Adding a new pet to the family is the beginning of a great adventure. Here’s why adopting a dog is the way to go, and everything you need to know about dog adoption in Singapore.
A dog is a man’s (or child’s) best friend and studies show that the simple act of petting a dog leads to a healthier heart, improved mental well-being, and a longer life. Knowing where to get your new pet can be a bit trickier, however, so we’ve put together the ultimate Guide to Dog Adoption in Singapore that’ll have you ready to welcome your new pooch into the fam in no time!
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How do you know when you’re ready to adopt or buy a pooch? We spoke to dog behaviourist Marie Choo from D.O.G.S (Dog Owners Guidance Support) and dog trainer Ricky Yeo, founder of Action for Singapore Dogs, to suss out some important considerations you need to keep in mind about dog adoption in Singapore.
1. Family and home planning
Your children’s age, and whether you are planning to have more children, will help you decide whether the timing is right to welcome a dog into your family. By planning ahead, you are less likely to be overwhelmed by the needs and integration of both your two-legged and four-legged babies into the same home. And if you upsize or downsize your home in future, don’t forget to take Fido into consideration, too!
2. Time and financial commitment
“Most children will badger their parents for a dog because it is cute or the parents may dangle a dog as a reward for good grades, but the reality of the menial chores such as feeding, cleaning, and walking the dog must be thought out and managed,” says Ricky Yeo. A dog must be considered a family member who will be with you for at least 10 to 15 years. During this time, you (or the person who is the main caretaker) will be responsible for your pup’s financial upkeep, from food and toys to vet fees and medication, and even boarding costs when you’re on holidays.
Marie Choo also reminds us that dogs need plenty of exercise and stimulation to keep them in great health and prevent behavourial problems. “A daily 5-minute walk is just toileting, and not sufficient for exercise,” she admonishes. Depending on the dog’s breed, expect to take your four-legged friend for at least two walks of 15-30 minutes every day.
3. What kind of dog do you want?
While some people may have a preference for a particular breed, whether that’s based on prior experience or their own childhood dog, there are plenty of other reasons for choosing one breed over another. Know your basics, as the breed will determine the size, energy and temperament of the dog. Says Ricky, “The family should choose a dog based on the personality and their lifestyle rather than on aesthetics. If the family has a busy schedule, avoid very active dogs like Jack Russells or big, heavy coated dogs such as Border Collies as they require high maintenance and attention.”
Mixed-Breed dogs (called Singapore Specials in local parlance), are generally thought to be healthier and quite intelligent, with fewer inherited diseases than purebred dogs.
Age is another factor to take into account; yes puppies are adorable, but they also require A LOT more attention and training. Older dogs are generally much calmer and may require fewer walks and potty breaks; your heart will also melt when you bring home a longtime shelter dog that is grateful to finally have a warm home and loving family to call its own.
Marie adds, “Be sure to involve the whole family, including the helper, when choosing and learning to care for a dog, thereby also teaching your kids to be responsible animal owners in future.”
4. Where will you adopt your dog from?
It’s important to give some thought to where you plan to get your dog from. There are pros and cons for both adopting and buying, so it boils down to your own values and preference.
In general, if you’re buying a dog, be sure to research where it comes from as you want to avoid irresponsible puppy mills (and sadly just about every dog for sale in Singapore comes from a puppy mill). These are commercial, high-volume breeding farms where dogs are cramped together, bred often without rest between litters, and do not receive sufficient healthcare, food, water and socialisation. Marie recounts a case of her friends who brought home a pedigreed puppy from a pet shop in Singapore, only to have the poor pup die 3 days later of parvovirus, as the puppy mill where it came from did not adhere to adequate health and breeding standards.
If you have your heart set on a particular breed, look into local dog adoption options (there always seems to be a family moving away that can’t take its Golden Retriever or Beagle, and MINDEF has an annual adoption drive for retiring Springer Spaniels, German Shepherds, Labrador Retrievers, and Belgian Malinois), or liaise with a responsible breeder in Australia or elsewhere. Voices for Animals (listed below) also specialises in rescuing dogs from puppy mills.
If you’ve made it through our handy checklist and decided that you’re ready to be a good pawrent and adopt a pooch – congratulations mama! Not only are you saving the life of a rescued or homeless dog, you’re helping to stop pet overpopulation by giving a second chance to a former stray or abandoned pet.
The best place to start when looking to adopt your fur-kid is with one of the active and reputable animal welfare groups in Singapore. Most of these long-running groups are passionate about working with strays and are highly experienced in matching you with a suitable doggy.
Before you adopt, keep in mind that most groups have a process that includes most of the following: pre-adoption assessment, home stay trial, adoption fees (usually to cover the cost of microchipping, vaccinations, sterilisation and administration), and follow-up visits. These procedures ensure that both Fido and their new family establish good responsible practices that will help the dog adapt to its new environment and family easily.
It’s important to note that during Phase 2, many shelters are only slowly able to get back up to speed, so the dog adoption process in Singapore may be lengthier than in the past, particularly since there are fewer adoption events and shelter visits are more restricted.
