What would you do if you saw a stray dog so thirsty that it waited for drops of water to slowly drip down from the air-conditioner condenser? For Alicia Tan Geoh Bee, 36, that dog’s desperation moved her so much that she decided to establish The Kiko Food Bank. Named after her own dog, an 11-year-old Dalmatian who has shown Alicia and her family the meaning of unconditional love, Alicia believes that everyone can make a difference for strays and shelter animals.
Today, one year later, The Kiko Food Bank is still the only full-time dog and cat food charity organisation in Kinta, Perak. Striving hard to provide a constant supply of free food relief and assistance to the homeless strays and shelter animals, The Kiko Food Bank with its distribution network and emergency food support, has already provided over 90,000 nutritious meals to date. Only unopened and unexpired pet food is accepted from the public.
Alicia, who works as quality manager at her family’s rubber product manufacturing plant, said, “Each and every meal from the food bank is given where and when they are needed. This meant that an animal went to bed with a tummy filled with food instead of an empty stomach. With public support, the meals from our food bank are given with love, and carry the message of hope that things will improve from now on.
“Through food, a powerful difference could be made. This small act of kindness is like a drop of water in a pond that creates ripples of goodness. Food is so basic, yet a critical necessity that it doesn’t only stop hunger but saves lives.
“Our promise of a fixed monthly food supply, a commitment by the food bank to Kiko Friends, made up of animal shelters, rescuers and community feeders, has relieved them of high food expenses, which means that it is now possible to use their limited funds and resources to improve on the living conditions and health of the animals instead. Sterilisation, vaccination and medical treatment will put an end to the countless animals that die daily unnecessarily from diseases, hunger and injuries.”
Meanwhile, Kiko Friends, most of whom have no where else to turn to, can continue the good work of tirelessly caring for the animals without needing to constantly struggle for support and aid every single day.
In January (2015), close to 2000kg of food worth RM8000 that the food bank distributed, fed nearly 1200 animals per day, at 18 animal shelters and other neighbourhoods in Kinta District, stretching from Ipoh to Sungai Siput and Tanjung Rambutan. These numbers continue to increase as more people call up the food bank to request for assistance.
Besides feeding strays and shelter animals, The Kiko Food Bank undertakes, also with public donations, a Trap-Neuter-Return-Manage (TNRM) programme, as it works hand in hand with food. On the streets through daily feeding, the carers are able to quickly gain the trust of stray animals, which are then caught and sent to the veterinarian to be neutered, vaccinated and dewormed and upon their recovery, released to the streets where they lived, if an adoption did not happen. The carers continue to feed responsibly and protect them, even though these animals do not have a proper home, so that they are not a menacing problem to the local human community.
Although hardly the best solution to control the overpopulation of strays, it is still the most humane and effective method in the long term. So far, 112 street dogs have gone through the programme.
Every animal deserves good food, clean water, shelter and humane care. Believing in this, The Kiko Food Bank is tackling the most basic need, food, which is solicited from the public at least once a month, apart from creating awareness on the issue of overpopulation of strays and how each of us can do our part to improve on the situation of homeless animals.
“The issue is huge but if we all work together, we can see a drastic reduction of the stray population in thirty years’ time. The animals have to be fed responsibly and put on the TNRM programme. Ultimately, educating the public is essential as they should be aware of the consequences of abandoning animals. You can imagine the magnitude of strays when on average, a stray female dog can produce twenty puppies in a year,” Alicia said.
Although Alicia continues to search for other outlets that The Kiko Food Bank can serve, such as working with food pantries and soup kitchens, she does, admittedly, sometimes feel disheartened with the lack of public awareness on animal welfare, insufficient volunteers and support but still, she is definitely giving it her best shot.
She said, “Wherever the animals are, I wish for them to be safe and well. We work for the day when no dog or cat shall suffer in hunger and dream of the time when every shelter is empty and every animal has a loving home.”
Note: An edited version of this article [Perak’s Best Bank] was published on 9th March, 2015, in the now-defunct The Malay Mail.
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