A Pawsitive Impact: How the Animal Human Alliance is Transforming Animal Welfare
Join CHARLENE TAN and KAYLA GOH as they talk to Mr Chan Chow Wah, the founder of Animal Human Alliance (AHA), and find out more about AHA and their rescue efforts.
Hype Issue #58
January 4, 2023
“Last year…my total vet bill was $60k. It was way too serious so I had to take [out] a loan,” Mr Chan Chow Wah, 50, founder of Animal Human Alliance (AHA) said.
Mr Chan, an anthropologist by training, started his animal rescue work in 2005 by providing food and veterinary care, after realising the challenges community cats faced. After eight years of doing so, he started AHA in 2013, which aims to raise awareness of animal welfare issues.
Mr Chan also launched his own pet food brand, Gold D, with a view to using the profits the business generates to fund his charity work with AHA. He has also leveraged the pet food brand to organise a programme called Food For Thought, which raises awareness on animal welfare issues and animal human issues such as discrimination against black cats and dogs and women working in animal welfare. Food for Thought invites experts and stakeholders to speak about these topics, with the content posted on YouTube.
Apart from that, AHA focuses on cats and dogs which require palliative (end of life) care and runs the Rahula FELV sanctuary that houses cats with feline leukaemia virus (FELV) – a contagious virus among cats that weakens the immune system.
The animals that Mr Chan takes in usually have certain health issues such as diabetes, pancreatitis, stomach cancer, nose cancer, feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV), and/or disabilities, all of which make adoption unlikely.
Mr Chan takes a disabled dog which has nerve degeneration, Dillion, on a walk twice a day. Photo by Kayla Goh.
One such case was a cat named John John; which had recovered from liver failure. When John John was put up for adoption, nobody was willing to adopt the cat after learning about its prior condition and it being FIV positive. Hence, Mr Chan decided to adopt the cat himself.
Since AHA adopts many cats that are FIV and FELV-positive which have weakened immune systems, Mr Chan has to make many vet visits, which takes a toll on his finances. Despite people reaching out to him and offering to make donations, he has refused, instead insisting on sticking with his original idea of using his pet food brand, Gold-D, to finance the rescue work.
Gold-D has won multiple awards, including the brand of the year award in 2021. Photo by Animal Human Alliance.
Last year, the total vet bill for a pet rescue case, Sammi, amounted to around $15k. Sammi was found at the foot of a building after falling three storeys down and did not move or eat for 12 hours. Mr Chan brought the cat to an Animal hospital, where it underwent surgery for its pelvis fracture.
Aside from financial challenges, Mr Chan has also received negative remarks from others on his rescue work. People often disregard his efforts, saying that he does not have anything better to do and has too much money to spare for these animals. Despite this, Mr Chan hopes that Singaporeans would have more empathy towards animals, and to see them as sentient beings with emotions.
Despite the challenges he has faced, he soldiers on as it is simply not in his nature to turn a blind eye to the suffering of animals. “You see an animal that is so sick, at the verge of death. You put in the effort to nurse it back to health, that kind of feeling immediately eradicates whatever stress you have,” Mr Chan said.
The before and after image of Rabbit, a rescue cat under AHA which is FIV positive. Photo by Animal Human Alliance.
Other than raising awareness on animal welfare in Singapore, he hopes to advocate for animal-centric adoption, where potential adopters will adopt based on what is best for the animals, and not what they want. This helps ensure that the animals live their best lives.
After living through the passing of so many animals, Mr Chan has learnt to accept that death is inevitable and that what matters more is focusing on making the animals happy and comfortable when they are living. This allows them to go in a dignified way when they pass.
The cremation ceremony of a cat under the care of AHA; it was underweight and passed away just six days after AHA took it in. Photo by Charlene Tan.
“When doing rescue work, you may be the one saving the cats and dogs, but they are the ones who teach you what life is about,” Mr Chan said.