Saving the strays in Kuala Belait

National 3 minutes, 33 seconds

BELAIT

WHEN a married couple in Kuala Belait decided to adopt a stray dog two years ago, it was to become the start of their personal involvement with the rescue of stray and abandoned animals.

While strays have been seen as a nuisance for most urban residents in the district, the couple, along with a number of other volunteers with the Care & Action for Strays (CAS) organisation, now rescued and found new homes for close to a hundred stray dogs and cats since last year.

Yala Pong and Georgian Wong Siaw Yen are owners and managers of the Hero Pet Mart pet stores, which operates two branches in Belait. Their very first adoption was a personal one leading to several more and that changed the way they saw strays and abandoned animals.

"From there, I believe that dog taught us something. Compassion. We adopted another dog the following year. This year we adopted three more… we started to feel the love and sympathy. When we joined CAS, that's when we learned more. We saw how strays lived," says Wong.

"It really was only possible for us (to take in strays) because we had the pet stores, a place to keep animals. In fact, we get many abandoned animals at our stores because people will dump their pets there knowing that they will be taken care of," says the husband, Pong.

Since their involvement with the organisation, the two have rescued a total of 32 stray dogs and an estimated 50 cats. Because of a resource and manpower issue - there are only eight other CAS members in Belait to assist them- , they have to prioritise strays that are vulnerable such as those which are injured or with disease. Kittens and puppies are also the priorities as these are popular among adoptive families.

"It's very difficult to capture the strays because most of them are accustomed to (abusive) treatment from people. That's also why we only try to catch the young kittens or pups that are not so aggressive," explains Pong.

A capture attempt begins with daily feedings of the identified stray to slowly gain its trust.

After a successful capture begins the nursing of the animal back to health, including vaccination and neutering or spaying with the veterinary support from CAS.

Next is to find a new home for the animal.The couple put up details and advertisement for adoption online on social media.

"Most people who want a new pet want something that is cute or pedigree. As the pet grows older and less playful, they lose interest in it. We conduct house inspections first for potential families to see conditions indoor and outdoor. We ask for a fenced compound. Then we conduct interviews with the family with the rescued stray to ensure they are a right match," says Pong.

At the moment, Yala and Georgian have a temporary shelter on family land being used as a half-way house for animals straight off the streets until new homes are found for them. However, the facility lacks amenities.

"There is water but no electricity. There is a solar lamp and some emergency lights but these will not last the night. Our members can only visit in the late evening to let them out and feed them as we are all working but financially we have to rely on our own pockets," says Pong.

Feeding alone at the shelter costs about $60 for a daily meal of canned pet food, rice and meat. There are other associated costs of medication, vaccination and spaying or neutering.

Last month, they held a garage sale at their Pandan 7 branch and raised about $2,500. These funds will now go towards the construction of fencing and some earthworks at the shelter but until they find a more reliable source of money, their work will be limited.

"People don't understand the life of a stray… When people see us feeding them, they scold us. But we've seen what comes out (of their stomach). Plastic, pieces of wood, construction material. These animals will eat anything because they are so hungry," says Wong.

The couple say that education and awareness about strays and their quality of life is the most important action to start solving the problem of strays.

The Brunei Times