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Saigon Shelter for Abused Pets Publishes Special Calendar to Raise Funds

Since its formation in 2005, the Sài Gòn Time (SGT) animal shelter has rescued, nurtured and nursed numerous abused pets to health until they find a new home. To promote animal welfare and seek financial support, the shelter founders have decided to publish a desk calendar for the upcoming Tết.

In recent years, there have been a number of major promotional campaigns to call for the protection of pets in Vietnam. They aim to raise public awareness about violence surrounding the consumption of dog and cat meat, and encourage ethical treatment of pets. Still, even in urban areas where these messages are often popularized, many pets and stray animals still suffer a heart-wrenching fate.

When pets become senile or gravely sick, they face negligence, brutal beatings and are discarded right on the street like unwanted objects. Sài Gòn Time was founded by Trần Uyên Như, who also owns a pet shop, and a few like-minded friends to support ill-fated animals. At the starting point, the shelter was only a temporary home for rescued animals to recover while healing from wounds or illnesses. So far, SGT has successfully saved more than 328 abused animals.

After years of contributing both their time and money to take care of the shelter’s furry residents, nothing brings the staff more contentment than seeing the cats and dogs happily enjoy their food and cozy sleeping space and get adopted.

As SGT grew in popularity, the shelter’s population ballooned quickly, putting a strain on its limited manpower and finances. To shoulder the cost of running SGT, Như collaborated with a photography boutique to produce a special Tết calendar modeled by the shelter’s own felines and canines. All proceeds will go towards paying for food and medicine for animals at the shelter in 2021.

Of the more than 12 pets who appear on the calendar, all are past victims of abuse. A few dogs were starved or beaten to the point of paralysis, crippling their mobility. They were rescued or bought by shelter staff to receive medical treatment. After recovery — though, sadly, some damage is irreversible — they become residents at SGT. The photoshoot took place last Christmas, so the pets were surrounded by garland, festive trees and sparkling gift boxes. At a glance, one might think that the first-time “models” were expertly guided by the photographer to reach the adorable poses. However, behind the expressive smiles and rambunctious postures are years of being mistreated by past owners before being rescued.

“I am Đốm. I was locked in a crate at a young age. I often didn’t have enough food so I was malnourished. A table fell onto my feet so I’ve been paralyzed since. When SGT rescued me, I went through physical therapy, so now I can walk, but I can’t stand up straight like others.”

“I am Na. While I was looking for food, people beat me so bad I have permanent brain damage. So I can only lie down now, I can’t sit or stand up.”

“I am Tửng. My previous owner cut my jaw and all of my teeth and dumped me at a landfill. My smile is still super bright!”

“I am Xù. I was sold into an abattoir. I was almost slaughtered but SGT discovered me and bought me. I’m still traumatized.”

“I am Bò Sữa. I was tased by dog thieves and they tied my snout up with wires, but I managed to escape. I had necrosis that took a month to heal before I could eat normally.”

Apart from animals that were victims of thievery, at SGT there are also rare breeds of dogs and cats imported from overseas. They used to be pampered and loved by owners until they got old and less adorable, or suffered from a terminal illness. To cut costs, the owners threw them away.

“I am Piti, the shelter’s eldest sister. I had uterine cancer so my past owner discarded me on a beach in Phan Thiet. Shelter staff brought me here and treated me for four months. Now, I’m a healthy ‘boss’ at the shelter.”

“We are siblings. We don’t know why we weren’t wanted.”

To produce the calendar, SGT joined hands with M87STUDIO — the crew had to go through a lot of work and tried to capture the best moments of these unique “models.” “Shooting humans is already a challenge; photographing pets is even more challenging. Because they were abused, they’re very afraid of strangers, the camera lens and intense lighting. So we had to be on our toes to get the best angles,” Uyên Như told Saigoneer of the unprecedented photoshoot.

“After the 2021 calendar, we also plan to sell bags with prints of their [the pets] faces and a stuffed toy shaped like Măng Cụt, another resident that we rescued,” she added. “[Măng Cụt] had deformed front limbs from birth, so the owner abandoned it. We hope that everyone will continue to support us so we can give them the best care.”

The Sài Gòn Time calendar. Photo by Alberto Prieto.

If you wish to make a donation or order a calendar from SGT, more details are available here (link is in Vietnamese).