When I first read the news of Loki, a healthy young dog who was put down by the couple who had adopted it, I was devastated.

The couple, who had just had a newborn baby, claimed that they were worried over the safety of their child after Loki started biting. This prompted a Facebook post on May 6, written by dog rescuer Theng Wei Gan, which went viral. The post, which has since been taken down on accusations of doxing, angered many animal-lovers as it appeared to be a case of “convenience euthanasia”.

Putting an end to convenience euthanasia

Netizens wondered how could the couple, who adopted Loki two years ago, have been the same people to cause its premature death. Questions abounded. Why did they not try to rehome the dog, or engage a trainer to work on Loki’s behavior? How could the vet have terminated the life of a healthy dog?

This flagrant waste of an animal’s life even caught the attention of an MP. Member of Parliament Louis Ng, who founded Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (Acres), posted on Facebook, saying that he will call for stricter regulations to be put in place to put an end to “convenience euthanasia”. It also prompted a response from Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam, who asked for netizens to exercise restraints as the matter is investigated.

In general, vets only euthanise as a last resort. Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) Executive Director Dr Jaipal Singh Gill told the Pride: “We give our best to treat all patients. We care for the sick, injured, abused, abandoned and lost animals and euthanasia is our last resort for animals who are intractably suffering.”

But this is not the first time such a dispassionate act of disposal has happened. In 2013, a similar furore arose after a seven-month old mongrel, Tammy, was put down by her adopters for aggression and biting family members.

It appears we have not learnt our lesson.

Sadly too late to save Tammy
Image Credit: Facebook / Louis Ng Kok Kwang

While it is sadly too late to save Tammy and Loki – who would have turned three in two months’ time – I hope this incident can teach Singaporeans to adopt pets responsibly.

I do not own a dog, although I think they are adorable. It is not a decision I would make on impulse, because owning a dog means taking care of it for life, and one should have at least the right motivations before making this long-term commitment of at least 10 to 15 years.

Surge in adoption interest since circuit breaker

So, I was concerned when TODAY reported that since the circuit breaker period, animal shelters have seen a surge in adoption and fostering interest. And that work-from-home arrangements and the need for companionship were some of the reasons given for this surge in interest.

Save Our Street Dogs (SOSD) has received double the usual number of adoption enquiries and six times the usual number of fostering enquiries since the circuit breaker while SPCA Singapore has seen a ten-fold increase in fostering queries since March.

Normally, this would be good news for many animals in adoption shelters. SPCA’s Dr Gill said: “Animals selected for adoption are looked after by us until they’re adopted, even if it takes years. And in some cases, especially for Singapore Special dogs, it has taken years.”

In these unusual circumstances however, while potential pet owners currently working from home may believe they have the time and energy to care for a pet now, what will happen when they go back to the office?

Causes for Animals Singapore (CAS), an animal welfare charity who runs a rescue and adopt programme, told The Pride: “(The surge in adoption requests) is a hopeful situation with good intentions but we need to ensure families are able to cope and are still able to commit to care of animals during normal office hours.”

“Some people may have more time on their hands and are around a lot more. It is fine to adopt if the energy level and nature of the pet is a good match for when families return to working hours,” the spokesperson added.

President of SOSD Dr Siew Tuck Wah told The Pride: “Some people also feel more lonely if they live alone. However we encourage people to think through before adopting because a pet is a lifetime commitment. As such we would prefer to encourage potential adopters to wait until social distancing restrictions are eased before they decide if they can commit to a pet.”

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Currently, despite the increase in requests, actual adoptions have decreased as animal groups have cancelled adoption drives due to the Covid-19 outbreak. These organisations have also been unable to process requests for adoption and fostering, as they are unable to meet with potential adopters, and many of them are facing a manpower crunch due to the circuit breaker measures.

This slowdown in adoption drives, to me, is a good thing. It means that there is an in-built “cooling off” period for potential pet parents. So if and when they do go ahead and bring home a pet, it wouldn’t be on a whim.

A stone art piece created in honour of Loki
A stone art piece (right) created in honour of Loki (left). Image credit: Facebook / Aksboo Ellings

A pet is a long-term commitment

Once the circuit breaker measures start easing and animal rescue groups resume operations, please think twice before you go for an adoption drive and get bowled over by a puppy-eyed furry friend.

At the end of the day, owning a pet is a long-term commitment. It should not be a casual decision made out of boredom or loneliness, or a desire for companionship only during this period of working from home.

It also should be a decision made by the entire household, as having a pet without a family member’s knowledge or approval could lead to familial disharmony. This could result in owners giving up, or worse, abandoning their pets. To prevent this, many animal organisations ensure having the entire household present during the adoption interview.

Furthermore, to ensure that the dogs under their care are adopted by responsible pet owners, animal groups such as CAS and SOSD have stringent and thorough processes for adoption which include multiple rounds of screening, organising trial home stays, compulsory puppy classes and obedience classes, and explaining the adoption agreement in detail before releasing a dog to its new owners.

“For people living in HDB apartments we go through a third round (of screening), to make sure that their immediate neighbours understand,” SOSD’s Dr Siew says. “(After the dog is adopted) we continue to follow up closely for a few months, and if (owners) have any problems they can contact us.”

If you are a first-time pet owner and are thinking of having a furry addition to your family, talk to other owners to understand what it is like to have a pet in the home. Find out the challenges, changes in routine and preparations needed before welcoming a pet. Very importantly, find out how much it would cost each month to own a pet; it’s not just pet food! Consider this checklist to determine if you are ready to own a pet.

Pets can bring immense joy to families. But every pet is different. For example, puppies and rescued dogs who have just been introduced to a new home may require obedience classes to correct undesirable behavior. This takes a lot of patience and love.

Are you willing to put in the time and resources for your pet to ensure its well-being, not just now, but ten years down the road? If your answer is yes, go for it. Adopt and give an animal a second chance to love and be loved.

But please, let’s not abuse their trust. Please adopt responsibly, and do not let history repeat itself.

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