Citizens Journal
Wed Aug 02 2023

Shikin’s unwavering mission: Rescuing stray animals and defying taboos

Animal Welfare
This article features :

Originally published on Citizens Journal by Shufiyan Shukur Published: June, 2023

In a serene Malay village, nestled 27 kilometres away from the bustling city of Melaka, resides an extraordinary woman named Norashikin Ahmad, affectionately known as Shikin.

Against all odds, Shikin has dedicated herself to running an exceptional animal shelter since the tender age of 21, defying cultural norms and championing the cause of stray and unwanted cats and dogs.

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While Malay society has historically accepted the sheltering of cats, dogs have faced long-standing taboos due to cultural aversions rooted in Islamic jurisprudence, which considers them unclean and unfit to be kept as pets.

This poses a significant challenge for Shikin, who, despite criticism and disapproving glances from her fellow villagers, remains resolute in her mission to provide care and refuge for these vulnerable creatures.

A journey of acceptance and understanding

Shikin shared her initial struggles, revealing how her own mother initially disowned her for her actions. However, as her mother came to realize that these dogs were not mere pets but rather helpless beings in need of compassion, her stance softened, paving the way for understanding and acceptance.

Yet, the journey to acceptance was far from smooth. Shikin’s unwavering commitment to animal welfare even disrupted her religious obligations, as she found herself unwelcome to pray at the local mosque. Undeterred by these challenges, she sought solace in a neighbouring village where her devotion could be freely expressed.


Shikin’s Team Animal Rescuer (STAR): A haven for the vulnerable

Over the course of nine years, Shikin’s unwavering dedication has transformed the shelter, now aptly named Shikin’s Team Animal Rescuer (STAR). With the support of ten dedicated volunteers and a panel of three experienced veterinarians, STAR has become a sanctuary for countless animals in need.

Shikin’s exceptional rescue work has garnered recognition from universities, local government bodies, and socially responsible corporations, all of whom actively engage with STAR in various initiatives.

Embracing collaboration, Shikin regularly interacts with students from nearby institutions such as Universiti Technology MARA (UiTM). Noteworthy universities like Universiti Malaya, Universiti Technology Malaysia, Sunway University, and the International Islamic University have also taken a keen interest in Shikin’s endeavours. Some students have gone on to establish feeding centres for strays within their campuses, amplifying the impact of her work.


Financial hurdles and unwanted challenges

However, the shelter’s operations come with substantial costs, amounting to RM7,000 per month, excluding medical expenses for injured and sick rescues. Shikin has faced financial difficulties in the past, including accumulating a debt of RM24,000 at a veterinary hospital. Fortunately, an anonymous donor extended a helping hand, alleviating her burden.

To sustain the shelter’s operations, Shikin relies on generous donations, limited merchandising efforts, and a portion of her own salary earned from working with a medical equipment supplier.

Moreover, she constantly grapples with challenges posed by individuals callously abandoning their unwanted pets in front of the shelter. There have also been instances where people dishonestly claim that their pets are shelter animals to secure discounts designated for STAR.


The shelter’s precious inhabitants

As a result of these unfortunate experiences, Shikin exercises caution when allowing visitors into the shelter. Access is primarily granted to those undertaking corporate social responsibility projects, ensuring that the shelter remains a safe and secure environment for its residents. Volunteers, along with Shikin and her husband, Zam, act as dedicated caretakers for the shelter’s precious inhabitants.

While Shikin and Zam reside in one house, Shikin’s mother lives in another just a few steps away. The shelter itself features purpose-built kennels and catteries, designed to cater to the diverse needs of their furry occupants.

Furthermore, a fortuitous presence on the premises is a sprawling half-acre durian orchard, where healthy dogs find joy in freely frolicking amidst the orchard’s lush foliage.


From kennels to orchards: Providing comfort and joy

Within the shelter’s boundaries, the animals are thoughtfully segregated into covered yet airy enclosures. Those in need of medical attention, including the sick, recovering, and injured, receive specialized care within these enclosures. Meanwhile, the healthy residents relish the freedom to explore the orchard, seeking refuge from inclement weather or sweltering heat under purpose-built huts.

At present, the shelter provides a loving home for 50 dogs and 100 cats, each with its own unique story of resilience and hope. Shikin actively participates in various Pet Expos and Exhibitions, seizing these opportunities to find loving homes for her rescues through adoption drives. She passionately advocates for responsible pet ownership, emphasizing the importance of caring for and neutering one’s pets.

Shikin’s profound dedication to animal welfare is deeply rooted in the teachings and philosophy of her late father, whose kindness towards animals she carries with immense pride and determination. Despite the daunting challenges she faces, which often appear insurmountable, Shikin remains unwavering in her commitment to saving and protecting animals in need.

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To support Shikin’s noble cause at STAR, please visit their official Facebook page. Your contribution can make a significant difference in the lives of these deserving animals, providing them with a second chance at a life filled with love, care, and compassion. Together, we can join Shikin on her remarkable journey of hope and transformation.

by malaysiakini

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