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Animal shelters scratch along as Covid after-effects roll on

Many can no longer afford to continue caring for the animals brought to their doorsteps.

Nur Hasliza Mohd Salleh
3 minute read
Stray cats wander into the lobby of a low-cost housing project in Kuala Lumpur.
Stray cats wander into the lobby of a low-cost housing project in Kuala Lumpur.

Joan Ng and her husband never thought that they would one day own not one, but three dogs, all rescued from animal shelters at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020. 

At that point, the virus was spreading far and wide, and the lack of a vaccine had forced the shutdown of both the economic and social sectors. 

Ng and her husband felt ill at ease whenever they came across reports on social media about how animal shelters were struggling to make ends meet.

They were also saddened by the many pets left at shelters who needed to be taken in by new families. 

"We thought to ourselves that we needed to do something quickly, before those animals starved to death or were dumped," Ng told MalaysiaNow. 

She concluded that the best way to help was to support the shelters near her home which were facing financial troubles due to the movement control order (MCO).

"The shelters needed volunteers and new families," she said. 

"My husband and I both work from home, so we drove to Puchong and took back three dogs and a cat."

Today, the dogs are happy at the couple's home while the cat has been taken in by Ng's mother, who lives in Muar, Johor. 

Kittens gaze out through the bars of their cages at an animal shelter in Putrajaya. 

Ng and her husband are among the hundreds, perhaps even thousands, of Malaysians who volunteered their time and resources to help animal shelters across the country during the pandemic. 

Today, four months after Malaysia began its transition towards the endemic phase of Covid-19, there are no updated records on the number of animal shelters forced to close due to the MCOs. 

But the appeals for public donations have continued, with shelters asking for financial aid or even just food for the animals in their care. 

Some have also said that they can no longer continue taking in animals due to a lack of resources and manpower. 

In Putrajaya, a shelter for abandoned cats has fallen into disrepair, with no money left for maintenance. 

A gardener working beside the shelter said about 38 cats had been brought there at one point or another. 

But over the past year, all of them were released to fend for themselves as the shelter management could no longer afford to care for them. 

"Before this, they would take in any cat that was brought to the shelter," he said. 

"But now, there is only one person left to take care of the animals. They can't do it anymore. The cats roam freely here and there. 

"Some of them stay close as they are not used to finding their own food. But most of them have disappeared and we don't know where they are anymore." 

Only a few weeks ago, a litter of kittens was left at the shelter in the dead of the night. 

The shelter management took them in as they were unable to find anyone willing to adopt them. 

"There are three of them, all without a mother," the gardener said. 

"There is also another cage with a cat and its kittens, waiting for someone to take them in.

"If no one comes, they might just be released like the others." 

He said the cost of keeping the cats at the shelter was just too high. Food aside, the management also needs money for medication and scheduled visits to the vet. 

Before the pandemic, he said, many had brought donations of food and milk, and volunteers had come on weekends to help clean out the cages.

But after the lockdowns were imposed, people were forced to stay at home and many appeared to have forgotten about the shelter. 

"Maybe they don't know that it is still here, waiting for their help once more."