Last night (050614), I had the opportunity to attend the outdoor screening of 12 Nights which is an inspiring and touching documentary highlighting the plight of stray dogs that have been captured by the Taiwan authorities from the streets and the poor shelter conditions that they are housed in. The event was made possible by Noah’s Ark CARES, Save Our Street Dogs Singapore (SOSD) and Hope Dog Rescue. The kind event sponsors such as Beko Singapore also donated a huge amount of donations to each of the three organisations in support for their cause of providing a second chance at life for Singapore stray dogs who do not have the chance to experience love and care as they lead a harsh life in industrial areas or in thick vegetation in the forests.
The event took place at the rooftop at Marina Barrage and I was surprised that many young people were present as volunteers and the public as well to show their support to the film makers and the film. It showed that society is becoming more aware of the welfare of animals and not treating them as mere commodities or disposable items. Proper Surrendering of animals to shelters should be done instead of abandoning them , but it should only be done as a last resort. The response was outstanding as about 4,000 people, higher than the projected number, turned up for the free screening; hopefully the film has created an impact in people’s mindset to be more responsible and give every animal a chance to find good homes and owners.
The film starts off at the shelter where newly caught stray dogs by the authorities are handled incorrectly with the use of a pole and a harness which is looped into their necks to secure them. The poor dogs are frightened and scared as you can see from the look in their eyes. Some of them still have collars and I am guessing that probably they were most likely abandoned by their heartless owners. Abandonment has always been seen as an easier way to get rid of animals due to one reason or another but it seems also to be a cowardly and inconsiderate way. These owners expect other kind-hearted people to take over their responsibility and that is wrong. If the owners truly love their pets, they should stick with them right through to the end of their lives. The strays at the shelter are then scanned for microchip embedded in their skin as a form of identification, and if there is no microchip present, they are unceremoniously thrown into the shelter’s cells which are similar or worse than prisons.
Life at the shelter is hard on these animals; to save time, high pressure hoses are used to bathe the dogs by spraying the water directly at them without opening the door to each cell. The dogs will develop fear as they are treated like this everyday; do you not think so? I do not agree with this as people need to understand that they are also living things and part of creation. So can we give them a degree of respect and dignity? There are about 4 dogs in each cell which is very cramped and small, and the shelter only provides a bowl per food in one cage which is ridiculous as the poor 4 dogs or more have to fight for their share of food, and so the stronger ones get the food first and the slower ones are left with little or no food.
The dogs also begin to forge close bonds with each other due to being in the same cell together but this bond is short-lived due to the poor hygiene conditions. Lack of vaccination protocols, fatal sickness such as Canine Distemper Virus infects the healthy dogs one by one and they die a slow and painful death. The virus is also air-borne and once the virus is not contained, most dogs do not survive due to a weakened immune system from the virus. Therefore the dogs see their friends dying one by one from the illness and the lack of concern from the shelter staff.
Unhealthy dogs or unwanted dogs are also put to sleep or euthanized in12 days hence the film title to cope with the lack of shelter space to house other strays who pass through the shelter’s doors. I am glad that in Singapore, the government and the animal welfare organisations are advocating sterilisation to control the stray population and to prevent unwanted litters of puppies. From the film, I saw two types of adopters that can save these dogs and give them a second chance to live a better life and those that use these dogs for their own selfish or questionable intentions. The first type of adopters are those who have true sincere intentions to adopt these dogs and really care for them. The other type of adopters are only concerned about shipping these dogs for working purposes or even taking them out of the shelter as an easier means to the dog meat business. I am strongly against this as it is a money making business at the expense of innocent sentient lives.
The film also touches on the running of the shelter which is bad and beyond comprehension. The in-house veterinarian should do his duty to help vaccinate and treat these poor dogs but his daily duties are only confined to administrative work such as filling up the details about the dogs, administrating the euthanasia medication, and the vet does not provide any form of treatment. How can anyone who has a role be so ignorant or heartless? It really baffles me that they are not even the least caring. 6000 animals are sent to the shelter each year and about 5000 of the animals are euthanized in a year. It dawned on me that the world is made up of both evil and good people and there are very few people with true sincere good intentions in life.
This aspect showed the importance of the public’s support and tireless volunteers who try to make a difference by helping these strays with the government’s backing too. Perhaps, in Taiwan, people are ignorant of the plight of these strays and there is no legislation in place for owners who abandon or abuse their pets. I hope that Singapore introduces the much needed animal legislation act to stop these people from inflicting harm on their pets or throwing them back on the streets.
Some of the shelter dogs are also mentally affected by the ordeal and start to become withdrawn and their spirit breaks as they succumb to various illnesses. I am heartbroken to see them go through such suffering, and you could see the intense pain in their expressive eyes. Another deadly virus is the Canine Parvovirus which infects dogs through the gastrointestinal tract and faeces due to poor hygiene conditions of the shelter. They die a slow painful death as well due to their already weakened immune system and lack of treatment options.
Many people cried and broke down in this film by seeing what the stray dogs go through by losing their companions through illnesses, a mother dog being separated from her puppies, incorrect handling procedure of these dogs. People would ask themselves, is there hope for them? Yes, there is hope even in the desolation which is through adopters who pass through the shelter. In Taiwan, black coloured dogs are very popular but in Singapore, it is the opposite as these dogs are left in the shelter.
Yes, there is still hope in this world through adopters who can give them another chance in life by adopting them into good homes where the owners play with the dogs and provide for them. Some dogs struggle with the trauma inflicted on them in the shelter, but through patience, they become more trusting towards humans and make loyal, obedient and good pets. I feel that every dog (any animal) is special irregardless of breed or color, and all have their own unique personality just like us.
As an animal rescuer and volunteer, this film has shown me that there is still work to be done in changing people’s mindset regarding animal welfare and I will continue to push for change to save more. More people can help in their own small means, be it donations, sponsoring or volunteering. I respect animal welfare organisations in Singapore who dedicate their time and resources in making a difference in this aspect to show society that all hope is not lost and that there is still good left in individuals who have the courage to come forward in this noble cause of speaking up for the voiceless animals.
To conclude, I hope Singapore can be more socially aware and responsible to the strays and their own pets. The best option for new pet owners would be ” To Adopt and Don’t Buy” as love should not come with a price tag but to give love to shelter animals who deserve a chance with genuine sincere owners who will take care of them for the whole of their lives by being there for them, and they will reciprocate by relieving our daily stress by their presence. If there is a second screening of 12 Nights, I urge people to watch this with an open mind and understand that animals should have a higher value in society as they do not ask for much but they only ask of us, our love, care and time. In return, they would provide many special moments in our lives. I am extremely moved, inspired and touched by the film as I can relate to these stray animals such as their plight and courage. Some of the animals have been adopted, some are still waiting for the right owner; will you open your hearts and home to one of them?”
God Bless! And change begins with understanding and support; it does not matter if you are an animal lover or not, and the important aspect is to respect them and to help them. They need us. A dog is a man’s best friend for the above reasons and all animals are deserving of compassion, love and hope.
“If you have men who will exclude any of God’s creatures from the shelter of compassion and pity, you will have men who will deal likewise with their fellow men.”- St Francis of Assisi
Written By: Darren Chan Keng Leong