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All God’s Creatures
We visit Furry Friends Farm, a beautiful place to appreciate the kindness of human (and animal!) nature.
Located near the leafy village of Kundang just outside of Kuala Lumpur lies Furry Friends Farm (FFF), an animal sanctuary which rescues and rehomes abandoned animals from all across the country. Started by the late Sabrina Yeap in 2006, it houses just under 500 dogs and cats (and a goat named Rajoo). The farm sprawls over 1.7 acres of land and provides a second chance at life and love for all of the animals who live there. Ensuring the welfare and quality of life for the animals is Georgie Gisborne, the British-born Sanctuary Manager who fell in love with the place when she visited it five years ago. We caught up with her recently to find out more about the work she is achieving on the farm.
What were you doing before this?
Same thing, setting up shelters all over the place. But this farm was started in 2006 by Sabrina Yeap, In fact, it is actually four years ago tomorrow [at time of writing] that Sabrina died. She died very suddenly of leukemia… but she started the farm, this was her baby.
How did you meet her?
I met her because when I was in and out of Malaysia in 2011. I found some kittens in Kelantan, and like everybody who finds a batch of puppies and kittens, I needed to put them somewhere. My friend in Malaysia found Furry Friends Farm. I could see what Sabrina had going here, and I thought she needed help so I offered my services for three months until my visa expired and I fell in love with the place… and all the babies here]. That’s what keeps me in Malaysia. This 1.7 acres, right here.
What did you do after that?
Sadly, I left with a broken heart. I had already agreed to a project in Laos working with moon bears who are taken for the Chinese medicine industries, and in Thailand working with street dogs. But when I found out Sabrina had died, I said I would come back straight away because my heart was still here and I knew they needed somebody. It really is Sabrina’s project but we just keep it carrying on for the 500 babies we have here. All the animals that come in will live their life here because our adoption rate is so low.
So how many cats and dogs do you have?
Cats, around 145 at the moment, and dogs… around 350. They are spread out all over the farm.
Is there a system in place? You seem to have them all in different enclosures, are they divided up by personality?
That is exactly right, it is all about personality. Just like us humans, the social structures are the same. There is a leader, then there are the shy, quiet ones. In every pack there is an alpha male and an alpha female. Being dogs, they are also very territorial and they are pack animals, so if they get together with another pack you are going to have problems.
Are they all spayed and neutered?
Yes, all of them.
Are you a vet by training?
No, I am not. I actually count as one of the staff because I do a lot of the cleaning! I am very hands-on.
How did you learn how to administer medicine to the animals?
I learned from our local vet in Kepong. Whatever I need to do, he shows me until I get it right.
What kind of things do you do every day?
My main job is the welfare of the animals. I am basically their mum [laughs]. If they aren’t well, and I can’t fix it, I take them to the vet. We have a farm ambulance so throughout the course of the week I have to go to the vet three to four times. The bulk of my work is ensuring the welfare and happiness of the animals.
How many people work here?
We have two lovely boys who do the bulk of the cleaning for the dogs and make sure they have food and water. I am in charge of the cats, Myza is head of Fundraising and PR, and Dawn is our Treasurer. And we have a few volunteers who give us their free time, around two or three each weekend. It costs RM40,000 a month to run this place. Just to feed the dogs is RM20,000.
Do you have any kind of adoption programmes?
We post them on Facebook, but sadly there aren’t enough homes out there for strays. In Malaysia, the stray dog population is enormous. And sadly, they will usually end up with a dog catcher who is brutal and will probably end up being killed. So this is the sad reality… it is a pity we can’t help even more but we just don’t have the space.
What’s the worst condition you have received an animal in?
Teddy, was a terrible case. I was on my way out for dinner one night, and there was this dog with a huge metal cable tied around his leg. He was like a skeleton. The foot was already dead from the wrist to the shoulder. No flesh, just bone. He was quite bad. We had to amputate. I told the clinic not to close until I got there, they waited for me and we had to amputate. And he has turned into a gorgeous dog, just lovely.
They all seem very happy!
Well it is not perfect, they have health issues. When you’ve got this number you will always have some which are unwell, there are three with terminal cancer at the moment … but as long as they are eating, still running around - for us it is about quality of life. We are a no-kill shelter, but if the animal is unhappy and has lost the will to live, then we will help them on their way. That is the only time.
Are you looking for more volunteers?
What kind of commitment are you looking for?
Just a love of animals. After that, everything will fall into place. There are many jobs to do here and you can learn so much … I learned everything I know now through volunteering and experiencing this for years. You can learn how to take care of many animals, which is different to just taking care of one dog at home.
How regularly do you need a volunteer?
If you are an international volunteer, three months is ideal. It takes time to train people, so ideally a month or longer is ideal.
What are the biggest challenges to running the shelter?
Money… it’s not the animals. It’s dealing with everyone else!
Where do you get your funding?
It’s all by donation.
Is it enough?
Sometimes no …and we really have to dig our heels in and strategise. Last month was very tight, we had to really brainstorm.
What’s the most rewarding part for you?
Every day we can go to bed, and as long as we have done our best, and we see animals with full tummies, with a place to sleep, you feel like you’ve done something alright, you know? [smiles] The animals are truly loved here.
How you can help Furry Friends Farm:
- Adopt an animal: Most of the inhabitants at the farm are in need of a loving home. Adoption rates start at RM200 and include all necessary medical and surgical procedures to prepare them for coming home with you.
- Sponsor an animal: If you are unwilling or unable to take on the responsibility of adoption, you could sponsor one instead, and have your own lovely pet to come and play with whenever you stop by the farm. Sponsor rates start at RM60/month.
- Volunteer: Extra hands are always needed around the Farm. If you are looking for an engaging place to volunteer, either on a weekend or for a longer period of time, this is the place to learn new skills and indulge in non-stop contact with a wonderful group of happy and healthy animals. Contact Georgie for more info at 016 379 3478.
- Donate: Every little bit goes a long way at Furry Friends Farm. With 500 mouths to feed, even the smallest donation will make a big difference to the upkeep and wellbeing of the animals.
- Public Bank Account Number: 317 884 2626
- Account Name: Furry Friends Farm
By Charlie Morgan
Photos by Chris Lim
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