Category Archives: Social Commentary

Help: Save the pigeons living in Singapore

Pigeons_20100317_006x Unless you’ve been living under Singapore River, there’s no way you are unaware that living among Singaporeans in this cold home of concrete that demands we give and give and give, is another “homeless” animal who has been targetted for the Singapore brand of population and complaint management.

The letters that have seen print argue for both sides of the coin… but it seems like as soon as “potential hazard” or health concerns are trotted out, that’s the end of the argument. Is that valid? There was even a letter that tells of the letter-writer’s father brush with death due to inhalation of dried, power-form pigeon shit. While I feel sorry for the letter-writer’s father, I am concerned at the myopic nature of her call to arms as it were. Yes, pigeon shit caused the problems her father suffered, but the pigeons were just being pigeons, but the true cause? Human neglect. Yet the letter writer does not go after her neighbour for negligence leading to the “perfect storm” that hit her father.BirdStatue_20100317_002x

There is too much fear-mongering, what-ifs, laziness, illogic, blame-shifting and complacency in this matter.

Sounds familiar?

Let’s extend our empathy for our homeless kitties’ fellow victims of the Singapore brand of population and complaint management.

Help the pigeons sharing our homeless kitties’ space, check out savepigeons.blogspot.com to find out how.

Could you bear it if it happened to a human child or your beloved pet?

While reading the papers 2 sundays ago, my eyes were drawn to a tiny article tucked into the inner bottom corner of the right page.


How cruelly ended was this cat’s life!  What a senseless, wanton waste of life!

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Tabulously spotted Philly and agouti Rheilly

But it was more than grief and outrage I felt. I was also deeply disturbed. Because this cat looks very much like our Philly.

It boggles the mind.

Philly_20091027_010x

Philly trying to get a grip

Why would anyone even contemplate such a sick thing? The poor kitty was strangled to death with a rafia string just behind a block of HDB flats. The rafia string had cut 1″ deep into its throat, probably causing poor kitty a very slow painful death. How could such a painful death be unnoticed when the poor cat was struggling for a long while in the midst of densely populated human habitats?

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Rheilly: So scary!

Could a human child have died the same death unnoticed?

Can you imagine the same happening to your beloved kitty?

It could happen to any cat. This kitty isn’t the first or the only cat who met a cruel end by any stretch of the imagination.

Remember Bedok South, then Old Airport Road, followed by Jurong East, and Pasir Ris, Choa Chu Kang?

Teddy_20091029_007x

Teddy: Philly annoys the hell out of me EVERY SINGLE DAY, but even I wouldn't wish this on him

I am still boggled by the attitudes of those who claim to love cats, then leave their “beloved pets” to roam outside 24/7 unsupervised, exposed to the dangers of animal abuse, road accidents, pest control roundup and AVA culling, poisoning, injuries and sickness from scuffles with other cats, and unwanted pregnancies (conveniently discarding the unapproved young lives that result from their cavalier attitude towards responsibility). Would these people allow their children to live the same risks?

This isn’t just a cat who died. He had caregivers, he had a name.


His name is Pui Pui. And he did not die an easy death.

Bloody signs of Pui Pui's last moments of life

Pui Pui's blood seeped into the ground as he struggled for his life

Thanks to Pawpledge, Pui Pui is not a nameless cat to be forgotten. Nor will his death be just another statistic in Singapore’s annual average of 700 reported (and rising) animal abuse cases if Singaporeans CARE. Pawpledge has sketched a chilling but not unsalvageable reality of the dangers Pui Pui and the cats in the area live in. Sterilisation, and TNRM of course figures prominently. Please help if you can.

Joey_20091025_003x

Joey: I really really don't like Philly but no cat (or dog) deserves to die so horribly

Animal abuse takes every form. Already, between the AVA and SPCA, 21,000 dogs and cats are put to death annually. And official policies or officious support and subsidies of certain behaviours isn’t anything NOT wrong. Not when the real core root, the cause and effect are not even bothered with.

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Bam Bam: I'm the resident evil... I can't bear to look!

Are the issues complex? Sure, any issue involving people evolve complexity. But are they uncomprehensible? I don’t think so – if a foreigner who read a short, simple but true rendition of the plight of Singapore’s community aka homeless cats can go on to write it in his own words, no one needs high qualifications from officially sanctioned university brand names nor be called Mr Minister or Mr MP to claim authority and weight on the issues, not when they’re plagued with the head in the sand syndrome.

