Oi speaks to Katie Howard, a volunteer at Animal Rescue & Care, about fostering, favorite adoption stories and their Trap-Neuter-Release program.
Can you tell us the origin of ARC?
Animal Rescue & Care (ARC, www.facebook.com/arcpetsvietnam) was formed in September of 2009 by a woman named Jodie who was living in Thao Dien. At the time, there wasn’t a rescue group in Saigon that you could contact when you found an animal in need, so she put out a call on the An Phu Neighbours Google Group for anyone who would like to help her start one. From that point forward, the group has evolved and grown. Although we have many more foster volunteers today, our committee remains quite small. There are around 10 of us who organize the administrative, fundraising and daily animal care tasks.
May – Female 8 months
How many volunteers do you currently have? How can someone become a volunteer at ARC and what areas are most needed?
We usually fluctuate between 30-60 volunteers depending on the time of year, and typically have between 60-70 cats and dogs at any one time. We have a few different areas in which to volunteer:
• Cat House volunteers
• Morning and evening dog walkers
• Help with events and fundraising
• Volunteers for our Trap-Neuter-Release program
• And most importantly, we always need more foster volunteers
The more fosters we have, the more animals we can accept and help. One great way to start is just to come to one of our daily dog walks so that you can meet our committee volunteers and find out how to get involved (while also meeting all the ARC dogs!).
In training the ARC dogs
What is the screening process for potential adopters? How do you ensure the person will not adopt to sell later? What traits do you look for in adopting families or persons?
To begin the adoption process, we ask that everyone fill out a detailed adoption form. This will let us know more about your previous experience with pets, your current living arrangement and work schedule as well as your plans for the future. It’s vital that we know whether interested adopters have considered not just the added cost and time a pet requires, but also what they will do with their pet should they go on holiday, move houses or out of the country, expand their family or change their work schedule. These are some of the most common reason people end up giving away their pets, so we want to ensure they’re committed to their pet and have thought about all of these factors before they adopt. If they pass this screening, the next step to come and meet the animal (or animals) and a volunteer or foster. Meeting face-to-face is a great way for us to get to know the adopter better and gauge their commitment and preparation. If all goes well – we’ll proceed to completing the adoption paperwork and plan a day for the adopter to bring their pet home. ARC requires adopters to pay a nominal adoption fee: VND700,000 for cats and VND1 million for dogs. We do this for several reasons:
1) This adoption fee goes directly to helping us pay medical bills. When you adopt your pet, we’ll continue to cover the cost of vaccinations for the first year and sterilization surgery. On average, for every animal we take in, we pay VND1.7 million to VND2.2 million for a healthy cat and around VND3 million for each dog. This covers deworming, vaccinations, rabies shot and spaying/ neutering. This can be more or less depending on the condition in which we received the animal and whether any special medical treatment is necessary such as skin/eye infections, intestinal parasites, injuries, etc.
2) Giving an animal away for free makes them easier targets for sellers who are looking to profit off a pet. Aside from screening all adopters, requiring a fee makes this less worth a person’s time if they’re planning to sell the animal.
3) Charging an adoption fee ensures the adopter is able to afford the additional cost of a pet. Pets require food, annual vaccinations and medical care when they get sick. If an adopter cannot afford the adoption fee, how will they afford the added monthly cost of a pet?
Henry – male 3 months
What happens when the adoption doesn’t work out?
Returned animals are, thankfully, not a common occurrence but it does happen from time to time. Typically, we give adopters two to four weeks to see how their adoptive pet transitions into their family. We discuss beforehand and set an agreed trial period with the adopter. When it doesn’t work out, we’ll take the animal back and continue our search for a new adopter. We try to prevent this from happening in the first place by encouraging all potential adopters to first meet and spend time with the animal they’d like to adopt. We also want them to ask our volunteers any questions they may have about the animal so that they can feel confident in the information they’ve received and with their decision to adopt.
Lago – male 1 year
What happens to the ones who are older and/or not seen as ‘cute’ enough to adopt. Does ARC become their forever home?
