Several animal rights groups have sought the assistance of authorities such as the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) and Agri-food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) in hiring foreign manpower in an effort to manage the overcapacity at the new Tengah Animal Lodge.
According to the Animal Lovers League (ALL), one of the most recent animal welfare groups that will house hundreds of their cats and dogs in the the Sungei Tengah shelter in about two weeks from now, stressed that there is "a very pressing need" for foreign workers in order to be able to tend to the large number of pets being brought into the lodge.
Previously in Pasir Ris Farmway, the animal rights societies were guaranteed a supply of foreign manpower from Bangladesh, Myanmar, and the Philippines as a part of their tenancy agreement with their landlords, such as Ericsson Pet Farm and Pet Movers.
However, the supply of foreign workers ceased to continue, following the shift to the Tengah shelter.
Several representatives of the shelter have lamented about having to work extended hours as a result of the absence of foreign manpower to assist them, working up to 14 hours daily.
Mr Ray Yeh, the owner of BFF, which has 105 cats and 23 dogs at Tengah, said that each day, he performs tasks that include cleaning and feeding the animals "non-stop", and seems to always has his hands so full that he could only "take my lunch at only 4pm or 5pm”.
A representative of another animal charity organisation, who prefers to be anonymous, said: “It’s sheltered here, so it’s more difficult to wash [...] as opposed to the open concept in Pasir Ris”.
In a newsletter last month that was signed off by the chairperson of Oasis Second Chance Animal Shelter (Oscas), Mary Soo, the organisation highlighted that animal rights groups and shelters "are now in a dire state, as the majority of us cannot afford to employ local workers, in view of the high salaries and attendant legal employment terms ... With five units spread upstairs and downstairs, we need at least two workers.”
Speaking to TODAY Online, Ms Soo revealed that the AVA had informed the relevant groups that foreign workers will not be provided at the new Tengah shelter.
“However, we were confident that being charities with limited resources to employ locals, the government would grant us assistance in securing at least one foreign worker,” she says, seemingly hopeful about the situation.
However, Ms Soo did not hide the fact that she and the groups were taken aback by MOM's decision to purportedly ignore their requests.
“We were shocked that the Ministry of Manpower is not relenting to our plea and equally shocked that… this was not taken into consideration when the authorities were planning to house all of us under one roof in their care."
"Those of us with three units and above find it extremely impossible to do the work ourselves. We are all exhausted and just wonder how long more we can go on," she lamented.
According to TODAY Online, AVA has advised stakeholders to seek the services of the shelter's managing agent – listed on AVA's website as Guthrie FMC – or hiring foreign labour, depending on "mainstream work pass requirements for the services sector".
Co-founder of ALL, Mr Mohan Div said that ALL hopes to hire the Bangladeshi workers who have previously worked at the shelter's original location at Pasir Ris as they already possess some expertise in caring for the animals.
The workers returned to Bangladesh at the end of last month due to the move out of Pasir Ris, said Mr Mohan.
Mr Mohan also cited the financial burden saddled by the animal welfare organisations as a reason why they are seeking to hire foreign workers at the new Tengah lodge.
“It’s all about cost. We’re a charity, not a business. We pay what we can and the rest are volunteers helping out,” said Mr Mohan.
According to Mr Mohan's estimation, work-permit holders could be paid around S$600 to S$800 per month, while a Singaporean worker might be paid not less than S$1,600 a month.
Geographical factors are among the reasons for the pressing need for foreign workers at the new shelter.
It was reported by TODAY Online that the number of volunteers have lessened following the shift from the east to the west of the island, coupled with the remoteness of the Tengah lodge, which is about 1km from the nearest bus stop.
The Tengah lodge was built by the Government as an alternative to organisations that are impacted by the expiration of land leases at Loyang, Seletar and Lim Chu Kang.
AVA has suggested redesigning the space meant for communal kennels., and highlighted that it charges rental rates at cost-recovery, waived the rental security deposit, and provided a rent-free period, as well as a one-off relocation assistance package of S$7,500 per unit for the groups.