Thursday, January 6, 2011

To be Safe, Not Sorry

We recently put in place a new safety system at Gentle Paws. This system involves weekly announcements on our Facebook page informing visitors if we will be open the coming weekend. We now also require volunteers to be at least 18 years old and above. Any interested volunteer who does not meet the age requirement will have to be accompanied by a parent or an adult guardian.

Some of you were perplexed by the system. We received some emails puzzling over our sudden closure on a particular weekend. I am writing to explain the reasons behind the system and to try to clear the confusion that surrounds it.

We have up to 5 regular volunteers helping out at the shelter each weekend. These regulars have their hands full cleaning the compound, carrying out feeding of the dogs, washing the dishes and used towels and mending the cracked floors. Between all the chores there is to be done, we often find ourselves without a spare hand to supervise visitors and new volunteers around.

Doing the dishes

Cleaning the compound

Washing the fans

Washing the used towels that our dogs use to sleep and bathe

Fixing the roof

Mending the floor/roof

Doing the feeding 

Packing the store

Supervision is essential in a place like a dog shelter because frankly, anything can happen. While most of our dogs are human-friendly and thrive on attention from us humans, we cannot take this for granted. Dogs may suddenly turn aggressive over food. A dog involved in a sudden fight with another dog may unintentionally injure a volunteer who tries to break up the fight by pulling it away. And then, there are the handful of dogs who are not human friendly. An overzealous volunteer who is ignorant of this may be attacked by the frightened and defensive dog.

Donna raring for a fight with her sister!

This is not all. Our shelter is located along a road that is quite busy on weekends. We cannot avoid this road while walking the furkids. A construction site is also situated along this road. Stray dogs living on the construction site are prone to rush out across the road at our dogs to guard their territory. Volunteer walkers need to be able to handle our dogs firmly to prevent them from leaping at the construction dogs. At the same time, they also have to be able to command the construction dogs to retreat to the construction site, away from our dogs. We wish there were a safer walking route that our dogs can take. Unfortunately, we are left with no choice. The least we can do is to require the presence of a regular volunteer with the necessary experience to go along during the walk.

Thus, on those weekends when we do not have enough regulars to supervise new visitors, we are unable to open the shelter to the public. It is not only for your own safety, it is for ours too. We do not dare imagine the action that might be taken against Gentle Paws, should any injury be suffered by any visitor. At this ominous thought, the old cliche calling for us to play safe or be sorry rings loud and clear.

We want more people to get to know our dogs. The ideal situation is, of course, to allow anyone remotely interested in the shelter to come down to befriend the furkids. Only by coming down physically will they get to truly bond with the dogs. But to believe obstinately in that and overlook all the safety concerns that may possibly arise is to be overly idealistic, negligent and irresponsible.

We would like you to know that this new safety system was put in place only after much consideration. As far as possible, we would try to get as many regulars down as possible so that you are free to come whichever weekend is better for you. But when we are unable to do so, we hope you understand that we are doing the best that we can.

For more information about our opening days, please refer to our Facebook page for updates. Alternatively, if you wish to visit, do drop us an email so that we can inform you personally whether we will be open. Do note that this new safety system is not in any way to deter new volunteers from coming down! Our doors remain open to any interested volunteer (above 18 of course). By creating a safer environment, it is our belief that Gentle Paws will become a better place for both you and I.

Having said that, we hope to see you soon!


  1. Hi! Is GentlePaws meant to be a permanent home for the dogs, or are the dogs for adoption by the public? If it's the latter, maybe you could consider posting their photos and info up, so people can consider adopting. I for example am interested in HDB-sized dogs, but I don't know if you have any :(


  2. Hello there! In reply to your question, Gentle Paws is not meant to be a permanent home for our dogs. We are always on the lookout for good homes for our dogs. In fact, we just conducted an adoption drive last December. Thank you for thinking of adopting and not buying! Unfortunately, we don't have any HDB-approved dogs at the moment. Most of our dogs are of mixed breed and are medium to large size. If you are interested, we could send you a catalogue of all the dogs we have. All you need to do is drop us an email at I started a Doggie Feature column in the past but have neglected it recently. Will try to continue posting up profiles of each dog on a weekly basis.


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