Ricky Yeo is one of the tireless pioneers of animal welfare groups in Singapore, setting up Action For Singapore Dogs (ASD) in 2000 to rescue, re-home and sterilise stray and abandoned dogs and give them a second chance at life. Their Adoption & Rescue Centre is not a shelter, but a dog foster facility for dogs waiting to be adopted – instead of kennels, there are roomy dormitories that allow the happy pups to play, interact and exercise. The clever filter on their website helps you identify the traits (such as good with kids) that you’re looking for in your new pet. ASD’s adoption packages start from $230, and include vaccination, microchipping, one health checkup, and a sterilization procedure. ASD has also spearheaded Project ADORE, a landmark initiative to re-home mixed breed dogs in HDBs.
ASD also runs regular Basic Obedience Foundation classes, comprising 6 x 1.5 hour sessions to teach dog owners effective communication techniques, along with Amichien Bonding principles, ensuring strong leadership, positive reinforcement and kind correction. This course is subsidised for ASD adopters.
NB: If you’re a dog lover but not currently in the position to adopt, consider purchasing an ASD Heritage NETS FlashPay card at just $18 to help support the brilliant work they do and have a handsome pup in your pocket!
Singapore without strays? That has been co-founder Cathy Strong’s indefatigable dream since she began Animal Lovers League (ALL) in 2002, to feed and sterilise stray cats and dog. In 2004, prompted by the culling of strays due to SARS, she set up Pets Villa, a no-kill shelter that now looks after over 500 animals when it’s at full capacity. Dedicated volunteers clean, bathe, feed and walk the dogs, and also feed and sterilise strays on a regular basis. Discover your perfect hound here, or just volunteer regularly to give some love to deserving adult and senior dogs (puppies get adopted more quickly!).
ALL does not charge an adoption fee, but does have a thorough adoption process (including a two-week homestay) to ensure that pets are a good fit for families.
This non-profit organization aims to raise awareness of the plight of Singapore Specials while also advocating for their adoption in Singapore by rescuing and rehoming them from shelters. EM is an independent organisation that relies purely on donations to sustain its good work. Singapore Specials fostered out through EM have their food and medical provided for through the organisation, so even if you can’t adopt a dog, it is ok to shop by purchasing one of their ‘Save our Singapore Specials’ tees! Be sure to watch out for special events, like Singapore Specials Day, on EM’s Facebook page.
A non-profit run entirely by volunteers with the support of contributors, HOPE Dog Rescue strives to help animals who are abused, neglected and abandoned. HOPE does not have a physical shelter, so its rescue work relies entirely on generous foster families (although there are plenty of other volunteer opportunities available, too!). HOPE also participates in Project ADORE, which helps place mixed breed dogs in HDBs.
Hands down one of the toughest parts of dog adoption – particularly with puppies – is training. That is decidedly not the case when you adopt a former sniffer dog from Singapore’s Military Working Dogs Unit. This is also a great option for families that would prefer a purebred dog to a mixed breed; you’ll find Springer Spaniels, Labrador Retrievers, German Shepherds and more. All the dogs have gone through basic obedience training, and go through regular health checks by in-house vets, annual vaccinations and a routine heartworm and parasite prevention programme. These dogs have served their country and kept us all safe, why not give them a happy retirement?!
This non-profit charity and dog shelter has been around since 2006, catering to local mixed-breed dogs rescued from the streets (or from being culled). OSCAS is home to about 100 Singapore Specials, and has a thorough adoption process that includes multiple bonding sessions, a home stay, and ad hoc home inspections. Adoption is priced at $280 and includes sterilisation, microchipping, vaccination and any additional administration costs.
Started in 2011, Save Our Street Dogs (SOSD) hit its turning point in 2013 when it took over the abandoned Madam Yap Shelter and the 26 dogs there that would have otherwise been put to sleep. The team, led by Dr Siew Tuck Wah, finally cleared all hurdles and formed the SOSD Rehabilitation Centre that allowed them to expand their rescue capability by three. With the mission to advocate for integration and acceptance of mongrels into society, they are one of the best resources for our Singapore Specials, noting that these dogs are intelligent and healthier due to their genetic makeup, and make for exceedingly loyal and loving pets. SOSD’s thorough adoption process includes house visits and home stays, and a comprehensive $300 adoption fee. SOSD also participates in Project ADORE!
NB: Mark your calendars for SOSD’s upcoming Virtual Charity Run on 2-4 October, which is aiming to raise $10,000 to support SOSD animals while promoting its core values of compassion, love, and kindness towards humans and animals.
The Singapore Society For The Prevention Of Cruelty To Animals (SPCA) has been in existence since the late 1800s and is one of the most active animal welfare charity groups on the island. They receive around 400 pets and stray animals a month, and service the community through a 24-hour emergency service for sick, injured and very young animals, investigation of cruelty complaints, adoption of rehabilitated animals and public education programmes. It’s the perfect place to pick up your new pooch, as you’ll also be giving a future spot to an animal in need. The SPCA has a sliding scale of adoption fees that start from as little as just $25 for a special needs dog and $75 for a Senior Dog (age 7.5 and up) or longtime shelter resident.
Voices for Animals rescues, rehabilitates, and re-homes retired breeding dogs, so it’s a good one to check out if you’re after smaller breed dogs that may be well suited to life in a small apartment. Run by a group of passionate animal lovers and volunteers, VFA rescues all sorts of creatures (including cats, rabbits, hamsters, and other domesticated pets). VFA has a shelter in Pasir Ris that’s open to visitors; their adoption process costs $250, with funds going towards helping other animals.