Being a pet lover I am always looking forward to spend my weekends in Ubin. The dogs there are our true Singapore breeds, not pure bred, short haired to withstand hot weather, medium height and extremely hardy.
Along the way I would stop at May Ling house, who would prepare generous amount of food for dogs and cats alike. Another volunteer is Kathy Strong at PetVilla, a no-kill shelter run by Animal Lovers League. Through her assistance and another volunteer Mohan, we were able to save many injured dogs by arranging for their transfers to the mainland for vet treatment and convalescence at Petvilla. SPCA has been great help also, providing vouchers for free sterilizations.
At Pulau Ubin we have Pisang, a civil servant retiree who monitor their welfare, along with many individuals who helped in many little ways, including Nparks who also helped in the rescue of injured animals.
Unfortunately, things went terribly wrong this early August as one by one, the dogs began to die, some in agony. Dogs there have been poisoned before. Its terrible, but there are folks who poison animals which annoy them. We alerted the authorities. and post-mortem were performed. The source was confirmed by AVA on 17 Aug 2012 that it was due to an outbreak of distemper, a highly contagious and often fatal disease among dogs. Estimates vary. Park workers have collected 8-10 dead dogs and estimates of as high as 30 dogs had died. Meanwhile AVA has started vaccinations to contain the outbreak.
Some dogs were immune however. These healthy ones are seen playing at the beach during sunset.
The disease is not passed to humans however. Pulau Ubin, being on an island, the place is practically quarantined. It is unlikely for infected dogs to swim across from Malaysia. The pampered pets that visitors brought with them is unlikely to be the source.
Rumors thrive in a vacuum and some villagers suspect deliberate infection by outside third parties. This sort of rumors is familiar to those who lived in the 60s. Kampong houses that caught fire were thought to be works of arsonists working for the government to clear squatters. Old women would lure children away, cut off their heads as sacrifices to ensure bridges stay upright.
For the time being, do not bring your pets to Pulau Ubin and make sure their vaccinations are up to date. To avoid transmission, follow sensible disinfection procedures when you leave the island and especially before playing with your pets when you get home.
This picture was taken 2 weeks ago. It was looking unwell with one eye swollen when I took its picture, intending to find ways of treating this shy animal. The poor dog has earlier lost one of its rear paws in a poacher’s leg trap and I have been feeding it. I heard that it succumbed to the disease outbreak.
If you wish to volunteer your services or make a donation, you may also contact Animal Protection league through their website.