whether dogs should be euthanised, to lesser concerns like quality of the shelters.
But with such a multitude of welfare organisations, is more really better?
Ms Corinne Fong, executive director of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, said: “There is a set of procedures, such as vaccinations, sterilisation, screening of adopters, that needs to be done and some groups may not be equipped to handle that.”
Mr Yeo of ASD, which has since become one of the biggest groups around, believes that while social media has significantly increased animal welfare awareness, this platform is a “double-edged sword”.
He said although there are more people to “share the workload”, some small groups are merely “armchair activists”.
They merely “share posts” about rescued dogs on Facebook and get people to contact the dog rescuer. There is no “real work” done in terms of rescuing the dogs and taking care of them.
Also, ad hoc help can sometimes mean that accountability is lacking, especially in terms of how funds are used and how adopters are screened.
ASD’s overall verdict is that an “umbrella organisation” may be needed to help these small organisations “focus”.
As such, they had started reaching out to smaller groups to “provide medical aid” and “tried-and-tested procedures and policies which we had honed over the years”.
Already, they have 28 stray feeders and a few small groups registered with them.
A spokesman for Oasis 2nd Chance, an animal shelter established in 2005, also said: “We are very open to working with other welfare organisations with the common aim of helping our local strays.
“But we are all emotionally attached to our rescued dogs, so a centralised ‘dog authority’ is ideal but difficult to achieve.”
Source: The New Paper