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As the saying goes, dogs are “man’s best friends”. Many Singaporeans have furry friends of their own. While most buy their pets, this married couple advocates for adopting stray dogs and cats and says, they want to change people’s impression of pet adoption.
Their love for animals blossomed into a non-profit organisation, Causes For Animals (CAS). Alongside three other volunteers, Christine Bernadette and Marcus Tan have been pushing for more responsible pet treatment since they founded the organisation in 2013.
The Pride meets the two founders from CAS to learn more about the organisation and what they do.
The Cause for CAS
Q: Tell us about yourself
Hi I’m Christine and I’m 34. I’m a school teacher and I’ve been volunteering since I was 16 years old. I have two dogs at home and I am one of the founders of CAS.
Hello, my name is Marcus. I’m 37 and I’m an Operations Manager for Vet Clinics. I started volunteering in 2004 with other shelters. I first helped with catching and feeding street cats. I have two dogs at home, both Singapore Specials. They are a little bit senior, both older than 10 years old. I started CAS with Christine, Merrily and two other volunteers.
Q: What do you do at CAS?
Christine: My main duties at the shelter is helping with the rehoming program. I meet with potential families and match them with a suitable dog or cat. On site, I help with shelter cleaning, dog walking and also feeding of the animals.
Marcus: I mainly do ground work. Walking and training of the dogs, training them to walk on leash, trapping the dogs for our TNR (trap-neuter-release) programme for dogs and cats. My other duties also include washing of the kennels, keeping the place clean and food preparation.
Q: Why did you choose to start CAS and be an active volunteer?
Christine: I wanted to ensure that we had an organisation that conducts the programs that benefit more than one group of people or cause. We run food drives where we offer food to people who regularly feed animals on the street. We also run an annual vaccine campaign every August. We help to vaccinate 1,000 animals across all shelters, factories or feeders in Singapore.
Running an Animal Shelter
Q: What are some struggles with running an animal shelter?
Marcus: When we are walking dogs, you know, people tend to look at us weird, just because they are street dogs; they look at the dogs weird. Some of these people can be a little bit mean, they call them “dirty dogs” in Hokkien. Also, when we do trap-neuter release programmes, some factory owners or workers shoo us away or throw things at the animals to interfere with the trapping process.
Christine: It’s difficult to get people who are committed and consistent. Some people come one or twice just to have a feel and then that’s it. It’s also quite hard to get funding for sterilisation procedures because a lot of people have this idea that they can only help save a dog or a cat that is very ill or they want to see pictures of animals that are physically unwell before they support the cause.
The Stigma surrounding #adoptdontshop
Q: What are some misconceptions people have about adopting animals?
Christine: I think one of the misconceptions that people have about adopting animals is that if you give a street dog a home, it will find it very hard to fit into an apartment setting. A lot of times people tend to think that they may not be able to find a compatible animal for their home. They also think that shelter volunteers tend to be quite protective of the animals and don’t want to offer them up for adoption to certain family dynamics.
Marcus: Most people think that dogs and cats that have been surrendered to shelters or re-homed are either sick or have health problems so most of them wouldn’t consider adoption. Also, every Singapore special and every street cat looks different and some people have certain misconceptions where they think that they are unhealthy or cross-bred.
Q: How do you guys respond to such stereotypes?
Christine: Sometimes we don’t offer certain dogs to some families because we know who would be an ideal match for a dog and what kind of setting would help the dog thrive, versus a setting where the dog might end up not warming up to the household. We don’t want to put a dog (and owners) through that.
Marcus: It’s a little bit difficult sometimes because some people already have set mindsets. Sometimes when adopters come to view the dogs, they will say, oh you know, I can’t choose the dog, the dog has to choose me, something like that. All I can do is show them that when dogs open up, they are really, really, really sweet.
Q: What keeps you going?
Marcus: When walking dogs, you know, people tend to look at us weird, just because they are street dogs; they look at the dogs weird. Some people can be a little unkind and call them “dirty dogs” in Hokkien. Also, when we do trap-neuter-release programmes, some factory owners or workers shoo us away or throw things at the animals to interfere with trapping.
Christine: It’s challenging to get people who are committed and consistent. Some people come once or twice to have a feel, and then that’s it. It’s also quite hard to get funding for sterilisation procedures because many people think they can only help save a dog or a cat that is very ill, or they want to see pictures of animals that are physically unwell before they support the cause.
Q: How can people contribute to CAS?
Christine: If you can donate, then please do. If you can support our work by volunteering on weekdays, join our team to help with shelter cleaning. And, of course, if you can’t do any of that, spread the word! Put the word out there and encourage people to consider adoption over buying a pet.
Marcus: Volunteering. Come and clean up the place, walk the dogs. People can also keep a lookout on our Facebook or Instagram, where we raise funds for individual dogs, whether they have been adopted or their rescue cases and injuries.
Q: Anything you’d like to tell potential pet owners?
Marcus: Give rescue animals a chance. Once you gain their trust, they have so much to give. Once you adopt a dog from a shelter, you technically save two lives because removing a dog from a shelter opens up the space for another rescue animal.
If you would like to know about CAS, head to their website
Singapore Specials Day is coming on 15 July 2023, and CAS will be at Parkland Green from 11am to 7pm!
The day will be packed with games, informative programmes and fundraising activities. Meet the Singapore Specials and support them by getting some of their merchandise. The organisers are also attempting to make history by entering the Singapore Book of Records for the largest collected number of dog paw prints.
Adopting a dog positively impacts not only the life of the individual adopting but also the community as a whole. By providing a loving home to a shelter dog, you contribute to reducing stray animals, overpopulation, and the burden on animal welfare organisations such as CAS. Adopting positively impacts individual dogs’ lives and contributes to greater efforts in promoting animal welfare.