By Poyi (Natalie) Leung
You don’t necessarily need to be fond of animals or to raise them, but you do not have the right to abuse them or to ruin their lives.
This is the belief of two animal enthusiasts, Josephine Lau and Yoko Choi, who established the non-profit Abandoned Animals Protect Association of Macau (AAPAM) in 2004.
Speaking to the Macau Daily Times at its 3,000 square-foot animal shelter in Barra’s Rua da Praia do Manduco where more than 120 dogs and cats are kept, Josephine and Yoko said they had their principles in bringing abandoned pets to their sanctuary.
“We usually only take injured or newborn animals found on streets back to our shelter, or during night time and weekends when people can’t contact the Civic and Municipal Affairs Bureau (IACM),” Yoko said.
She said the association only received pets from their owners in special circumstances such as when the owners were seriously ill and could no longer take care of their pets.
“If the owners do not have a convincing reason for not keeping their pets, we will decline their requests because we don’t want them to get away of their responsibility easily,” Yoko added.
“Or they will just hand over their pets to us whenever they don’t feel like keeping them.”
For example, Josephine said, the AAPAM had agreed to temporarily take care of a dog because its owner was diagnosed with cancer and had to undergo chemotherapy.
“We can’t control what the owners do. But if we take over their pets no matter the reasons, we will just encourage this kind of irresponsible behaviour,” Josephine said.
“Any trivial thing could make up an excuse for the owners when they don’t want to keep the pets any more.”
Although Josephine and Yoko tried to control the number of animal intakes, they said their sanctuary had already reached the limit and could not afford to bring in more.
“The IACM will send inspectors and animal doctors to our shelter every month to assure the level of hygiene and every animal has sufficient space to move around.
“They aim to protect the right of the animals,” they said.
The AAPAM offers an adoption program. However, Josephine said not every one of the applications would be approved.
After the applications are lodged, the association’s volunteers will conduct meetings and interviews with the candidates and then access their level of capability and dedication in looking after the animals.
“Therefore, our number of adoption is not very high because we have very strict requirements in assessing the applicants as well as their families.” Josephine said.
In unexpected situations when the adopters could no longer take care of the pets, the AAPAM needed to ensure that the animals would be returned to the sanctuary instead of being given away to someone else.
“We want to make sure that we know the whereabouts of our animals until the day they die,” Josephine said.
She told the Macau Daily Times that a dog had been returned to the shelter two days after the adoption because the adopter said it never stopped baking at its new home.
“It made us suspect that the dog actually wanted to come back to us.”
Josephine and Yoko spent their afternoon at a veterinary centre in Taipa yesterday because a puppy needed to undergo surgery.
The two-month-old puppy was discovered seriously injured in a rubbish bin under a bridge in Macau’s Canal dos Patos on Wednesday [more info…].
It will be taken care of by the AAPAM until it is restored a healthy life or is adopted.
Yoko said the veterinarian suspected that the puppy had been kept and injured in a vehicle maintenance shop because its hair smelled of petrol.
“Apart from controlling the number of homeless animals and doing de-sex operations, we have to emphasis more on the civil education. Because you don’t want the pet any more doesn’t mean that you can abuse it,” Yoko said.
“People say it’s so cruel to send the animals to the IACM’s animal shelter because they would be injected to death after 72 hours.
“But I think at least they can die peacefully instead of being abused and left to die on streets. They will still suffer a lot if no one discovers and saves them,” she added.
Abandoned in bin
Josephine said there was a case in which a dog wrapped in a plastic bag had been abandoned at the bottom of a rubbish bin.
Fortunately someone discovered it and reported to the IACM, or she said it would have been ground to death with other general garbage in the government’s waste-collection vehicles.
The AAPAM is planning to carry out promotion campaigns and seminars at schools so that children can be educated about the responsibility of keeping pets, thus leading to fewer animals being abandoned in the future.
Josephine said government regulations would be essential, especially in monitoring construction sites where dogs had usually been kept.
This was because the animals would be either abandoned when the construction project was completed or, in the worst scenario, eaten.
“I’ve a friend who had saved two out of seven puppies from a local industry building. One of them has been adopted and another one is still in our shelter,” Josephine said.
“My friend always went there for work and had heard the people there saying that eating dogs could heal asthma and was good for health.”
The Animal Patronage Program is the AAPAM’s major source of revenue.
Yoko said at the beginning of the establishment, all expenses could only be covered through their own pockets.
“Every animal has to receive three vaccines in its infancy, then the licensing fee and the rabies injection, de-worming and de-sex operation. So basically we need to spend more than 1,000 patacas on each of them on top of the annual regular injections and other medical treatments if needed,” she said.
The AAPAM has now been receiving monthly subsidies from the IACM and irregular sponsorships from friends.
Although Josephine and Yoko have hired two workers in the sanctuary responsible for the daily cleaning work, they insist on making their visit every day to see the animals after finishing their work as a dancing teacher and yoga coach.
And on every Sunday, they will spend most of their time there playing with them on the top floor of the building.
Both Josephine and Yoko, without a doubt, are dedicated animal enthusiasts.