Animal shelters are scratching as the after-effects of Covid continue to appear

Joan Ng and her husband never thought that they would one day own not one, but three dogs, all rescued from animal shelters at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020.

At that point, the virus was spreading widely, and the lack of a vaccine shut down the economic and social sectors.

Ng and her husband felt relieved whenever they came across reports on social media about how animal shelters were struggling to make ends meet.

They were also saddened by the many pets left in shelters that needed new families.

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“We thought to ourselves that we needed to do something quickly, before those animals starve to death or get thrown out,” Ng told MalaysiaNow.

She concluded that the best way to help was to support shelters close to her home that were having financial problems due to a movement control order (MCO).

“The shelters needed volunteers and new families,” she said.

“My husband and I work from home, so we traveled to Puchong and took three dogs and a cat.”

Today, the dogs are happily at the couple’s home while the cat has been taken in by Ng’s mother, who lives in Mewar, Johor.

Cats stare through the bars of their cages at an animal shelter in Putrajaya.

Ng and her husband are among hundreds, possibly thousands, of Malaysians who have volunteered their time and resources to help animal shelters across the country during the pandemic.

Today, four months after Malaysia began its transition towards the endemic phase of Covid-19, there are no updated records on how many animal shelters have been forced to close due to MCOs.

But calls for public donations have continued, with shelters asking for financial aid or even just food for the animals in their care.

Some also said that they were no longer able to continue absorbing the animals due to a lack of resources and manpower.

In Putrajaya, an abandoned cat shelter is in dire straits, with no money left for maintenance.

A gardener working alongside the shelter said about 38 cats were brought there at one time or another.

But over the past year, they have all been released to fend for themselves because the shelter management can no longer afford to care for them.

“Before that, they would take any cat brought to the shelter,” he said.

“But now, there is only one person left to take care of the animals. They can no longer do that. Cats roam freely here and there.

“Some of them stay close to them because they are not used to finding their food. But most of them have disappeared and we don’t know where they are anymore.”

Just a few weeks ago, two kittens were left at the shelter in the dead of night.

The shelter management took them in because they could not find anyone willing to adopt them.

“There are three of them, all without a mother,” said the gardener.

“There is also another cage with a cat and her kittens, waiting for someone to take them.

“If no one comes, they may be released like the others.”

He said the cost of keeping cats at the shelter was too high. Aside from food, the department also needs money for medication and scheduled visits to the vet.

Before the pandemic, he said, many made donations of food and milk, and volunteers would come on weekends to help clean the cages.

But after the lockdown was imposed, people were forced to stay indoors and many seemed to forget to shelter.

“Maybe they don’t know he’s still here, waiting for their help again.”