Rheilly_Philly_20091025_012x
Philly: So sad, that really looks like me
Rheilly: Anyone who wants to mess with you has to go through me first

As for Philly, and the rest of the slackers, I am glad they are safe. But please, let’s keep our eyes out for the voiceless ones who are only striving to eke out a living on the harsh streets of Singapore

Feline Fantasies 101

Got cha attention, right? This is a wonderful post dealing with kitty myths and such on the advocacy site: care2.com. Black cats get such an especial dose of bad rep that many are rejected outright, but there are black kitties with absolutely perfect personalities (not just cats, dogs too), and adoption chances for black cats is only half of others (torties rank a close second, at least in Singapore). It’s really a wonder that black cats aren’t killed on sight everywhere (especially during Halloween, black cat month), though there’s no lack of trying, even in urban Singapore. But so what if they look like shadows with eyes under the right lighting? Black kitties are still kitties. Black kitties need love too

Janet Garey

Feline Fantasies 101

posted by Janet Garey Oct 19, 2009 5:10 pm


“Doesn’t Bella creep you out?” Andy asked, raking his black-painted nails through spikes of neon purple hair.

The object of his curiosity reclined on my lap, bubble gum-pink tongue lapping at her glistening, black as pitch, tiny paw. I had no idea what the boy was talking about.

“She’s a cat,” he observed, “and completely black!”

Chuckling over Andys’ skill at stating the obvious, my nod urged him to delve a bit deeper.

“Hey, everybody knows that black cats bring bad luck,” he insisted, then paused to watch my complexion darken, eyebrows shooting toward my auburn hairline.” I’ve always believed they have something to do with evil, witchcraft and wizardry.

Resisting the urge to smack my young Goth friend alongside his multiply-pierced head, I decided it was time to give Andy a crash course in Feline Fantasies 101, aka What the Heck Are You Thinking, Oh Child of the the New Millennium?”

(Click here to continue reading)

Say it!

The situation for Singapore’s community cats and cat caregivers is anything but rosy. But we’re not unique in our situation. For example, in the state of California, the perceived American forerunner of of animal welfare, Alley Cat Allies successfully called on residents to help repeal a bill that would have been detrimental to the work that caregivers were doing and to the cats themselves.

Philly_20090920_001xWhat does this say? That bad things can happen anywhere. And also that they can be pushed back. Here in Singapore, we may have a tougher time of it… due to inertia in the Singapore leadership and bureaucracy, but the people on the street, the ones who roll up their sleeves and DO SOMETHING, have a part to play too. Nothing is going to happen if we don’t do something, as in take measures that is required of the situation, for example speak up.

Efforts to get HDB to review its unreasonable ban against cats are still leaving advocates gnashing teeth and nursing headaches. But ACRES‘s role in the successful effort to up the penalties for wildlife smuggling shows it may not all be lost causes we champion.

So what can we do? Dawn says it all:

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Speak up – and in a timely fashion

There was some confusion about which rail operative was involved, and it seems that it was not SMRT identified, as the letter writer originally stated, but SBS Transit. Full disclosure : I have a relative who works for SBS Transit – but my opinion on the subject remains the same.

It’s good to hear from this letter that SBS transit acknowledged that they made a mistake in the handling of this case, and that they will be meeting with the SPCA to work out a proper way of handling this situation. Apparently they mentioned having rescued some dogs from the station in the past. Even if there was already a protocol in place as the letter stated, it is certainly good to have a refresher, and to remind the staff (who clearly didn’t know about it). It’s also heartening to hear that they haven’t found a dead cat on the tracks. I spoke to someone who told me that there are apparently a lot of ventilation holes in the tunnels – hopefully the cat was able to escape out of one of them.

On another thought, this brought into mind the story that I first read via calsifer’s blog the other day.

I’m so sorry to hear about this case, and about the cat that wasn’t saved but it does also bring to mind several issues. The writer in the MRT case wrote in and demanded accountability – and she did get it.

On the other hand, the aunties in the case mentioned above, didn’t, for whatever reason. I can understand they might be frightened or scared but that doesn’t help them or the cats. Neither does bringing the case up long after it happened.

