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Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Relieving The Euthanasia Burden Of Our Nation



Here are Sandy and Pickle, stray cats with flesh wounds undergoing rehabilitation with us. Besides their furry cuteness, their story is a spotlight on an important issue for all animal lovers.

Sandy and Pickle are from SPCA, as the first cats in our collaboration with our nation's primary animal shelter. We are helping to rehabilitate cats from the streets that need intensive care before they return or are rehomed by SPCA. While they have been here, we put them on Revolution, bathed and groomed them, apply medication for them daily and feed them supplements. Sandy is from Ang Mo Kio and Pickle from Bedok. Both of them likely suffer from wounds sustained through cat fights as they are not yet neutered. They came to us on 20 June and are returning to SPCA next week as their wounds are close to complete recovery already, Sandy a little slower at recovery because she refuses to eat her canned food with supplements and her wound is at a joint. They will be be neutered by SPCA and slots are being arranged to get either Pickle or both of them rehomed if not otherwise returned to their territories to prevent the vacuum effects caused by their absence.

Why are we doing this? To answer this means shedding light on why so many cats are euthanised at SPCA and what each and every person should do to change this statistic. Euthanasia should only be carried out if the cat is no longer able to recover to a point of basic functioning (eating, drinking, eliminating) without pain. Many sicknesses are treatable such that this condition is not applicable, but treatment requires resources.

Any rescue group or shelter can claim to be no-kill, but these are, us included, closed-admission shelters, meaning that when capacity is full, we turn away new intakes until space frees up. SPCA does not have the luxury of doing this as it is considered open-admission, meaning it cannot turn away rescues. All of us no-kill shelters have effectively shifted some of our euthanasia burdens to them. Cats euthanised unnecessarily at SPCA are our nation's euthanasia burden, shared.

You may not know it, but SPCA actively works to reduce the nation's euthanasia burden. The no-kill equation requires the following functions to be implemented in order to reduce the kill rate:


Looking at this checklist, you will see that a shelter needs to decentralise its intake load by working with external foster volunteers and rescue groups. It also needs to expend resources to rehabilitate pets so that they can be adoptable. Simply stopping or lowering the rate of putting animals to sleep will not solve anything and can in fact make for even worse outcomes. There were times when SPCA lowered its rate of euthanising animals. However, the capacity to rehabilitate them to full health, largely dependent on space - and - working with volunteer groups or individuals, could not match the shelter load. Many of these cats subsequently still died.

Because SPCA still does not have space for hospitalisation, rehabilitation of unwell but treatable cats simply must be farmed out to reduce unnecessary euthanasia. This is why they recruit foster parents which you can sign up for. Groups like us can take more than one cat to rehabilitate at a time, and for a greater range of ailments because of our specialty. When we foster a cat from SPCA, it means it doesn't have to die. This means that you helping to foster a SPCA sick cat is literally a determinant of life and death of the cat.

Next week when Sandy and Pickle return to SPCA, we will take on another two more sick or injured cats to rehabilitate. We are endeavouring to make this long term. Saving lives two at a time. Doesn't seem like much, but we hope that in doing so, we also spur people on to sign up with SPCA as foster parents. Because unnecessary euthanasia is not SPCA's burden to carry: it is the burden of all pet lovers across Singapore. Let's do this together.

External links: SPCA www.spca.org.sg No-Kill Advocacy Center: www.nokilladvocacycenter.org

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