Wednesday, 19 January 2000

SOS - 35,000 petition to save the animals

By Hong Xinyi, The New Paper

Six years ago, Mr Raymund Wee started Noah's Ark Lodge, an animal shelter for unwanted animals. The lease for the land on which the shelter is built runs out next month. Animal lovers have rallied to keep the Ark going. HONG XINYI reports.


TWO weeks ago, very few people had even heard of Noah's Ark.

   But ever since the man who runs this shelter for animals, Mr Raymund Wee,
made public that the lease on the land will run out and won't be renewed,
animal lovers all over Singapore have put up a petition to save the Ark. And
since he went public, it has been hectic for Mr Wee and the group of
volunteers at Noah's Ark Lodge.

   At their weekly open house on Sunday about 3,000 people showed up, a sharp
rise from the usual 100 or so, said Mr Wee.

   Many people took their children to see the animals. The shelter is home to
some 250 dogs, 200 cats, a pony, ducks, geese, chickens, goats, monkeys, rats
and owls. Even more people have been petitioning on the internet for his
shelter to stay open.

   Volunteers at the shelter have begun listing the names to be presented to the
authorities soon. They feel such an overwhelming response might give them a
chance for their appeal to be heard.

  Said Ms Sandy Lim, 40, an art director and volunteer: "We have people calling
in, very upset, asking us what will happen to the animals. We actually have to
comfort them!"

   Ms Lim is optimistic about the future of Noah's Ark. 'I don't think it'll be
closing down. This is a worthy cause, good for society, good for the animals.

   Mr Wee, 51, however, is prepared. "If we have to close down, we will try to
relocate, and to find new homes for the animals."

   He added emphatically: "They will NOT be put to sleep."

   Something animal lovers will be glad to know.

   In 1987, the land at Seletar West on which Noah's Ark Lodge is built was
tendered out to corporate trainer Harry Quek to run a dog breeding and
kennelling business.

   The premises were later transformed into an animal sanctuary by Mr Raymund
Wee, who sublet the land from Mr Quek.

   Last December, Mr Quek informed the PPD he did not want to renew his tenancy,
and Mr Wee's appeals to the PPD to allow him to continue running the animal
sanctuary have so far been rejected.

   SHE has been busy visiting schools, bugging her friends and relatives to sign
the petition to keep the shelter open. So far, she has 50 names and the list
is still growing.

  "I'm sure I can get a lot more," said retired teacher and animal lover Ms
Molly King, 53.

   Ms King has visited Noah's Ark a few times since hearing about it in the
papers, and feels strongly about the issue.

   "What if proper homes cannot be found for all of them? Can PPD promise that
not a single one will be put to sleep?" she asked.

   Ms King is a member of the SPCA, which is helping PPD in re-housing the
animals at the animal shelter.

   "Noah's Ark has the space and the grounds for the animals, so why uproot
them?" she asked. "I feel very very sad and upset that such a nice place is
being forced to close down. The environment is very conducive, the animals are
free to roam, I feel so happy when I'm there. We are all praying that Raymund
can continue what he has been doing."

   PPD has said it is also concerned about the welfare of the animals at the
lodge and will work closely with SPCA to help the farm find new homes for the

   Mr Goh Shih Yong, PPD's Head of Public Affairs said: "The owner of the farm
could ask for an extension of the tenancy to have more time to re-house the

   "If Mr Wee wants to take over the farm, he can bid for it when it is put up
for tender, but any new tenancy will only be valid until Dec 31, 2002, after
which the land will be set aside for HDB's building programme.

   "Wild animals at the farm will be transferred to the Singapore Zoo. PPD will
monitor developments to ensure all animals are properly taken care of."

Source: The New Paper
Date: 19 January 2000

Tuesday, 18 January 2000

Zoo and SPCA to help find homes for Noah's Ark animals

The Straits Times - Forum

I REFER to the letters on Noah's Ark Lodge (ST, Jan 13).

   We thank the writers for their feedback and suggestions.

   We, too, share their concern for the welfare of the animals at the lodge,
given that the owner of the lodge, Mr Harry Quek, has informed us that he will
not renew his tenancy when it expires next month.

   Mr Quek had also informed us that Mr Raymund Wee was the manager of his

   In December, Mr Quek wrote to inform us that he had told Mr Wee to vacate the
lodge as he did not intend to extend his tenancy.

