After witnessing numerous hungry and injured stray animals wandering the streets, animal lover Jay Lau wanted to make a difference.
In 2021, he was able to combine his passion and compassion for animals to the establishment of a non-profit organisation, PawsUp to improve the welfare and health of stray animals in the Sultanate.
Jay recalls that growing up, he has always been passionate about animal welfare.
“I wanted to put my skill and passion to help and build a platform for the animals in need. PawsUp’s main mission is to lend a helping hand to stray animals in need and provide them with better welfare with food, care, love and medical treatment.,” he said.
“The organisation is designed to make it easier for the public to feed and water the strays without having to worry about their medical needs. We would also cover their health aspect through our animal shelter,” he said.
While the organisation is determined to rescue as many strays as they can, a large portion of the organisation’s resources is focused on its Trap Neuter Release Monitor (TNRM) Program.
According to Jay, there are about 50,000 stray cats and dogs in Brunei. With the growing number of strays, the NGO places great importance on raising awareness of animal welfare and educating the public through its TNRM program.
“Many of these strays come from an overpopulated litter which makes it tougher for them to survive. That’s where we come in with our Trap Neuter Release Monitor (TNRM) Program,” he shared.
The 35-year-old shared that the TNRM program will help reduce the number of strays in the community, as well as being a much more humane method of improving the stray population and making their lives safer.
The programme involves capturing strays and getting them spayed or neutered and eventually releasing them back into the population.
“After the surgery, the stray animals are no longer able to populate and we release them back to their natural habitat to live out their lives naturally. In due time, you will notice a reduction of roaming strays,” he added.
Since implementing the TNRM programme, Jay shared that over 600 strays had either been neutered or spayed.
Moreover, the 35-year-old shared that the organisation receives an average of five to ten injury reports daily. They encounter numerous cases like mange (skin disease), knee injuries, chronic kidney disease, tumor and more.
“Thirty percent of the cases translate into rescue while the rest of the cases, we would give them advice and instructions on how to handle the stray animals,” he explains.
“For minor cases, we would monitor the sick animals on site. For complex cases, we would dispatch our rescue team to secure the animals and bring them to our partnered vets that we work closely with,” he said.
The local organisation currently has 60 stray dogs and cats in their current shelter, which according to Jay is almost reaching its capacity.
Seeing the stray animals he has rescued finally being happy and healthy is what brings Jay pure joy and happiness. He also spoke of how difficult it is to part ways with the animals.
The 35-year-old finds his work rescuing stray animals very rewarding. His days are usually occupied with caring and feeding the community animals that he rescues and giving them the love and attention they deserve.
“I have rescued lots of cats and dogs. One of my most memorable moments is watching one of the disabled dogs, Kane, grow up,” he shared.
“Kane injured his leg in a hit-and-run case in Tutong. Even though Kane suffered from the accident, the three-month puppy managed to recover and grow into a healthy dog. During his recovery journey, we have seen him grow out of his custom-made wheelchairs to an upgraded three sets of wheels,” he continued.
Rescuing stray animals can be a rewarding experience, but according to Jay it also comes with its own set of challenges.
In the course of his work rescuing stray animals, Jay shared that he had to deal with the heartbreaks of seeing stray animals being abused, poisoned, or killed by humans.
The negative stigma surrounding stray animals, especially dogs, is still very much embedded in society, he shared and he wants to change that through awareness.
“Social stigma about stray animals being “dirty” is definitely hard to break. But with time, the public will surpass this thinking and realize kindness and compassion definitely outweigh more than “dirty animals”. After all, we do share the world together,” he said.
With the growing number of rescued strays, another challenge faced by the organisation is the lack of funding and resources.
Since PawsUp is a non-profit, it does not make any money from the work they are doing. The organisation mostly runs and sustains the support of the community.
“Through our Community Outreach programs, we also offer the public a platform to adopt rescues through us and promote responsible pet ownership and nurturing the human-animal bond,” he added.
PawsUp launched its website and social media page to help animals find their forever home. Where people can browse through photos of stray animals currently in the shelter.
The organisation would also post-adoption success stories and heartwarming transformation photos on their social media page encouraging the public to donate or volunteer, as well as adopt. Today, their Instagram page has garnered more than 7,000 followers.
The non-profit also introduced a subscription plan, where the public can pay $2.99 per month towards helping pay for medical bills, vaccines and spaying or neutering the stray.
Since its introduction, the NGO has been getting positive responses and amazing support. According to the founder, PawsUp has already gained up to 600 subscribers.
“The community plays a big role in animal welfare. No help is too little. For starters if you see a stray cat or dog, you can always offer a bite to eat or clean water. Keeping dry kibbles in the car is a good start. Make sure to offer clean drinking water. They get a bit thirsty from the dry food,” he said.
Jay also believes that there needs to be more education and awareness surrounding animal welfare and the social issues faced by strays, especially highlighting the importance of sustainable and responsible pet ownership.
When asked about the future of the PawsUp, he said that the NGO is working toward expanding its animal sanctuary (hospital) to offer its support to all four districts.
“We also currently have a team of six people working for PawsUp full-time including a fully-fledged and committed clinical team and rescue team,” he shared.
In the long run, the organisation hopes to spread public awareness on the importance of its TNRM program and vows to continue educating the public on its practice.
“It was a privilege to have worked closely with various local universities, businesses and district offices by giving awareness talks and assisting students and communities in their community outreach programs,” he shared.
“We would like to express our gratitude to our loving community who have shown so much support for our mission and vision since we started,” he concluded.
Fellow animal lovers can learn more about the PawsUp initiative at www.pawsupbn.com and by following @pawsuptv on Instagram.
This article was first published on 16 July 2022 in our Weekly Epaper issue 202 | More stories here
THE BRUNEIAN | BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN