Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Buffetting : SPCA Practical Day 1

I'll skip the freakishly boring part of 4 hours drive, not to mention Ipoh Chicken Rice and Salted Baked Chicken and also the Macalister Road hawker stall food which was freakishly pricey and of me at the verge of getting sick one day prior to the practical commencement.

Anyway, back to the 1st day.

We were freaking early, like half an hour early. The whole place starts running at about 8.30am, but we got there earlier because our "team-manager" Ms Big Sis didn't get the time right.

So we spent our time sitting outside of the building like a bunch of goons while waiting for the people to arrive.

Once we got it, we had to get on our feet to work our arses off. 7 of us, 5 guys, 2 girls. Technically 1 and a half girl cause the other half was mistaken as a boy by our SPCA staff.

There were 3 groupings,

A- Dog Kennel Cleaning
Gosh this one is like the most hardcore work ever, and I was in charge for the first 3 days, when everyone else were trying to pick up new things from new stations. The hardcore part is to get the faeces stains off the tiles. You see, I'm kinda like VERY peculiar when it comes to toilet cleaning up, though the kennels are pretty much the whole room for the dogs, but still, you get my point. Even with the extra hydro-pressure I get from the pipe which I totally loved, some stains can only be gone with the extra motivation of scrubbing. So I spent my first 3 days in SPCA scrubbing my whole body off the stains by the poo poo of these dogs. Adults are really fine, its just the pups are pain in the arse. They poop, everywhere, anywhere, any shape. Soft stool, diarhea, gosh I've seen them all. The key to success, bring gumboots, aka Wellington's. You don't wanna have your sneakers all soaked up and getting blisters with spasms on your feet after the cleanup session. I sorta volunteered to handle the pup-mixed-adult side, with the MOST number of dogs, like 23 of them out of 33. Sea got the other side, with only 10 adult dogs. gosh I was an idiot.

The kenneling and manure system was direct. In which manure aka poop which were swept into the scoop will need to be dumped into the drain where all the manures were collected previously, and the equipments are being washed using pipes, and of course sending all the remaining manure down the drain.

B- Dog Food Prep and Socializing.
This should be one of the easiest task to handle, with good memos and adequate strength. Heck I handled it myself without anyone else's help in the last day because it was all really simple.The trick is to get the number of adults and pups in the kennels, and sort out what type of food they take. The adults normally take mixed formula, while the pups take the ones of pup. The serving was easy, provided the person who cleans the kennel cleans them up before we proceed to lay down the food. Then we have to take away those dishes, and clean them up with some soap, 3 caps of orange enzyme and a bucket-full of water. Walla, repeat that during lunch for the pups again and we are done with food. As for socializing, its pretty much easy. Dogs need to go out and play, socialize just like human. So we have to make time and space for them to move about and play. Volunteers/Interns like us will have to let the dogs out, and discipline them if possible so that when people comes for adoption, the dogs are adopt-able. And they can use some sun for shiny fur coat too!

C- Cattery and Med Prep
Cattery is SO MUCH MORE EASIER. The lady in charge of the building, Madam Lily told us there's once a bunch of Malay vet practicals students came over and begged to be in the dogs' kennels because the cats are so BORING. Yeah they were, still ARE. It was easy. Opening up cages, just clean up the litter box, wash up a lil, fill up the food for the whole day and a lil dish with water. D-O-N-E. Probably because there's so little cat. 11 cats to 33 dogs. And cats are so much more smaller and easier to groom as compared to dogs. The time to clean up the cattery and kennel is like 1 hour to 3 hours if  a person goes SOLO. I've been there, done that, it was crazy, but fun. Med prep however was a lil tedious. Medications has always been. The thing about SPCA is, they want the dogs to be adopted, and they've got to keep the dogs healthy. For dogs and cats who are sick, of course we dispense tablets as prescribed by the vets, but the thing in SPCA they give supplements like Vitabits, Cod Liver Oil and Vitamins for the cats and dogs to keep their physique on check. The whole formula for the med was :

A X B X C; in which A is for dosage, B is for times taken in a day, C for duration to be taken.

Everything was done via force feeding because even humans don't like to take tablets just like that. Dogs were easy, cause they are socially disciplined. On the other hand, cats are like , as obnoxious as they are, hard to deal with. We had to restrain them and feed them with pill-poppers to prevent chomp time on our pretty little fingers. Ain't so pretty anyway.

 After a good morning of trying to sort out the kennels, cleaning and feeding, AND cleaning, we had our lunch off somewhere and back in the meeting room with Madam Lily for a small intro session of what SPCA is all about, their policies, goals, problems and set up.

