Sokong Team
Fri Mar 15 2024

Saving strays, one tail at a time

Animal Welfare
This article features :

Abandoned by 'friends' in the early days of animal rescues, Ms Eva Liew couldn't do the same to the strays she had rescued from the streets and Batu Pahat's municipality dog pound.

"They realised that saving strays is no hobby or something you do to while away the time.

"Any rescuer will tell you it's hard work, there's no 9-5 working hours, breaks your bank account and puts a toll on your spirit, so when it became a burden, they conveniently lumped the dogs on me," said Liew who is the founder of Save The Strays Team (STST).

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"But I could not abandon the dogs," she added.

Forsaken and resolve

Reminiscing cases of the rescues and the difficulties she encountered in her early years as a rescuer almost brought tears to her eyes, choking on the words as she described the sorry state of the rescued strays.

In July 2019, deserted by her friends, she set up the Save The Strays Team. She continued the cooperation she had built with the municipality to inform her when they had rounded up strays.

"We must apply and pay a fee to get the dogs out of the pound. It's RM60 per day, but we can only take them out after two days, so we must pay RM120 per dog we rescue from the municipal council," Liew explained.

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The municipality conducts two monthly roundups, each over three to four days.

"The roundup of strays happens when there are reports from the public, and up to 100 dogs are captured, but sometimes there are no captures.

"It's as if the dogs knew that they were coming and quickly dispersed," said Liew with a chuckle.

Liew occasionally witnesses the roundups and comments that the contract workers handle the dogs well.

"They are especially careful with the puppies," she noted.

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Ensuring the health of the rescues

Each dog from the pound or the streets is checked for injuries, canine parvovirus infection, and any other ailments they may have.

"Vaccinations and treatments at the veterinary clinic can add to the costs of running the shelter," Liew added.

The shelter currently has 15 volunteers who come when they can, usually twice a month.

Liew is at the shelter most days, and she is helped by three full-time workers who tend to the 180 rescues on the one-acre site.

From volunteer to President of STST

"Our volunteers come from all sorts of backgrounds; some are still students, and one is a graduate of veterinary science working in Singapore because Malaysia doesn't recognise her degree from a university in China," said Liew.

The volunteers help clean the cages and the grounds and bathe the dogs in a 'gotong-royong', added Mr Chia Wai Meng.

Chia has been the president of the STS Team since August 2023 but has been volunteering since 2020. A Multimedia design graduate, he works freelance in Kuala Lumpur. Still, he takes the 2 ½ hour drive to Batu Pahat several times a week to help with the shelter.

"While I handle the day-to-day running of the shelter and take care of the dogs we have now, Chia handles the social media work and campaigns and designs the merchandise we sell to help with the funding," Liew added.


A secret location

The shelter is on the outskirts of Batu Pahat. The exact location is not advertised because, like other shelters, unscrupulous people will dump the pets they no longer want at the gates.

The one-acre shelter is surrounded by fruit orchards and secondary jungles with an open area and large kennels to house dogs according to their condition. There are also kennels for dogs that need to be quarantined.

The owner became an animal lover and rescuer after meeting Liew. He now has rescues in large kennels within the shelter, which Save The Strays Team helps look after.

Encroaching property development

However, land adjacent to the property has been cleared, and earthworks are progressing for an 80-acre housing development. There is even a showhouse that's been built. This is of concern to Liew.

"We probably have three or four years before we need to be worried; perhaps we can find ways to block off the shelter from the residential development that will come up," Liew said.

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The cost of running Save The Strays shelter

Monthly overheads are always a concern for animal shelters, and STST isn't excluded.

"Food, mainly kibbles, and special diet meals come to RM9,000 at least for 180 dogs," said Chia.

The dogs are fed kibbles for a complete meal, but some require special meals because of their condition. Some are picky about their food.

"We have two dogs, one a Husky which the previous owner had to leave behind is very picky; these two alternate between kibbles and rice with chicken, or they won't eat," Liew added.

"Then there is the rental and salaries of the 2 workers as one is sponsored by the landowner.


"Veterinary fees and medical expenses cannot be estimated, but a couple of thousand Ringgit a month needs to be allocated," Chia said.

"This includes neutering and spaying, and even with assistance from another shelter which allows us to use their promo code, it's still RM170 for females and RM122.50 for females," Chia added.

"We need RM15,000 a month to manage the shelter," he revealed.

Funding is purely from donations and some corporate sponsorship of food.

The other source of income is from merchandised products, which are mainly sold at events in Kuala Lumpur and Selangor.

Liew said that Adoptions are complex, as there is a process of checks to ensure that the dogs and cats are not abused and live in proper conditions as part of the family.

Taking out EPF savings for cats

Save The Strays Team also runs a shelter for cats but at a different location so as not to stress them from the barking of the dogs. Currently, there are 34 cats.

The cats were all at Liew’s house once but are now housed on the first floor of a shop lot which is rented at RM600 a month.


“I took out my EPF (Employee’s Provident Fund) two years ago to rent and renovate the shop lot for the cats.

“The monthly expenses are in the region of RM2,500,” Liew said.

The financial demands for both shelters are quite substantial, so we asked Liew if there had been times when she just wanted to give up.

Her reply: "I will never give up on the rescued animals, but I can give up on human beings."

If you would like to contribute to support the strays, you can donate to Save The Strays Team via Sokong. Click here.

by malaysiakini

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