By: Amy Brook-Partridge
Photography: Kym Bernabe
Since arriving in Singapore just over five years ago, Maggie Anderson has fostered over 70 dogs in her own home, personally re-homed 15 strays from Singapore to the UK , and encouraged countless other people here to foster or adopt dogs themselves. What’s more, this has all been done in her own time and out of her own pocket. Here’s why she does it, and how we can help.
After a seven-year stint in Florida, Maggie and her husband Grant arrived in Singapore in 2011 and took up residence in a three-bedroom apartment on Grange Road. Although her family back home in Scotland has always had dogs, Maggie didn’t have her own until she arrived here.
“My first point of contact was Action for Singapore Dogs (ASD), who were desperate for fosterers. They told me there was a puppy at the AVA (Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority) that needed rescuing, so I took him on.”
The puppy was only eight weeks old at the time, and Maggie immediately knew she wouldn’t be able to give him back. “I just took one look at him and thought, ‘that’s it, he’s mine’.” She named him Thor, and he was the first dog Maggie relocated back home – to Scotland, to live with her parents.
Annual relocation: adopting the dogs
Since then she’s found a home for 14 more dogs back in the UK, and personally delivered them. “I go home every Summer, and I take three with me each time. I fly with Air France to Paris, and check the dogs in as excess baggage for $200 each.” According to Maggie, you check in as normal, the airline takes the crated dog and you both get on your flight. Then, on arrival in Paris, you pick up the dog at the excess baggage area. However, Maggie and Grant’s journey doesn’t stop there; she then hires a car to get the ferry from France across to Dover, where she books a hotel for the night. Grant then returns the car to France, returns as a foot passenger to Dover and they go from there.
The other processes she has to go through are: to apply for a third-country vet certificate, and, as Singapore is rabies-free, the dogs just get a shot before they travel; and then to have them undergo tapeworm treatment within 100 hours of arriving and be certified by a vet.
The three dogs she most recently took back to the UK all came from a factory in Singapore that is now threatened with closure by the AVA, since it received a public complaint. Of the around 100 dogs living in the location, 40 have been found somewhere else to live, but the remaining 60 still need a home, be it permanent or temporary.
The most Maggie has fostered at one time has been seven puppies, quite recently, she says. “Their mum lives in a graveyard and we can never catch her, so she keeps getting pregnant, which is really frustrating. When this litter got injured and sick, she brought them to the feeders, so we could help them.
How to help
Maggie works with both ASD and Exclusively Mongrels, the latter an organisation focused on bailing out mainly adult dogs from the AVA. Adults can be the hardest to re-home, but often they’re a better option for a family looking for a dog with a known temperament.
Maggie attends adoption drives, often setting out on a Sunday to whatever location is known to have stray dogs, to trap them and send them to the vet for neutering. “What we really need is government support,” she emphasises. Currently, the AVA puts out contracts to dog-catchers, who trap dogs and send them to the AVA. If they aren’t claimed or rescued by a shelter in a certain amount of time, they’re put to sleep.
“Instead of doing this, why can’t they be deployed to catch the dogs for sterilisation?” asks Maggie. “The most infuriating thing is that the money is there.”
Then there’s project ADORE, the government-approved scheme that allows mongrels weighing up to 15kg to be in HDB apartments. But with up to 10,000 stray dogs on the streets, and around 80 percent of the population housed in HDBs, the responsibility to foster and adopt lies with people living in private housing, including expats.
In terms of public help, donations are always welcome, as there is an unending need for food and medical expenses. Fostering is a great way for a family to get the experience of looking after a dog.
“There are lots of easy-going dogs in shelters who really need help. The carers aren’t going to risk placing a dog in the wrong home; they want to know they’ll be safe and secure. Some people worry that a dog might mess up the house, but these animals have lived on the streets; they don’t care about chewing stuff, they’re just happy to have a home!”
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