She was quite surprised when we told her this was our first SPCA experience, seeing that we have a lot of animal shelter around our area of residence in Selangor, Johor and in Kulim. Thank goodness we had our one sem course on Vet as Profession where we need to know abbreviations, or I would have embarrassed myself as a vet student to not know SPCA stands for Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

Yea, I know everyone out there doesn't know the long term, neither did I till I get to vet school. How ignorant can we get?

Anyway, the SPCA in Penang, Jalan Jeti Jelutong was the oldest establishment of its kind in Malaysia, spanning over 64 years in 2012. They started off in a van going around picking up strays who are sick and diseased, later on they've gotten a lot with 10 kennels, then moved again to their current spot with 33 dogs kennels, and 15 cat kennels. Pretty good eh? Their monthly expenses sums up to RM20k in a month from A to Z, without aids from any governmental or organizational bodies. Donation from the public was their only source of income.

Every SPCA holds different policies, but they share one common goal, to strive for animal welfare.
Some shelters hold the "No-Kill-Policy", but that means you take in ALL animals regardless of their health status, and feasible of continuing their life. However, most shelters with such policies, actually ALL keeps them as a gimmick to attract the public, instead of practicing it.

If you were to take in ALL types of animals, there are so many factors you need to consider:
A) Resources- Who are going to adopt the animals?
B) Space- Where to keep the animals once the kennels are full?
C) Funds- Where to get money when you run out of it?

The essence for an upkeep of a shelter, are the RSF. Most animals need to go through the considration of these factors, before SPCA decides to keep them or not. Some percentages of the public believe that animals who are sent to SPCA will be euthanized regardless. However, the public needs to know that the SPCA have to put them down with these constrains.

Think of it this way. Is it fair for an animal shelter to keep the animals, regardless of their health which expose the risk of transferring the disease to other animals; and it actually makes the animal to suffer in a lot of pain? It is not fair, because no one else is doing anything, or neither can they. They have no funds to keep the animals' health up to date, they have no ways to get adoption, and there's so many other strays out there the SPCA needs to keep up with. Putting them to sleep is seemingly the best, and fairest option for the animals. If one wish to defend that the animal should have the right, why not keep the animals themselves? And make sure they'd actually able to support the animal. So, is SPCA JUST killing?

Next up, the SPCA doesn't JUST put animals to sleep without further consideration or further assessments. These animals are given a chance for adoption with a relevant time frame to maximize their survivability. Criterions:
1) Keep till the bitches come on their first heat, which cause massive problems in the shelter
2) When space runs low and overcrowding occurs.
3) Animals who are heavily diseased, especially infectious ones.
4) Notoriously aggressive animals
5) Underage animals( < 2 months) as they are easily diseased when their immunity is compromised.
6) Old Age

These criterion contribute heavily to the low adopt-ability of the dogs to the public. Henceforth, decisions need to be made to make space for dogs who have higher adoption rate.

The public comes in and expect the SPCA to find homes and keep the animals there forever without the need of putting them down. The thing is that they'd never worked in the place before, they do not know of their policies, problems and constraints They do not like the idea of euthanasia because it goes against their beliefs, but beliefs still needs to meet reality, and it bites, REAL HARD. One needs to spend a week in SPCA to actually see how the whole place runs, and what problems they face everyday.

 problem faced: face problem for Big Sis
Current Situation:
1) More male adoption for dogs takes place at pup level because of the negligible spay pay. Where as 80% of the kennels in SPCA is filled with female dogs even at pup level because of the trouble the owner needs to go through to spay, prevent rape and sometimes menstrual discharge. And people, tends to have this thing that female dogs don't make good company as males. I have 2 bitches, and they are darlings. Henceforth I've made a pledge to adopt female dogs in the future from SPCA regardless of their breeds.

2) The SPCA have this litter absences insurance so that the animals they allowed for adoption are confirmed for spaying. By taking a spaying deposit for female dogs, and both male and female cats, they can at least make sure the animals they sent out are spayed, without further possibility of them producing litters. Although the fees looked expensive, but actually those deposits already cover MORE than the spaying cost have. When the owners make the initiative to spay the animals, the vets give the SPCA a call, and the deposit is banked in to the owners, fair and square. 

3) The animal welfare act is pretty loopish, and does not keep the public informed or aware that animals need to be taken care of too. A revamp is required, or people who treats animals like rubbish end up only paying a max fine of RM200 per animal like what Petknode was subjected to. It's truly unfair to the animals to go through hell as such they have been diagnosed. Being starved to death and thirsted to kidney failure is not what an animal deserve when they are sent to boarding houses.
ADOPT! Don't breed when you can have one made without the high cost and time!