The point is this – if a situation like this happens, someone has to ask for accountability, and it has to be the person whom it happened to. Imagine if the writer at the MRT station had told a friend about it, and asked that friend to write in, months or years after the fact. All of us responded especially to the situation because it had happened to the writer herself – and she was able to give specific details of what happened, and when. It also added an urgency to the case because obviously it mattered so much to her, that she wrote in right away, when the details were still fresh in her mind. It also adds credibility because she came forward herself and identified herself.

On the other hand, this case in AVA, sad as it is, made me wonder – why didn’t the people involve come forward? Also, why didn’t they do so sooner?

If the women were frightened for their own (and their cats’) sakes, then their cat was already killed – honestly, what could be worse? The worst thing had already happened.

If the issue was that they felt that it didn’t matter anymore – and it obviously does still matter to these aunties because they are still scarred by the event – then it could very well matter to the next cats which are caught. If the AVA staffer is still there, then it could well happen to the next person whose cats are caught. At the very least, what seems to be from the (admittedly second or third hand) account, a seemingly arbitrary decision could have been queried.

Right now, it’s hard to see what can be done. It’s like the many times we hear of people complain of animal abuse – but that they can’t ‘do anything’ and so they tell their friends who then try to go to the police. Obviously this can’t be done because the police need an actual eyewitness – and it’s clear to see why. Any news passed down second or third hand will get distorted – ever played ‘broken telephone’?

If someone’s home is broken into, I doubt most people would not file a report, or go to the police. Then why the difference with cats? I can understand that this might be the case with the general public – but I’m sure to most of us, a cat’s life is more important than any property. We have to put aside this fear or reluctance to speak up. We have already seen that there are many caregivers and people concerned about cats who are willing to back witnesses up and give them support in terms of letters and phone calls. There is a community that will support caregivers – and we’ve seen that time and again.

At the end of the day, if we don’t speak up for the cats, then who will?

Posted by Dawn at 10:09 AM comments

We really really do need to learn to speak up. It may not work all the time, but if we keep at it, sooner or later, something has to click. For us minions, our perennial frustrations is in convincing caregivers in the town to band together and work with each other and present a united front to the power-that-be. If you are in a cooperative group, treasure it.

Kitten in mrt station incident: Officious response

A follow-up to the kitten in Dohby Ghaut NEL station incident (or Bureaucracy, boxes, beer. Blech).

From the TODAY Voices section. At least the NEL spin doctors have the grace to acknowledge the mistakes on their part.

‘Proper procedure was not followed’

But there was no evidence that the cat had been hit
Letter from Tammy Tan, vice-president (Corporate Communications), SBS Transit
Updated 09:05 AM Oct 07, 2009

WE REFER to “MRT staff at Dhoby Ghaut ignored pleas; had no regard for animal welfare” by Ms Risa Okamoto Mardjuki (Today Online, Oct 4).

It is rare for animals to enter our stations, but when they do, our staff have been told to spare no effort in ensuring their safety whilst not compromising on the safety of our passengers.

The Standard Operating Procedure in such cases is for station staff to seek assistance from the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty of Animals (SPCA) and to watch over the animal as the SPCA makes its way to our premises. This has been the way we have handled similar cases in the past when dogs strayed into our station.

Unfortunately, the proper procedure was not followed in this instance. Our station staff first erred by calling the pest control company instead of the SPCA.

An error of judgment was also made when the staff tried to lure the cat into a non-public passageway which is located behind the emergency door. The manner in which this was done was also wrong. Certainly a stick and a garbage bag should not have been used.

To make matters worse, the cat unexpectedly leapt up the wall into a small opening located just beside the emergency door and landed on the tracks instead.

Since the incident occurred on Oct 2, we have conducted several sweeps of our tracks and found no evidence that the cat had been hit by our trains.

We have also been trying to look for it in our tunnels to try and bring it back up to street level and to safety, but we have not been able to spot it. We will continue to keep a lookout for the cat, but we believe that it has since escaped and is now safe.

We wish to offer our sincerest apologies to Ms Mardjuki and all animal lovers for the way in which we have handled this situation. It was not our intention to bring harm to the cat.

We have since learnt from this episode and will be fine-tuning our procedures to ensure that stray animals are better dealt with in future. We will be seeking assistance from the SPCA and our staff will be trained on the proper ways to deal with such situations so that the animals’ welfare is not compromised and our passengers’ safety is assured.

