Alden Boon

President of Voices for Animals Derrick Tan on Animal Activism, His Past and Sacrifices



Do you regret all these incidents?

I don’t regret anything in life. My mind works differently: I always think of contingencies. Before I proceed with anything, I always think of the worse-case scenario and the penalties, so that is why I never really got into serious trouble. I believe that my path in life teaches me and leads me to where I am today.

What would you say to youths who are at risk?

Passion and things that motivate you will come to you at a later stage in life. All your mistakes, they are a story to tell later in your life. Just believe in yourself. Don’t do things because of peer pressure. You don’t have to be like the influencers or famous people; just be yourself and do your own thing.

National Service was a time that changed your life. Tell us about it.

I was posted to the Singapore Police Force. I registered my interest for the Police Dog Unit and got in. It had always been my dream to own a German Shepard. My first dog was Rover, and he was my love. He had a mole on the eye just like I do, and I thought that we had this resemblance. We also had an immediate connection. This big security dog was very sweet, and he taught me the meaning of patience.

You are also a tattoo enthusiast.

I got my first tattoo at twenty-four. I have an ‘MDS’ tattoo behind my ear: it means always listen to my mom, dad and sister. I have a Tibetan saying on my right hand: Om Mani Padme Hum. For the animals that pass away, I caress them with this hand to give them a blessing, and then send them off. Many people associate tattoos with gang affiliations or a criminal past. But a tattoo is like an accessory, only permanent. People get tattoos for different reasons — some to remember and honour their late parents, some as a tribute to their pets. It’s time to get over that narrow-mindedness.

What are the low points of running Voices for Animals?

The criticism. When we reject candidates’ applications to adopt, they become our enemy. Sometimes a friend recommends another friend, and they say all the right things, such as their willingness to pay for medical treatments. But then the candidate says he’d keep the dog outside the house, and so we reject the application. That’s when my friend gets upset with me for not giving face. People accuse us of rescuing only pedigree animals. But I don’t post photos of all my rescues; I only do so to raise awareness. Sometimes I even pay for the medical fees myself; I just don’t make a post about it. My own integrity comes into question — people say I’m only doing this for publicity or fame. The comments don’t affect me anymore, but they do bring down the morale of my team. My mother always tells me, ‘I won’t stop you from doing what you like.’ But she is worried that I spend too much on the animals and that I neglect my own care. She often tells me to take a break and to pace myself.

We are the first people the rescue animals see, the first they trust, and we are the first to kiss them and love them. If you can no longer take care of them, return them to us.

Inverted Comma Bottom

Do you believe in ‘adopt, don’t shop’?

I used to advocate that, but I no longer do so. I cannot force people to take in and love an older dog, especially when all they want is a beautiful puppy. Instead, for people who really want a puppy, I’d say this: check that you are getting a dog from a reputable breeder. And treat your pet well.

What is the greatest satisfaction of running Voices for Animals?

When I get to save a life, when the animals wag their tails or give a wink to tell me that they are fighting for their lives, whatever I have gone through, it is worth it. And when I find them a forever home, I feel very happy. The adopters send me photos, so I get to see their updates — once sick and fragile, now they are healthy and adorable animals living their lives to the fullest.

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Alden Boon
Alden Boon is a Quarter-finalist in PAGE International Screenwriting Awards. When he's not busy writing, he pretends he is Gandalf.