Irresponsible owners 'the worst type of animals'
How much is that doggie in the window?
There is a fee, says animal shelter supervisor Mohan Veerasamy, but nothing compares to the amount of commitment you need to put in.
For 26 years, Mr Mohan has cared for all sorts of animals at the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) shelter at Sungei Tengah.
But no animal is as frustrating to deal with as another human being, says the 53-year-old.
"They are the worst type of animals of all," says Mr Mohan, referring to those who come to the shelter to adopt the animals for the wrong reasons.
His biggest peeve is hearing these owners say "I have no time to look after him".
Mr Mohan says: "That is an unacceptable excuse. Why decide to get a pet if you have such a busy life?"
He gets annoyed at prospective pet owners who ignore his advice, particularly if the animal has a history of abuse.
As abused animals often need special care, a few owners end up returning to the shelter with the animal, admitting that they are unable to look after it.
"It happens all the time, some even come back after a day," he says.
"There is no point arguing with an owner who no longer wants it. Better to hope that another family will come along."
Mr Mohan confesses that he tells white lies to people who want to adopt animals for the wrong reasons, tricking them that the animal they are interested in is already taken.
As the shelter supervisor, he manages a team of seven animal care officers looking after the 7,766 sq m facility at Sungei Tengah.
That means daily cleaning duties for the 38 dog kennels and 30 cages for cats and other small animals in the shelter.
"We have to handle around 20kg of animal poop in a day. But I have never felt dirty or tired, because I enjoy working with animals," he says.
He also responds to calls for animal rescue, recalling past incidents of saving animals in difficult situations.
Mr Mohan laughs when he remembers the many false alarms: "We were called to rescue a cat trapped at a high rise ledge once and it turned out to be a white towel."
The former army regular first joined SPCA when he was 26, after suffering from a serious leg injury in a motoring accident.
He did so to surround himself with animals as his large family could not accommodate a pet, he says.
TALKING TO ANIMALS
While work technically begins at 8am daily, Mr Mohan is usually at the shelter nearly two hours earlier to "talk" to the animals in the holding area.
This is where SPCA keeps recently rescued animals that are still new to the shelter and are not ready to mingle with the others.
Mr Mohan says: "Well, they may not understand me, but it helps them to hear the same voice daily and gradually acclimatise to the place."
He still experiences heartbreak when he sees a new animal come to the shelter bearing scars of previous abuse.
"It makes me very angry to see these animals in such a state, but at least they are here now and won't have to go through more abuse or be abandoned in some forest or drain. For that, I am glad."
One example is Prince, a nine-year-old Jack Russell terrier whose previous owner had poured hot water on it.
Thanks to him and his team, Prince is a far cry from the dog he was three months ago, when he would cower from people and refuse food.
Mr Mohan and some of the animals were at The Cathay last week as part of SPCA's World Animal Day adoption drive.
He says: "Helping these animals get back on their feet again is the most rewarding part of this job. Animals may not forget what happened to them, but they forgive very easily."
SECRETS OF THE TRADE
1 Face masks and scented ointments may help deal with animal smells for a while, but it is better to simply get used to it.
2 Gain the trust of traumatised animals by re-associating the abusive act with something positive, such as a treat or a reassuring word.
3 Always be ready to meet new challenges. SPCA staff encounter all sorts of animals, from hamsters to rabbits, and once, even a monitor lizard.