Policies SPCA have enforce to upkeep the animals:
1) Fostering
Who? Volunteers
What? is done is animals below 2 months are being kept till 2 months or older.
Why? to make sure their immunity levels are high enough for survival and ready to adopt.

2) Euthanasia
 Who? Vets
What? Putting animals to sleep
Why? Lack of space, old age, disease(untreatable ones), skin problems prolonged over 6 weeks max, bitches on heat, animal boarding of 1 year max.

3) Hygiene
Who? Animals' and humans' 
Why? Safety and prevent biohazards
What? Lysoling kennels upon adoption, death or euthanasia.

Problems faced:

1) Some societies out there claim that SPCA does nothing but putting animals to sleep, and they are doing a better job. Some of the examples would be Penang Animal Sanctuary Society which is Anti-SPCA. They are normally animal right activists who doesn't take animal welfare into consideration, but more of animal RIGHTs.

2) Owners DO return the animals to SPCA with all sorts of reasons such as not being able to discipline the animals, animals littering everywhere and diseases. We can't exactly do much, some even just left them outside. All we can do is educate future pet owners on how the deal with the problems current owners face.

3) Owners today are well educated on the importance of vaccination, but we need to do a better job in educating them on importance of spaying. Spaying is very crucial to control the stray population, and it might be even possible to lower it down. 

SPCA thrive to re-home than to euthanize the animals, but when reality kicks in, it kicks in. Hard. Fast. Ugly.

Now, it was like I'm promoting SPCA wasn't it? So what exactly is my role as a vet student and a future vet?

A) Educating future pet owners on spaying and vaccination. SPCA staffs are doing a bang up job, but vets can reach out for more, especially when they are in the clinic for visits. My resident doc in my current clinic for practical is practicing what we advocate. Spay PLEASE.

B) Understanding the need, occasion and procedures to carry out euthanasia. Putting a living animal is not easy, be it a diseased one, healthy one , close to death one or a young one. However we need to understand the duty as vets to keep the animal welfare in check, to promote the well being of the animals. If its a large animal, barbiturate is injected to IV-ly, if its a pup, chloroform is used. Always remember, the first animal to come is the first animal to go. With reduced RSF, we have to let the animal go when reality bites.

C) Trap-Neuter-Release policy is still not feasible to practice anytime soon because of the license-cy of the local council in Malaysia. Strays treated might be knocked down or shot down easily anytime and the effort and resource spent on the strays might just go to waste just like that. Plus, releasing the stray might allow it to become carriers for other diseases such as De Staple or Brucellosis which is zoonotic and is transferable to humans.

D) We need to make a change on the Animal Welfare Act which is very much expired since 1953. We need to keep the animals healthy and fit for adoption. The Y fork:

                           ----> adoption (best option)

Born-> Upkeep-
                           ----> euthanasia

Whew possibly my longest post in the whole lot! Definitely learnt a lot. I can't imagine how is it going to be if I document my clinic practicals.

Hopefully I've enlightened some people out there reading, and more will come. 3 more posts to go, cause I skipped my Wed and Sat reports XD


  1. It is a long post and u said it's not even everything yet >_<

    Balancing btw welfare and right have always been a very delicate thing. From the way u explained, I believe SPCA has implemented the correct policies for the time being. They put euthanasia as the last option after given the animals some chance. So, I don't think anyone can fault their action. Just like u said, if they wanna complain, do something first or else they have no right to say anything.

    It seems like finally u had some fun during ur break XD

    1. yea, and im only typing them tomorrow morning before i go for my clinic practical

      yeap, so their cause ain't as cold-hearted as how people out there exaggerates. People needs to be educated.

      Told ya, this is my fun!

  2. Honestly what you wrote about cleaning, feeding sounds really fun to do.. Med in the other hand.. Not my thing..

    Anyways, i guess its just that most big organizations prefer to focus of orphans. My dad is a Lions club member and all they focus on is the children. I tried asking him why can't they help strays and all and he said children's welfare is more important.

    I do support putting the animal to sleep if they are suffering badly.. Something like a Coup de grâce?

    And what??? only rm200 MAX fine?? That is freaking low!

    1. haha it is fun, but in the long term it can be much of a pain, especially when u r low in man power! the meds are just for those animals who really needs them, the others are just on one simple vitamin.

      hmm, well people have different priorities and perspectives. Will post one on it soon!

      yea, something like what you've mentioned. one needs to balance and weight their choices based on experience, wisdom and circumstances.

      Yea, that's why we need to change our bill! I think the link has expired, but maybe I can send it to you again when there's a new one. Either here or via FB if you aren't afraid of "exposure"

    2. I'm nothing much to be exposed about la.. Who wants to know who i am.. haha. Will see how it goes la. =D

    3. that ya hav to ask soul up there XD