   The lodge is, in fact, a dog breeding and kennelling farm.

   Over the years, it has taken in many dogs and cats for short-term and
long-term boarding, and these include animals that have been adopted by the
public and left at the lodge for long-term care and board.

   The owner of the farm has the option of returning the animals to their owners
or transferring them to another boarding kennel.

   At present, there are five dog breeding, training and boarding farms in
Loyang that can provide similar boarding services.

   For animals without owners, they will be put up for adoption.

   PPD will work closely with SPCA to assist the farm to find new homes for
these animals.

   In the event that the owner of the farm needs more time to re-house and
relocate the animals, he can ask to extend his tenancy.

   However, Mr Wee cannot do so as he is not the owner of the farm.

   If Mr Wee wants to take over the farm, he will have to bid for the farm when
it is put up for tender after the existing tenancy expires next month.

   In any case, any new tenancy will only be valid until Dec 31, 2002, after
which the land will be set aside for HDB's building programme.

   As part of PPD's regular exercise to tender out land for farming activities,
we have already planned to tender several lots of land next month for various
farming activities.

   One 2-ha plot of land in Pasir Ris Farmway 2 will be tendered out for dog
breeding, training and boarding on a 15-year lease in the upcoming exercise.

   Mr Wee can consider participating in this tender exercise as an alternative

   As for the wild animals on the farm, PPD has been making arrangements to
transfer them to the Singapore Zoological Gardens, which has the knowledge and
resources to care for such exotic animals.

   In fact, our zoo and Night Safari have, all along, played an important role
in conservation.

   They have successfully bred a long list of endangered species in captivity.

   They have also been promoting conservation awareness and better appreciation
for wildlife through public education.

   Allowing farms and homes to keep wild animals runs contrary to conservation
principles as these premises cannot provide the right environment for wild
animals to thrive and breed.

   We would like to reassure your writers that PPD will monitor the developments
at the farm closely to ensure that all the animals will be properly taken care
of, and that their welfare is not compromised.

   GOH SHIH YONG Head Public Affairs for Director of Primary Production Ministry of National Development

Source: The Straits Times
Date: 18 January 2000

Friday, 14 January 2000

A case of semantics vs good samaritans

By Jamie Ee, The Business Times

   Socially-conscious people there are aplenty now in Singapore. But will the
combined strength of thousands of voices be effective in changing government
regulation with regard to Noah's Ark?

   THERE ARE several ways to tell that you're in a developed country: there are
plenty of avenues available for you to recycle waste materials, wheelchair
access is commonplace and - you see very few stray dogs and cats on the

   Even in supposedly impersonal New York, it's not uncommon to see buses with
special electric platforms that can be lowered to ground level for wheelchair
users. Is it any wonder that when a Singaporean sees something like that, he
or she wishes that the same kind of attention could be paid at home to such
seemingly non-relevant areas that benefit only a small minority?

   Household recycling is currently not second nature to us. Wheelchair access
is more of an exception than the norm. Facilities to house and re-home stray
animals are limited to the efforts of the woefully under-equipped SPCA and a
few kind-hearted individuals. And now, even the latter is threatened, thanks
to regulations that are generally impervious to human circumstance, much less
animal discomfort.

   The issue now is Noah's Ark Lodge, a privately-run animal shelter threatened
with closure because the operator, Raymund Wee, cannot renew the expiring
lease as he is a sub-tenant. As the main tenant is not renewing the lease, the
land, according to Primary Production Department regulations, has to be
returned "in vacant possession" so that it can be put up for public tender.

   This means that homes have to be found double-quick for Noah's Ark
inhabitants or they face extermination. Unless the PPD decides to bend the
rules a bit and allow Mr Wee to continue to lease the land in his own name.
The issue is not new. Government regulation stays unmoveable. The PPD talks
about land redevelopment and land scarcity. A small group of dissenters
grumble and write letters to The Straits Times forum pages, but protests
invariably fizzle out and lobbyists like Mr Wee are doomed to lose. Again.

   The difference this time, though, is in the amazing response Mr Wee has
garnered. Take one look at the website set up to receive signatures for a
petition that Mr Wee wants to send to the PPD. On Tuesday, there were some
2,000 names on the list. On Wednesday, the figure had hit nearly 5,000. By the
Jan 31 deadline, who knows how many thousand names will be on it?