The question of course, is do they walk the talk?

Bureaucracy, boxes, beer. Blech

Reading Dawn’s thoughts on the Cat on MRT tracks incident, one has got to wonder why Singapore bureaucracy has this tendency to stick around in the revolving door, and go with the flow to nowhere. Doesn’t it get motion sick at some point? Or rather, how long does the Singapore bureaucracy like to punish itself and those it affect before it does something and drag or throw itself out of it and perhaps give relief to the affected populace?

Dawn says:

“… the staff member may not have felt empowered to do this – or to face the consequences especially when the management may not already be very cat-friendly to begin with. I remember at least one case where I wrote in to offer our help because we were told that the unsterilised cats were usually rounded up and sent to the AVA if there were complaints or if they were found to be a ‘problem’.

So what needs to be done? Clearly what this episode shows is that there should be some manner of procedure or protocol devised so that staff members DO know what do in future. This would ensure that we don’t have to cross our fingers and hope that if this happens again, the staff member knows something about cats.”

It’s like the long long slate of mrt track “intrusions”. Only now are we getting platform screen doors for the doorless above-ground stations.

And consider the train service disruptions which jolt us out of our complacency every so often. The LTA says it takes a serious view of service disruption. But there’s been 92 instances of disruption over a 3 year period, and it’s always the same old same old in the bag of grievances when the letters of complaints flood the media. About how staff don’t seem to know about crowd control, traffic direction, or plain don’t know what they’re supposed to do. About alternatives which are non-existent or cause more “hardship” to the already inconvenienced commuters.

In place is a SOP which received a parliamentarian airing, so why are there still so many unhappy commuters who complain about the same things each time?

Do we dare hold out much hope that a SOP will be set in place to handle kitties in stations, or that it the SOP in place will actually be followed, or even applied correctly?

It’s also the same old same old in the bag of grievances us minions caregivers have about how we and the kitties living in Singapore’s streets are treated.

The powers that be keep relying on the same tired old excuses for keeping status quo.

Curiously, I keep thinking about the latest Tiger Beer ad making the TV rounds when I think about our situation.

Not that I’m stumping for the frothy or want some morose dousing, but it does demonstrate a life lesson (the ad, not the draught), which is saying quite something since beer ads never make much sense (though the Heineken ones I always found most palatable among the hordes).

The ad is no philosophical dissertation for sure. Two guys fighting over the last bottle in the bucket — can’t they just order more? – decided on arm-wrestling, and end up trying to one-up each other, morphing into bigger and stronger opponents which also happen to counter the other guy’s latest incarnation. The winner morphs into a blond hot chick and wins by shorting the circuits of his robotic rival.

No, there is no kitty involved but how cool that instead of being stiff-necked, conventional, and deadboxed into the one-track idea of bigger must be better, the winner takes stock of the situation (while in the very pleasing form of a buff Jungle Man who stares down Philly_Rheilly_20090927_005xsilverbacks), basically jumped out of the box and threw his then stronger-than-Jungle-Man robotic foe out of orbit with his twist on oneupsmanship. Imagine if he had been lazy and conformed with the flow, and morphed into something stronger than stronger-than-Jungle-Man-robot instead. Bore, broken record, tiresome, credibility depreciation. Vicious cycle.

Whenever I see the ad, I ask myself the million dollar question: why can’t the powers that be do the same when confronted with ideas, facts, or complaints about Singapore ’s cats? Have a tiger or whatever’s their poisons of choice, untie the knots they’re in and LOOK the issues in the eye rather than trotting out and nursing those so-old template responses that don’t do a thing except tighten the knots they’re in, and grind our noses in it. Vicious cycle, anyone?

Maybe this post should be titled “Saatchi & Saatchi for government” instead. [EDIT: Or maybe I don’t want that actually, imagine legislation that decree ad-watching quotas on citizens… ]

Footnote
Remember: if you come across an SOS, whether from a fellow human or a little kitten, don’t just walk away. And drink responsibly.

World Animal Day Weekend – what it means for Singapore’s homeless cats

The first time I was aware something specific was mentioned about World Animal Day in Singapore’s media was 2 years ago:

(Google Anthony Lee Mui Yu, the writer of the second article, and you will get a list of letters written by this humanitarian on human-animal issues. A social worker, his compassion extends beyond people, as do many genuine humanitarians.)

