Jurong Island Trap, Neuter, Release Program
The Jurong Island Trap, Neuter and Release project was a landmark project in so many ways when it was started in end-2014. For the first time, management of stray dogs on the heavy-industrial island was entrusted to animal welfare groups – ACRES would coordinate, while operational work would be done by SOSD, Noah’s Ark Cares (NAC), and Action For Singapore Dogs (ASD).
It was a huge undertaking – one which the animal welfare groups – all of us non-government and volunteer run, weren’t even sure we could take on. But it was an opportunity too precious to let up – it was a chance to let the 400 dogs on the island live. Until then, the only way to deal with the helpless, hungry dogs on the island was through relentless, merciless culling. Jurong Island is no place for stray animals – there is no ready source of food and little shelter. There are areas where the dogs pose a safety risk, and needed to be removed promptly once they appear.
The project would involve sterilising the stray dogs, so that the population would remain stable and eventually decline. At the same time, we would modify the dogs’ behaviours through feeding, and lure them away from the roads and danger areas. It would be the largest scale stray dog sterilisation project in the history of Singapore. The surgeries would be performed on the island, on a specially set up mobile vet clinic. The project finally started amongst numerous difficulties. We cheered when the first dog was sterilised and released successfully, and counted down to the day when we would sterilise the critical number required for successful population control.
But as all events in life go, things rarely go according to plan. It turned out, sterilising the dogs was not enough, as it would take 5-10 years before they would die out. The stray dogs were still posing an immediate traffic risk and had to be removed from heavy industry areas. The Jurong Island Trap, Neuter and Release Program had to be modified — Dogs in danger zones had to be rounded up, and placed in a shelter area, which Jurong Town Corporation had constructed in the forested areas. This had great implications for all of us involved. We needed full time staff to clean the kennels and look after the dogs. At the same time, the dogs who we had successfully lured away from the roads now depended on us for food. We became their stray feeders who provided them with the sustenance they needed. The costs to run the project skyrocketed to $25,000 for SOSD alone. What was aimed to be a 2-year project was kindly extended by JTC, so that the dogs we have placed in the shelter could be rehabilitated, and eventually rehomed.
ASD has since left the first phase of the project – the sterilisation phase, leaving SOSD and NAC to continue with the operations of the current 2nd phase – stray feeding, behaviour modification, rehabilitation and rehoming of the dogs in the shelter on Jurong Island. Most of the dogs have been sterilised, but our work is far from complete. Today, staff from SOSD and NAC spend gruelling days under the elements, rain or shine, 7 days a week. It is an intense responsibility, requiring not only money, but also effort, passion and sweat of everyone involved.
The past few years have been an exhilarating journey for all of us involved in animal welfare. So much has changed. From a country who used to cull dogs indiscriminately and regard stray dogs as dirty pests, we now have a kinder, more compassionate society who understand they, too have a right to live. It proves that when Singaporeans come together and set our hearts and minds to a cause, miracles can happen.
We need all the support we can get to continue the Jurong island project. Feeding 400 dogs on the island requires a total of 1800 cans of wet food, and a whooping 3500kg of dry food a month. With manpower, vet bill, trapping costs, it cost up to $30,000 a month.
We cannot do it without you. Thank you for your generosity, and support!