From most adopters we speak with, they’re more interested in finding a pet they connect and bond with rather than finding a pet that fits their ideal physical requirements. When you meet a pet and have that instant connection, it suddenly doesn’t matter what they look like. That said, it’s true that puppies and kittens tend to get adopted faster than adult animals. However, older dogs and cats come with plenty of advantages too. They’re usually much calmer, already housebroken/litter trained, and their personalities are predictable. What you see is what you get and that’s why we love sharing an animal’s history, their unique quirks, talents and personality traits so that interested adopters can also consider these factors when choosing a pet.
A great majority of animals at ARC get adopted within eight months to a year at the longest. I believe our longest foster was a cat named Patrick who was living with a foster for over two years. He was incredibly smart and playful, but because he was older, had a difficult time finding a home. He eventually found a great home though!
Bean – male 8 months
You have a Trap-Neuter-Release program (TNR), how often does the team go out on these missions?
It’s one of our goals to develop this program over the next year. Currently, we have just two volunteers who organize TNR weekends, and there’s a lot involved. First, we need to get permission from the property manager and neighborhood in order to set traps. We also need to organize transport and schedule the surgeries with the clinic. And finally, we need to have the full weekend to dedicate to setting traps, waiting/watching traps, transporting cats to the vet, letting them recover from surgery, and then returning them back to their home. We need more volunteers to develop this program, so please contact us if you’d like to pitch in.
Cleo – female 8 months
Where does the ARC get its funding to continue its rescue work?
ARC is a 100 percent volunteer-based organization and all funds we receive are from donations and adoption fees. All of this goes to providing medical treatment, food and care supplies and helps with our Trap-Neuter-Release program. We have a GoFundMe page (www. gofundme.com/arcpets) where people can donate online, a donation box located at Saigon Pet Hospital and, of course, our volunteers are always happy to meet with people who would like to donate and visit the animals that they’re helping.
Coco – female 8 months
What do you wish more people knew about ARC and how can they best help the animals there?
I think a lot of people believe that ARC is an animal shelter opposed to a rescue group, and that we have kennels where you can drop off strays when you find them (or even give up your own pet), similar to the Humane Society or ASPCA in the US, unfortunately, this isn’t the case. While it would be a dream to have our own location and more space to house animals, we just don’t have the resources to do this at this time. Therefore, we rely greatly on foster volunteers to function as a rescue group. It’s truly a community effort, and we’re always in need of more fosters. So, please check with your building/landlord to see if pets are allowed, and contact us for more information about how to be a foster.
Biscuit – female 8 months
Tell us some of your favorite adoption stories.
One of the more popular adoption stories that touched so many of our hearts was the rescue, rehabilitation and adoption of a dog named Lucky. She had escaped a dog meat facility and needed extensive medical care and a lot of rehabilitation training (all documented on the ARC Facebook page). After more than a year of working with her, we’re so happy to report she’s living the good life now in Germany.
Linus the cat came to ARC at a young age and had lost the use of both back legs. Despite this, he was determined to move around and would drag himself around the cat house using only his forelegs. A wonderful family recognized that Linus’ chances of being adopted were very low, and so they brought Linus to their home to meet their four other rescue cats. Linus was tough and determined to play and move about just like their other cats and, month after month, he got stronger and learn how to maneuver his body so that he could be more independent. Today, Linus has regained a surprising amount of control back in his hind legs. He’s still got a funky froggy-legged walk, but he’s able to use the litterbox without a mess and walk on all fours again!
Bi’s story is great because it really shows how, sometimes, animals actually choose to adopt you! A young Canadian couple were traveling through HCMC and spent a few days volunteering with the dogs. They were speaking with our dog coordinator, Regine, when suddenly Bi walked over and sat right next to them. Bi was normally quite shy and this was very uncharacteristic of him. They instantly fell in love with him, and took it as a sign that he was the right dog for them. Despite having a flight to catch, this couple worked closely with ARC and Saigon Pet Hospital to arrange Bi’s transportation. Thanks to a flight volunteer, Bi joined his new family in Canada not long after. This wonderful couple is actually considering adopting another ARC dog right now!
Spotty – female 2,5 years
Jasmine – female 8 months
Louie – female 1 year
Bear – female 6,5 years
The cats and dogs featured are available for adoption, email firstname.lastname@example.org for info.
ARC Dog Walking Schedule:
Monday to Saturday 8:30am and 4:30pm Sunday 9am and 4:30pm Walkers meet at Saigon Pet hospital (No 33, Street 41, Thao Dien)
Images by Melissa Agustina