   It certainly shows the growing maturity - okay, one should ignore the choice
expletives used to describe the PPD by one or two signatories - of an educated
population unwilling to let a perceived injustice go unchallenged. Remember
the barrage of indignant letters to support the lawyer who was beaten up after
telling an inconsiderate cinema-goer to stop using his mobile phone?

   Socially-conscious people there are aplenty now. But what I would be waiting
to see is how effective the combined strength of thousands of voices will be
in changing government regulation. Will the PPD bend to the pressure? Will it
see the folly of letting semantics get in the way of good samaritanism?

   Without getting into the emotional nature of Noah's Ark's case, it does seem
that it is successful in doing what it does - helping to take care of the
stray animal problem without using public money. And it seems that
redevelopment of that land is not on the cards yet - the surrounding land has
already had their leases renewed. So, given that Noah's Ark is doing more good
than harm, why let red tape destroy it?

   In any bureaucracy, there are regulations that need to be amended when there
is a greater good to be achieved rather than smooth logistics. A country
doesn't just develop because of its physical infrastructure; it develops when
its people and institutions are flexible enough to respond to, rather than
fight against, each other's needs. I hope the petitioners are successful. If
so, I'll take my hat off, not just to them, but to a system that knows where
its heart is.

Source: The Business Times
Date: 14 January 2000

Thursday, 13 January 2000

PPD to find pet takers if Noah has to abandon Ark

By Sharon Vasoo, The Straits Times

THE Primary Production Department (PPD) will help troubled animal sanctuary,
Noah's Ark Lodge, find new homes for its animals, if it cannot do so by Feb 16
when its tenancy agreement expires.

   Mr Goh Shih Yong, the head of PPD's public affairs department, told The
Straits Times yesterday: "We will be investigating whether Mr Quek has
breached his tenancy agreement with us, but meanwhile our concern is to find
new homes for these animals.

   "The animals can be returned to their owners, put up for adoption or
transferred to other kennels for boarding. But if Noah's Ark Lodge still can't
relocate all the animals on time, PPD will help them."

   The 2-ha Noah's Ark Lodge at Seletar West is home to some 250 dogs, 200 cats,
a pony, a swan, ducks, geese, chickens, goats, monkeys, rats, owls, crows, a
pair of lorises, a cassowary, a python, a civet cat and a ferret.

   In 1987, the land was tendered out to corporate trainer Harry Quek to run a
dog breeding and kennelling business.

   But the premises were later transformed into an animal sanctuary, managed by
Mr Raymund Wee.

   In an interview last week, Mr Wee said that he had sublet the land from Mr
Quek, who does not want to renew his tenancy.

   Mr Wee's appeals to the PPD to allow him to continue running the animal
sanctuary were rejected.

   PPD's Mr Goh said that the department would work with the Society for the
Prevention of Cruelty to Animals to find new homes for the dogs and cats.

   When contacted last night, Mr Wee said: "I knew it was illegal for Mr Quek to
sublet the land to me. But he promised he'd protect me."

   About 20,000 people have signed an online petition to help him remain on the
land, he added.

Source: The Straits Times
Date: 13 January 2000

Monday, 10 January 2000

This Noah needs a new home for his Ark

By: Chang Ai-Lien, The Straits Times

Safe for now, a tame iguana gets up close and personal with Mr Wee at the
Noah's Ark Lodge.
Mr Raymund Wee started Noah Ark's Lodge for homeless animals. Now, the
sanctuary faces tenancy problems and it is the animals which will suffer

   A MODERN-DAY Noah has given refuge to abandoned pets for the past seven
years, in the hope that he can teach others to care for all creatures great
and small.

   But now, Mr Raymund Wee's ark in Seletar West may sink, leaving hundreds of
homeless animals in its wake.

   Noah's Ark Lodge, which occupies 2 ha of lush greenery, is sanctuary to a
myriad of animals - 250 dogs, 200 cats, a pony, a swan, ducks, geese,
chickens, goats, monkeys and even rats.

   Its more exotic residents include a pair of slow lorises - small nocturnal
mammals; a cassowary - a large emu-like bird with a blue head; a civet cat, an
albino python and a ferret.

   These were given up by owners who realised they were not suitable as pets.

