A certain pet shop in SS2 holds a little-known surprise.

“Come to the pet shop with me.” At first I thought I hadn’t heard him right, and when he repeated it, I thought Edward Lim, shelter manager at PAWS, had gone barking mad.

The issue of buying pets is a tricky one and I’m not sure where I stand.

On the one hand, I know that when we buy something, we feel invested. The more we pay for something, the more we value it. This is true for everything, from cars, vegetables and pets. As such, someone who spends a thousand Ringgit on a dog is more likely to treat their pet well.

On the other hand, when something is worth money, you have people trying to make a quick buck and not caring whether it hurts or not. When dogs can be sold for a small fortune, you get breeders who churn out puppies by the hundreds, not caring that dozens die, are diseased and suffer – because all they care about is the bottom line.

While I can see both sides of the issue, I can’t stand visiting pet shops that sell live animals. I want to take all the cats, dogs, guinea pigs, bunnies, budgies and fish home, and because I can’t, I feel utterly miserable. It’s pathetic but because I feel that way, I avoid these shops.

Edward knows very well how I feel, hence my surprise and confusion. “Seriously,” Edward urged me. “This is different. You’ll like it. Promise.”

So a couple of days later, I’m standing in Pet Lovers Centre in SS2, Petaling Jaya, Selangor, looking at six glass cages filled with dogs and cats, and thinking that I would like to strangle my good friend because the guilt is eating me up inside.

The thing is, it is different because I’m not looking at steeply priced pedigrees: I’m looking at PAWS shelter puppies and cats!

“Animal groups don’t get premium retail space, so we thought we’d give back to the community by sharing ours,” Jocelyn Soo, senior marketing executive, shared. “We do it in Singapore and now we’re trying it here. Frankly, with all the traffic jams, people often don’t want to go all the way to shelters as these are usually out of town.”

Several pet NGOs are taking part in this initiative, including Malaysian Dogs Deserve Better, but today is a PAWS day so I’m meeting Mac (Tag No: P46-030714), a little mongrel with classic Scots black and white spots, and Molly (Tag No: P126-230814), a sweet tan girl who takes one look at me through the glass and is panting to come out and cuddle.

Mac and Molly are very sociable, dying to “talk” to me, and I want to take them home. Mac calms down quickly and sits down, asking for his ears to be stroked, whereas Molly decides she wants to play. Both would be ideal house pets, the ideal Best Friend for children.

“Mac and Molly are very adoptable but they’ve been with us for months because it can be hard for people to get out to our shelter,” Edward explains. “SS2 is a prime location with plenty of traffic, so we’re hoping people can make their way here more easily.”

“We’ve had nine pets adopted since mid July,” Jocelyn says. “We’re still trying to create more awareness so we’re running a photo contest on FB to try and encourage adoption, as well as making a calendar.”

All dogs are neutered, vaccinated and certified healthy. Regardless of the NGO whose turn it is that day, each dog comes with an adoption fee of RM150 – a fraction of what it costs to neuter and vaccinate, never mind the food and other costs associated with maintenance.

“We talked to a few NGOs and agreed on one-price-fits-all,” Edward says. “Of course, it doesn’t cover everything, so we get sponsors to pay the balance – and you can always pay more!”

As with all good ideas, though, there are costs. First, it’s stressful for pets to be moved around. The pets are taken from the shelter, caged and driven to the city in the morning. They spend the whole day in a new place, and if they’re not adopted, they are caged and driven back.

Also, shelter staff have to be at hand in case adopters turn up. PAWS staff Agnes and Charles are there, armed with paperwork and ready to match their charges with the right adopters. For smaller NGOs that are short of staff, investing this amount of time is a real challenge.

“It’s new and we’re all learning how to make it work best,” Edward says. “But if it means getting Mac and Molly a home, then it’s worth it.”

If you want to adopt, please note that adoption drive dates vary, so call 03-7865 9366 in advance or check the Pet Lovers Centre Malaysia on Facebook.

Ellen Whyte is currently ruled exclusively by cats but she sneaks out to talk to her dog friends.


Furry Christmas presents

Looking for furry festive presents that give a bit back to the pet community? Check out this list.

Symbolic adoption for people who can’t have (more) pets: Sponsor a PAWS cat or dog by paying RM150 for food, vaccination, neutering and upkeep. You get a photo and certificate. Contact Agnes or Edward (03-7846 1087 / paws.org.my).

SPCA Penang (http://spca-penang.net/lets-shop) has an awesome shop with teddy bears, mugs, toiletries and other goodies. You can pay with PayPal, credit card or by bank transfer from local banks. One of the best online shops around; worth a look!

Remember the people from Pet Epicure who sponsored strays? They’re now producing THAT Pet Co dehydrated raw treats available online (thatpetco.com). Varieties include crunchy chicken feet, chewy chicken breast, pork spleen chips and pork tendon chews. Contact thatpetco@gmail.com / 012-331 3318 to place orders.

Furrenz.com is sharing Christmas cheer with Furrenz’s Santa Sox. Fifty percent of the proceeds will be donated to KL Pooch Rescue, a rehabilitation centre for victims of emergency situations that is funded by a dog-boarding resort and donations. For more information and to place an order, please visitwww.furrenz.com/xmas.php or call 012-9385968 (Peninsular Malaysia only).