Established in September 2010, Animal Rescue & Care (A.R.C.), an animal rescue and care centre, is tackling the issue of pet abandonment and abuse in Ho Chi Minh City. The initiative to form the shelter came after two women found some stray kittens on the street, took them home and then tried to find new homes for them. The basic idea grew bigger and bigger, eventually evolving into the animal shelter and adoption programme that exists today.
Since being established, they have rescued between 40 and 50 dogs and over 150 cats. The organisation relies solely upon donations and volunteers to operate, and currently enlists the work of about 40 volunteers with minor to major commitments to the shelter. Volunteer work includes advertising, adoption and fostering liaison as well as basic daily care at the shelter such as cleaning, feeding and dog-walking.
When Dr Nguyen Van Nghia, a veterinary surgeon who trained at the University of Bristol, UK, heard about the programme, he offered to help. The doctor administers treatment to the rescued animals, including a neutering programme, vaccinations and de-fleaing and de-worming treatments. Some of these services are provided free of charge and the rest, A.R.C pays for with donation funds.
The centre receives animals from people who find them on the street, though Dzesika Terzic, a representative for the shelter, insists that it is “not a shelter for dumping animals”. To this end, A.R.C does not list its address on the website in an attempt to avoid people leaving stray animals outside the clinic. Instead, people can call the shelter and a representative can decide how best to help them. Dzesika says that their rescue programme may be unique in Vietnam. There are dog pounds in the city though the animals are often euthanised after a few days if they are not claimed.
A.R.C runs a number of programmes aimed at eliminating excessive breeding amongst cats and dogs in Saigon. Spay-It-Forward advocates spaying animals to reduce the number of unwanted kittens and puppies. The Hello Kitty Feral Cat Programme focuses on the plight of feral cats (wild cats that cannot adapt to life in a family home) with a trap-neuter-return policy. Cats are captured and treated for illness or injury, vaccinated against rabies and sterilised. They are then ear-tipped and returned to the same location. Friendly kittens and mature cats are recruited into the adoption programme and placed in new homes.
Adoption and Fostering
Dzesika holds interviews with potential owners and aims to place animals with owners who best meet their needs. “We veto people for suitability,” She explains. “For example, a few months ago a young guy came to the shelter as he was interested in adopting a dog. When I asked him if he already had any pets at home he explained that he has 15 dogs in his backyard! I asked him how he would walk the dogs and he said he doesn't walk them at all as they live in his backyard. This guy was definitely not suitable to adopt a dog.”
A.R.C also has a network of foster homes. Cats and dogs are sent to these homes on a temporary basis before they can find a permanent new family. This alleviates over-crowding at the shelter and offers animals more individualised care and social integration. English teacher, Eli, has fostered two dogs in the past year and has been caring for the current one, Bear, for almost six months. “It’ll be sad to see him go, but it’s been so rewarding having him with us,” he says. Foster parents pay for the pet’s living costs out of their own pockets, though any medical treatment foster animals need is covered by the shelter.
A.R.C aims to expand its efforts in the upcoming year and increase awareness and support for the centre. With increased funding, the shelter can continue to address its mission of helping abused and abandoned animals all over Ho Chi Minh City.