Hundreds of dog breeds exist worldwide and they originated in different parts of the world, like the Chow Chow is from China or the Rhodesian Ridgeback from southern Africa or the Akita from Japan. So what about “new” countries like Singapore?
Well, we have the Singapore Special….or do we?
The Singapore Special isn’t a breed, but I would say more a look. Short-haired, brown, skinny, medium-to-large-sized, black-muzzled, pointy ears… Come to think of it, it used to be easier to describe when I first came to Singapore some five years ago. This look was more prevalent then in the dog adoption galleries of local rescues and shelters. The Singapore Special is a mixed-breed, bred from the streets, from generations of assortments of different breeds.
When people think of Singapore, they see a high-tech urban centre – new and shiny. Every city, even one as clean and straight as Singapore is touted to be, has an “underbelly”, unseen from the initial glance. And I daresay that most visitors or new arrivals don’t have industrial sites or far-flung parks on their agenda. Singapore strays don’t roam the city streets like in Bali or Thailand. Stray cats….that’s another story.
Stray dogs live in the streets, scavenge food (or sometimes fed by volunteer feeders), and have no homes. Some, though, are semi-owned. I’m not sure how Singapore came to have so many strays. Many started as guard dogs for factories and construction sites. Once these buildings are completed or the factories close down, the dogs are left to fend for themselves. Once a protector of property, now seen as a menace.
The stray dog population has only grown as more and more people abandon their pet dogs and urbanization encroaches the outer reaches of this green city. The current public policy is culling, which has been shown to be ineffective in many other countries. Not only is it cruel but unless people stop abandoning dogs and dogs are desexed, new generations will be produced.
Culling is usually done after complaints (eg Punggol Incident) but ironically as many people have pointed out, it’s the friendly and less human-adverse dogs who are culled (and killed) first. As long as these dogs aren’t healthy, they pose little threat. The more people-friendly dogs remain elusive from catchers.
So what is the Singapore Special? Even over the last five years since I’ve been here, the look of the Singapore Special has evolved, as more breeds of pet dogs are abandoned and add to the gene pool. The majority of dogs available for adoption are medium to large sized – not allowed for HDBs.
Most people still prefer purebreeds, many of whom are poorly bred (puppy mills) and not suitable for the local hot and humid weather. Many dogs have skin issues, for example. So I guess like the face of Singapore, the local Singapore Special is also evolving.
But just because this may be the current perspective, possibilities for change are great. More and more people are becoming more aware and involved with animal welfare. It’s fantastic, as people come together in a caring, pro-active way to ensure that those without a voice are taken care of as well.