He used to lead a comfortable life with a cushy job as a medical aesthetic doctor at one of the leading medical clinics in Singapore. But he chose to give up his lifestyle by selling his luxury car, and use his savings to build SOSD (previously known as Save Our Street Dogs). He even left his employment which paid him a high five-figure sum monthly salary, so that he could volunteer with SOSD full time. One year on, he established his own medical aesthetic clinic to continue supporting SOSD.
Dr. Siew Tuck Wah, President of SOSD, shares with us his experience in volunteering with SOSD and the spirit of volunteerism.
SAVED 300 DOGS FROM A DOG MEAT FARM IN SOUTH KOREA
For a person who truly loves dogs and respects the sanctity of life, it makes no difference whether a dog is a pedigree or a mixed breed because they are all sentient beings. As a devout Buddhist, Dr. Siew demonstrated and followed the path of practice of a true Buddhist by saving thousands of dogs since he started SOSD.
The unreserved and approachable person that he is, Dr. Siew said that he did not like dogs when he was young. In fact, he was a little afraid of them. He developed his love for dogs when he got his first dog named Nugget in 2006. His relationship with Nugget made him understand the pure and unconditional love that they have for their owners.
How he joined SOSD was a serendipitous encounter. A Punggol resident was bitten by a stray dog when she was jogging one evening in 2011. When the authorities received the complaint from the resident, they started an exercise to cull all the dogs in the vicinity. Dr. Siew was one of the animal activists that negotiated with the authorities to rehabilitate and rehome the dogs. His rescue work in Punggol left a deep impression on SOSD members, and in 2012, he was invited to assume the role of the President of SOSD.
Dr. Siew recalled that he went to South Korea once for work and someone requested him to deliver a big luggage of dog clothes to a 60-year-old animal rescuer. This animal rescuer is a retired university professor called Nami Kim. At that time, Nami was negotiating with a dog meat farm owner and trying to rescue the dogs in the farm – 300 in total. These dogs were either caught or bred to be slaughtered as dog meat is considered a delicacy in South Korea.
“She asked me to follow her to the dog meat farm and pretend to be an officer from the International Animal Rescue organization. She spent hours trying to convince him to give up the dogs – and she finally succeeded. She said that this was the biggest and most successful rescue operation she ever did.” He highly respected Nami Kim’s the determination and perseverance.
SET UP MEDICAL CLINIC TO SUPPORT SOSD’S EXPENDITURE
More than 20,000 dogs were culled over the past 10 years. This, however will not address the management of stray dogs in Singapore. The only way to address the root cause of this problem is to sterilize the dogs so as to moderate the number of dogs and control the population of stray dogs in Singapore.
SOSD shelter, located in Pasir Ris Farmway is slated to move out from its premises by Dec 2017. The biggest challenge SOSD is facing is to change the perception of street dogs, find these dogs a permanent home, and to encourage the public to adopt and not buy a dog from dog farms.
To date, SOSD has a total of 33 departments with 7 full-time employees and over 400 volunteers, making SOSD the biggest and most active animal welfare group in Singapore. SOSD rescues about 30 dogs and rehomes 20 in a month. The dogs are either in the shelter or with fosterers based all over Singapore.
SOSD receives about 2 to 3 calls a day informing them of dogs that require their help. They saved over 1,000 dogs in the past 5 years since it started. SOSD spends up to S$80,000 on veterinary bills every month as many dogs in the shelter are either ill or injured. For a charity organization that does not receive grants from the government, it is a big challenge to raise the funds to support its operations.
In order to support SOSD, Dr Siew Tuck Wah returned to medical work last year and established Radium Medical Aesthetics in August after quitting his job in September 2015. Radium Medical Aesthetics runs regular fundraising campaigns and donates the profits of these campaigns to SOSD.
5,000 STREET DOGS IN SINGAPORE
Based on Dr. Siew’s estimation, there are about 5,000 street dogs in Singapore. Although SOSD has limited resources, the volunteers are very supportive and enthusiastic.
The 37-year-old said with pride that giving up the so-called luxuries in life and establishing SOSD, made his life more fulfilling and rewarding than all he could ever ask for. It made him understand the true meaning of life. He is extremely grateful to his family’s, especially his mother’s, unconditional love and support. With SOSD under his leadership, it has built a robust network of like-minded people through the use of social media.
SOSD documents all their rescue work through the use of social media such as Facebook to connect and show the public what they do, ask for donations and recruit volunteers. The passion of every volunteer can be seen from the end-to-end process of how they bring sick dogs back, nurse them back to health, rehabilitate and rehome them. The encouragement and support they get from the public gave Dr. Siew and his team to press on and do more for the voiceless, despite the challenges they face.
~ Newspaper Article from Shin Min Daily News 新明日报, 12 Feb 2017.