   Speaking to The Straits Times on Friday, Mr Wee said he had sublet the land
from another man, Mr Harry Quek, who was allocated the plot by the Primary
Production Department (PPD) through public tender.

   Mr Quek's tenancy agreement expires next month, and he did not renew it, so
Mr Wee wrote to the PPD asking if he could continue renting the plot.

   The PPD rejected his request, saying that Mr Quek would have to "surrender
the land in vacant possession back to the Government" when the agreement

   Said Mr Wee: "All I want to do is help the animals and educate people about
them. But it's getting so difficult for me to continue doing so."

   At his wit's end, he started a petition for an extension on the lease to stop
the shelter from being closed down.

   The PPD said on Friday that the piece of land was allocated by public tender
to Mr Quek for the breeding and training of dogs. Under the agreement, Mr Quek
had agreed not to sublet the land at any time, it added.

   "If it has been sublet to Mr Wee or used as an animal shelter, we will
investigate and take the necessary action," said a PPD spokesman.

   He added: "Since Mr Quek has said he will not be renewing his tenancy, then
Mr Wee must tender for it like any other person.

   "After the tenancy expires, the land will be allocated to the person with the
best tender offer, if it is not slated for redevelopment."

   Mr Quek, 52, a corporate trainer, declined to be interviewed.

   Mr Wee, who says he will tender for the land, said: "If we have to shut down,
where will the animals go? They'll have to be put down."

Source: The Straits Times
Date: 10 January 2000

Noah's Ark for abused animals

MONKEYING AROUND : A cat greets its agile friend. Any company is welcome.

WHAT'S THAT? : A dog at the sanctuary takes an interest in an albino python.

A compound in Seletar, which started out as a place for dogs to roam free, is
now home to abandoned animals which are nursed back to health

   THEY push, they shove, they butt your hands with their heads and they jump -
muddy paws first - onto your stomach.

   From "Kenzo" the Great Dane to "King" the Rottweiler and "Midnight" the
mongrel - each leaves behind a sad tale of abuse and abandonment.

   But all this is forgotten as the free-ranging dogs in the compound battle
desperately to get the human touch they so crave.

   Cats are no different.

   Mostly caged, they call out and climb the grilles like monkeys when they see
people close by.

   Visitors are a welcome sight.

   The compound, at 81, Seletar West Farmway 5, is open to the public every
Sunday from 11 am to 6 pm.

   What greets the eyes is a picturesque landscape complete with ornate
shelters, gravel pathways, lawns, ponds and even statues, including one of
Saint Francis - who is the patron saint of animals.

   Mr Raymund Wee, 51, who runs the place, said: "Not everyone can have a pet at

   "I want people to have somewhere to go where they can interact with animals
and nature and learn to appreciate them."

   Whether mouse or camel, no species is rejected and as many strays as possible
are saved and re-housed, he said.

   The animals which have been taken in are nursed back to health, sterilised,
tagged and given food, shelter and love.

   But he hastened to add: "I don't want people to treat this place as a dumping

   "Obviously I can't keep every animal, although I would like to.

   "Sometimes I have to make the decision to put an animal down."

   Expenses run to about $250,000 a year.

   The bills cover water, electricity, rent and food, as well as paying two
full-time workers.

   He said he pays $52,000 a year to sublet the land.

   Funds come from a dog salon, boarding facilities for animals, courses on
grooming and pet care and the sale of pet products.

   Well-wishers also donate food and other supplies.

   Mr Wee, whose typical day starts at 5 am, cleans cages and checks on animals.

   He does not get paid, he said.

   All the money made is funnelled back into the sanctuary, he added.

   A dog-lover, he said he rented the place originally from Mr Harry Quek seven
years ago, to give his 12 dogs space to run around.

   But the number of animals ballooned quickly as people heard about it.

   Soon they began to use it as a home to leave unwanted and abandoned animals.

   Initially, he was not eager to run the outfit, he said.

   However, he was inspired by the words of a friend, Dr Nellie Fong, who was
then the head of urban animal management at the Primary Production
Department's Centre for Animal Welfare and Control.

   He said: "She told me that it was necessary to run a place like this because
people here needed to change their mentality when it came to animals.

   "I realised that if I could educate people, then they would no longer be so
ready to take the easy way out and kill an unwanted pet, for example."

Source: The Straits Times
Date: 10 January 2000