Growing up, Malina was always surrounded by furry felines and canines. At one point she actually had 50 cats. This might sound a little extreme, until you realise that they were not pets, but rescue animals Malina fostered temporarily after finding them in the streets.
“My childhood years spent in the company of animals have taught me that there is value in the lives of sentient beings,” said Malina, explaining how it fuelled her passion to feed and rescue street dogs tirelessly for more than a decade of her life.
When asked about her first adopted pets, she fondly talked about two kittens she found. “I still remember that I found the two kittens in a box near this wholesaler at Bras Basah. Someone abandoned them,” said Malina.
She was able to adopt them for good as she was married. Previously, she only fostered the animals she found. Now that she has her own place, she has 24 cats and three dogs living with her.
Life as an animal rescuer isn’t easy though. Thankfully, she did not go through this journey completely alone.
In 2011, while Malina was out feeding street dogs, she bumped into seven other women who were also outside feeding strays. A conversation sparked very quickly between them and they bonded over their common interests. Needless to say, they became fast friends.
They were all very passionate about street animals, and they knew they wanted to create a bigger impact, so they decided to consult Tan Chuan Jin, a Member of Parliament (MP) during a Meet-the-MP Session.
After sharing their concerns and suggestions on the problems of stray dogs in Singapore, the MP urged them to start a group because “individuals don’t get anywhere”.
Hence, in 2012, the women banded together and registered Save Our Street Dogs (SOSD) as an official society.
“In those days it was really tough,” Malina recollected. “We had no physical shelter, no means to take in any dogs. So we could only get people who had space in their homes to foster the animals… What we could do was very limited,” said Malina.
They kept working hard and spreading the word, and after a hard year, they had put together just enough funds to afford a space to use as a shelter.
However, things took a downturn as a crisis struck. The owner of Pasir Ris Farmway unexpectedly fled the dog breeding facility with all the money, leaving the dogs behind and the workers unaccounted for.
This meant that the dogs would become strays again. So Malina got down to work immediately amidst the chaos; rescuing and rehoming the dogs. Though this event was very challenging to get through and caused a strain on SOSD’s resources, it was a blessing in disguise.
Malina was able to recruit a full team for SOSD by hiring the workers from Pasir Ris Farmway, and that was a stepping stone that led to SOSD blossoming into a huge organisation with over six hundred volunteers and 11 full-time staff.
Her eight-year journey is one that’s filled with hurdles. Some of the challenges include keeping everyone on the same page, figuring out ways to keep SOSD sustainable, and getting donors to adopt pets from SOSD, and more.
What drives Malina despite the challenges is the idea that strays would go unloved, hungry, and lonely without groups like SOSD to help them. This is why she keeps fighting hard for a better life for dogs.
“We could see that we had to do something to make a difference, to fight for the dogs. We’ve already re-homed more than a thousand dogs.
“If we didn’t set up SOSD, more than a thousand dogs wouldn’t have found a home or received medical help that we appealed for,” Malina says.
If you want to help SOSD, you can volunteer, donate, or foster, by going to their website.