What to do if you find them
If you are an animal lover and you spot a dog roaming around without food and shelter, you may find it difficult to just walk away. Dogs on the streets could either be strays, lost, or abandoned.
Make sure that it is really alone before you attempt a daring rescue. The dog could simply have been separated from its owner temporarily, or it might be part of a pack – in which case his “buddies”, if any, might come after you.
The first step is to get it in your possession. This can be dangerous, especially if the dog is defensive or hostile due to prior abuse or neglect from its owners, or it could simply be because of its innate temperament. If it appears to pose any threat of biting or attacking, do not approach it. Instead, call the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority’s (AVA) Centre for Animal Welfare and Control for help and inform them of its location.
If the dog is friendly enough, win its trust by making a peace offering, such as presenting food. Once the dog is comfortable with you, you can attempt to place a leash or rope around its neck. If it is a puppy, you can place it in a large box or crate. Check for any signs of domestication, such as a collar which may contain information that may lead you to the dog’s home or owner.
For a dog with a collar but no license, see if it can understand basic commands such as “sit”, “stay” and “down”, as the animal could be either lost or abandoned. You can bring the dog to the vet to scan for a microchip. If the dog has one, you can use the information to obtain the dog owner’s contact from the AVA.
If it has no collar or license, does not show signs of domestication and looks like it needs help, you can contact non-profit/volunteer/support groups such as Save Our Street Dogs (SOSD), Action for Singapore Dogs (ASD) or the Society of Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA).
How to adopt them
Before you decide to adopt a stray dog and give it a place in your household, there are a few things you need consider.
First and foremost, before you bring the dog back into your home and expose it to your family and other animals, a visit to the veterinarian is a must for preventative shot, flea/tick treatments, vaccinations and sterilization if necessary.
Next, ensure that you have the finances to take care of it. Just because the dog is a stray does not mean that it does not require any expenses; you will need to pay for food, snacks, toys, medical treatments, grooming, necessities such as collars and leashes, and a kennel, cage or crate. It is also a good idea to get your new pet micro chipped in case you lose it or it runs away.
It is also important to speak to those living with you, including your parents, spouse, children, housemates/flat mates, and even domestic helpers, to see if they are agreeable to adopting the animal. Then, think about how well you are able to meet your dog’s daily needs and whether you are emotionally ready to handle this long term commitment, which can be more than 15 years.
Once you have made the decision to take in the dog, owners have to apply online for licensing, renewable annually, at the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority (AVA) website. Keep the AVA is informed if there is a change of ownership of the dog or the address where the do is kept, or if the dog gets lost or passes away.
Do note that if you live in a HDB flat, you are only allowed to keep one dog of an approved breed. If you flout the rules, you may be liable to a fine of up to a maximum of $4,000. If you live in a non-HDB residence, you can keep up to three dogs.
Caring for them
Adopting a stray dog is a completely different ball game compared to buying one from a pet shop. The dog would have been used to living in harsh and dirty conditions and probably has no ideas, for example, that relieving itself on the floor at your feet is not a good thing, or, that the trash can is not exactly the best source of food.
Since stray dogs are probably not very used to human contact, get a special fence or crate for it, and make sure that you and your family members do not overwhelm the canine. For at least the first few days, confine the dog for most of the day, and place food, water a chew toy inside the crate. Bring it to roam one room at a time to get used to the new environment.
Strays also need to be slowly introduced to the dry dog food sold at pet stores or else they may get digestive problems. Consult your veterinarian on the best way to do this. Feed it with food and water in controlled portions on a regular schedule, so that you will be better able to gauge when it will relieve itself.
When you do catch your dog exhibiting conduct that is unacceptable in your household, firmly and harshly say “No!” or any word of your choice. Every time this happens, consistently use the same word so that the dog will identify with the word and know it has done wrong. Never punish the dog by hitting or starving it.
When your dog does get it right, edible treats, verbal praises and petting are all good ways to provide positive reinforcements during the housebreaking process, but it’s important to reward your dog immediately after good behavior is displayed.
Taking in a stray can be challenging, but the satisfaction of seeing your pet’s health and happiness improve will be your reward.
Source: The Sunday Times, August 25, 2013
Written by Amanda Ng