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Mary: All I want is to be left alone to enjoy my food

Besides the educational channels on cable, Animal Planet and NatGeo Wild, which are running specials to commemorate this World Animal Weekend, nothing seems to stir for the global plight of the animals, much less the ones living among us on this little red dot.

2 years , 730 days later, and still not much has changed: we, humans, are still going at breakneck speed, in terms of habitat destruction, polluting our living environment, poisoning the fishes, birds and land animals, including ourselves. There are slivers of hope here and there but nothing can’t change anything.

Since us minions are kitty slaves, let us leave the biggies to others, and take stock of what World Animal Day 2009 means for the kitties living in Singapore by touring the Singapore blogosphere:

  • How do you recover from this?
    “Two old aunties rushed down to AVA after they found out that their cats were caught. A mother and her baby.” They were made to choose to save either the mother or the kitten. Read the comments – a reader wrote to AVA and incredibly, got a response that say it did not happen despite the lack of specifics even in the post itself. The clincher is that the response even states caregivers are never forced to make such a choice. Large pinches of salt to go with AVA officialspeak that doesn’t quite wash.
  • Utter Lack of Compassion by SMRT Staff of Dhoby Gaut station
    A young cat was trapped in the NEL in Dhoby Ghaut station during the morning rush hour on 2 Oct 2009, Friday. Only 1 person bothered to detach herself out of the bustling commuter traffic to help the kitten. From the management to the on-site station staff, especially Mr Francisco Dela, showed an appalling lack, not only of compassion, but of competence and ability in the matter. As of now, the fate of the frightened kitten, who managed to disappear onto the tracks thanks to the uncaring attitude and ineptitude of the NEL’s station and cleaning staff, remains unknown.
  • Peacocks on Sentosa
    Proven car paint destroyers and chassis markers, male peacocks, which were introduced onto Sentosa island to add to “the wildlife” are tolerated for their hormone-driven antics, and the car drivers who park where they strut know that the peacocks are only doing their thang. On mainland Singapore, community cats, who are homeless, or free-ranging pet cats with a penchant for carparks or simply love 4 wheeled perches can die just for being caught cosying up to someone’s prized ride. In fact, cats have died from such complaints. Drivers bitten by the carpride bug just need to whine to get AVA to terminate the hapless kitties, or perhaps do it themselves.
  • TC report cards
    The town councils have muster to pass now. As noted by Dawn, there are still questions about the way this works. Already I have heard of stepped up culling in well managed areas with previously cooperative TCs.

Just 4 blogs in a few days, and they already encompass the issues plaguing the homeless animals of Singapore. Yes, there are some notches on the good side, eg MP got heart: Bedok Reservoir Cats saved from death, but there is still no heart in Singapore’s heartlands, both in terms of management and tolerance, nor can the misaligned red-taped choked bureaucratic hearts of Singapore’s leaders get the blood of community spirit past its anemic state. So much for the gahmen’s call for greater tolerance and personal responsibility. Until the Singapore gahmen accept reality and acknowledge that pet issues can’t be legislated away, that homeless animals and animal-related community complaints and conflicts are part of the SAME package, that among Singapore citizens are people aspiring to help animals, and humane methods exist and are effective, it’s the same dirge that accompanies the kitties terminated in Singapore, thanks to government agencies who clutch outdated rules like talismans and treat complainants like royalty to be pampered and mollycoddled, to the point of providing one-stop “service” encompassing free cat traps, cat collection, with no charge on the cost of the trapped cat’s termination (click here for the petition to stop this macabre service). It says quite something when even a global news agency has taken notice and does a feature on the Singapore cat situation.

Not every corner of Singapore is cat gestapo, and there are places where kitties are left unmolested, but the stale cocktail of half-heartedness about doing what’s right, the inertia to “fit in”, be seen as efficient and the eagerness to pander to complaints that continues to be forced down thinking Singaporeans’ throats keeps us in the revolving door, and leaves a foul taste in any intelligent person’s mouth. It doesn’t help that whinging Singaporeans hoodwink themselves about the fates of the cats they cause to be removed from their sights (with a healthy abetting dose from the authorities). Every Smalley among Singapore’s cats is one too many.


Addendum: Say It!