Ben, and the poor state of animal welfare in Singapore

Ben, one of the four brothers that my dog Turtle has, was special to me. He wasn’t as lucky as Turtle to find his own home and had to live in a shelter for most of his life. He passed away last night.

In the middle of my busy work schedule, I couldn’t do much to help when he was sick. All I could was to drive him and his people around whenever I could. Last night, it was one of the days that I could spare some time to help – it would be the very last time – I drove his body to be cremated.

Everyone was visibly upset, except me. To me, death itself is not sad. I knew it was a transition, just like birth. I was actually glad that he didn’t have to suffer anymore, and he had quite a few of us to send him off.

He was a lucky dog.

Lucky, because he was blessed enough to be cared for and loved by his foster family for 2 months before he passed on. Lucky, because he had the best shot at medical help. He actually had a spike of health for one month whereby he was a little more active, when he could enjoy walks with his foster family, enjoy a bit of domesticated life and play.

How many of the strays and shelter dogs are deprived of his kind of luck before they drop dead. They are just a statistic to most of us.

In the end, I saw his illness as a blessing, because it allowed him to escape the shelter life and gave him a chance to have some kind of life out there.

Late into the last night before I fell asleep, I finally allowed myself to grieve. I browsed through pictures of him when he was healthy, letting my tears fall, not because he was dead, but because of the life he deserved to have. He was a special dog to many of us and you would have to know him to see why. A big dog that whines like a baby. He was always affectionate to us.


My tears didn’t fall just because I was sad. I don’t think I was sad actually. I was angry and frustrated.

That Singapore, as a so-called “advanced society”, is not progressed at all when it comes to animal welfare.

That the mega 6 billion budget we had this year – I doubt any of it will go to the well-being of animals.

That as a society we’re still hopelessly selfish and superficial. The cute little dogs get bought, the ‘ugly’ strays get left behind. That so many of us just wants to buy expensive accessories and drink ridiculous amounts of alcohol without ever thinking of contributing a small percentage of that money that goes into ego-soothing activities.

That the authorities that are supposed to be concerned with welfare are not. They go around killing stray dogs, paying good money for every dog caught.

That Ben, along with thousands of dogs, do not have to be stuck in crowded shelters if there are proper programmes put in place at the top level in the first place.

Would it be very difficult to put aside some of the 6 billion budget for sterilization, education and general welfare support? Please don’t even mention SPCA.

If everyone of us, myself included, just put aside like $20-$50 every month, how far would it go to make the lives of these forgotten dogs a better one?

I don’t even call myself a volunteer because I can offer only sporadic help. I can’t even manage myself at times. But there is a small group of people who really wants to help. But they can’t do much. Why? Because these people have families as well, they have their life-commitments just like all of us. They have limited resources, limited time. They have proper jobs in the day. They spend whatever little time left to do rescue work. Late at night or during weekends when most of us are catching up on sleep. They don’t catch up on sleep. They can’t. The animals need them. They dig into their own savings when there are not enough raised funds.


I’m sorry for using caps but I am really very, very, frustrated. This issue is not even really about dogs. It is how we function as an educated society. And I really don’t think much of our educated society.

All of us eventually die. Death is not the problem. It is how we die and why we die. Ben’s passing would not go to waste. His death raised a dozen of issues that gave us a lot to think about.

How can we rehome more animals with the limited time, money and space we have? If we cannot rehome them, what is it that we can do to make the shelter animals’ lives better? What is it we have to do to raise more awareness? That mongrels and other strays can be worthy of love and a home. And I really wonder, what is it that I can do within my lifetime, to get attention from the top level? We shouldn’t be randomly killing animals anymore. We cannot continue to see them as pests. It is highly annoying to read people complaining about their scratched cars and they blame the stray-feeders.

Every single day, I try to go into a zen, loving mode and it makes it impossible when I encounter situations like this. Especially towards those who are complaining about their scratched cars.

Time heals, and I am sure the normality of life would set in, Ben’s passing would be remembered but it would be a distant memory. But right at this moment I don’t wish it to be that way. This is why I write. To remind myself how much more we can do.

I honestly don’t have the energy nor the health to go rescue animals in the middle of the night, or pick up poop in the hot sun at the shelter – but I believe we all have something to give. It doesn’t have to be money. We can only do our best. Just that most of us don’t even bother about anything.

All of this apathy, will come back to haunt us one day.