Last year, the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) announced the launch of a development called The Animal Lodge — a government-built facility for animal welfare groups to use. The two-story animal shelter at 59 Sungei Tengah Road houses 112 units and is expected to house about 7,000 animals — a concerted effort by the government to move all animal welfare groups and shelters into one inclusive facility.
Now that the premises have been completed, it doesn’t look so much like an animal haven, but more like an animal prison. Or so its detractors are saying.
Gone are the open concept designs of typical animal shelters, where cat and dogs are free to roam around bigger spaces. Images of the facility depict an unwelcoming environment with high walls, small windows, bare concrete floors and iron gates. The newly built Animal Lodge has been referred to as “Animal Auschwitz” and appearing like “concentration camps” by various animal welfare activists.
On Google, reviews by members of the public aren’t so good either.
Last month, Marc Ha Tzen Wye of local animal shelter Mutts & Mittens wrote to The Straits Times about how The Animal Lodge remains “unfit for purpose”, claiming that the facility is just too shoddy for the comfort of boarded animals.
“Reasonable animal welfare should be the key guiding principle. Have we provided a healthy and safe environment for the animals? Not in its present state,” Ha wrote. In response, AVA assured that they’re “working with stakeholders on solutions to the concerns that have been raised”.
There are other issues aside from the allegedly pitiful environment. According to TODAY’s report, several animal welfare groups are finding themselves understaffed due to the difficulties in hiring foreign workers to help them run the facility.
Is it that bad?
Animal welfare groups such as Save Our Street Dogs (SOSD) and Voices For Animals (VFA) have acknowledged that the environment isn’t perfect but, they’re willing to work together with AVA to improve the facility. As far back as last year, SOSD noted that “this is as good as it gets, for now”, but expressed optimism that things will get better eventually. The group is currently two months into their new premises, and everything has been settled “perfectly and magically”.
For VFA founder Derrick Tan, he informed ST that AVA has been accommodating to the needs of the various welfare groups.
“The facility is a shelter for the animals to stay temporarily, while we find them their forever home. It is not a permanent place we want the animals to stay in forever. And whatever space we get, we can make good use of it to allow the animals to be comfortable. AVA has been very flexible with the layout that different groups want,” he told ST.
VFA made the move from their former shelter in Pasir Ris to The Animal Lodge last week on National Day, and pictures posted on Facebook show that the premises aren’t as prison-like as assumed.