Category Archives: Under the iron-fist

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.

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?

TODAY 20051104: Why animal welfare groups in Singapore can’t reach out to the authorities

Hot News // Friday, November 4, 2005

The art of getting heard

Why animal welfare groups in Singapore can’t reach out to the authorities

Goh Boon Choo

IN Singapore, animal cruelty reports precipitate letters in the media calling for harsher punishment, tougher laws and stringent enforcement.

The authorities then issue sympathetic responses, explaining their stand and that they “will not hesitate to take strong action” against perpetrators — but stop short of committing to firmer penalties.

In a reply published in Today in June, the Agri-food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) said: “While we may not be able to adopt all the suggestions by the (letter) writers, we will definitely take these suggestions into consideration when we review our rules.”

So it was too, when news of Max, the Alaskan Malamute, broke in August.

For fatally neglecting him, Max’s owner, Lim Bee Leong, was fined $3,000. Singaporeans wrote letters and signed an online petition for stiffer punishment.

The persistent calls for tougher enforcement are a symptom of the gap between public disapproval of animal cruelty and official policies.

People understand that animal cruelty concerns society at large. Nine in 10 respondents believe “we have a moral duty to minimise suffering”, according to the results of an Asian survey commissioned by the International Fund for Animal Welfare, presented in March.

In July last year, a local newspaper reported that culling costs for 2003 rose 20 per cent. That year, AVA cancelled its five-year-old Stray Cat Rehabilitation Scheme (SCRS), following the Sars scare.

Eighty per cent of readers surveyed objected to AVA’s annual $600,000 culling bill, and more than half felt funds should go to animal welfare groups to re-home or sterilise strays.

Animal welfare groups play an important role in raising awareness and rallying like-minded citizens. But they seem unable to engage the authorities to the extent their counterparts elsewhere do.

The Humane Society of the United States collaborated with a senator to successfully lobby for an end to horse-slaughter for food exports. In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, it secured senators’ sponsorship of its proposal to change evacuation policies to include refugees’ pets.

The disparity may be due to cultural mindset and maturity of the political system — but in comparison, Singapore’s welfare groups are often left reacting to policy changes. For instance, the Cat Welfare Society championed in vain for the continuation, then reinstatement, of the SCRS.

In fact, AVA’s own case study of the SCRS in Bukit Merah View (since been removed from the AVA website) proved the scheme’s effectiveness over culling.

Tellingly, part of that study’s conclusion was that “sterilisation and responsible management has the support of up to 96 per cent of the public. The majority want cats controlled but do not want them culled”.

Another example is the Action for Singapore Dogs’ (ASD) proposal to the HDB. It suggested easing HDB’s rule on dog breeds, to widen the adoption pool for larger dogs, as temperament rather than size determines a breed’s suitability for flat-living. Despite volunteering to monitor trial adoptions, ASD’s proposal fell through.

Since collaboration is not welcomed, groups have to try to involve themselves indirectly. For example, a US group, pet-abuse.com, produced a training film on investigating animal cruelty and successful deterrent sentencing. Targeted at police and prosecutors, the film’s distribution has widened beyond America.

Welfare groups also need to be politically savvy: Identify and initiate contact with foresighted officials, as it seems change is possible only from within officialdom.

In recent months, readers have written in urging for a rethink on current laws, legislative support for pet ownership (for example compulsory microchipping) and cooperation between AVA and welfare groups to design humane and effective solutions to issues conventional policies cannot address, such as stray culling and unregulated pet breeding. So far, the authorities have issued the standard responses.

The equation between public opinion and official stance is a skewed one. Still, if only extreme cruelty cases compel Singapore to react, it would reflect poorly on our collective compassion.

There will always be another Max, but instead of decrying lax enforcement or incongruent penalties after the fact, Singapore should minimise the number of Maxes by deterring the potential Lim Bee Leongs.

This necessitates paradigm shifts, but to effectively address prevalent problems, the authorities must include Singaporeans and the welfare groups more thoroughly in its policy formulation process.

The writer is an analyst concerned with animal and environmental issues.

HDB’s cat ban elicits incredulity

Popular local blogger Mr Wang blogged about his brother’s art exhibition in Hong Kong. The interesting thing is its his “brother’s sixth exhibition of cat paintings, all of which are inspired by his real-life pet cat”. If this cat minion were in Hong Kong, this would an exhibition I’d go to. I was particularly piqued with this remark by Mr Wang:

And here’s another. I guess this is about HDB’s prohibition on flat owners having a pet cat:

The interesting thing is one reader’s reaction to the HDB cat ban:

Are you sure this is the case? I think this sort of statement spells disaster for credibility.
I think feeding strays is illegal or frowned upon, but not having legal pets.

I think this sort of reaction is good. People do tend to want to believe the positive where there’s a choice, never mind the reality. But this also shows how incredulous people find the ban to be. I’m interested to know the reactions when more people realise just how ridiculous Singapore’s pet and animal control policies are. I’ve responded (adding AVA’s pet cat brochure which extols the suitability of cats as indoor pets who do not need to roam for good measure), but of course it depends on whether Mr Wang approves my comment. I hope he does.

Forget awareness, I cannot believe in this day and age such things should be shocking news. What people need to do is acknowledge reality, not just about the pet legislations in place but also the whole animal population control situation – and the laughability of it all. TNRM is the way to go, culling is ineffective and an expense taxpayers should not be expected to subsidize. When the Singapore government and the bureaucrats running rings around their fingers see the light depends on more and different Singaporeans speaking up.

Foster Mum’s Homeseeker: Kanly, lovely doggy needs a home

Kanly-Dog_Foster_20090404_013_DSC_0152x

Kanly is a 8 month old black female puppy, medium-large size. She is sterilised and seeking a permanent home.

Kanly-Dog_20090404_001_DSC_0145x

Temperament: Friendly, trusting, affectionate, and calm. Does not bark. Shy with men.

Kanly-Dog_Bonnie_20090404_001_DSC_0150x
Kanly seems ok with cats. The orange blob in the lower right is Yo-yo aka Bonnie, a female ginger kitty in the cattery.

Her Story

Kanly was picked up of the streets as a young pup  5-6 months ago by a young brother and sister pair. She lived in a HDB flat happily, and without problems as she does not bark.

However, as she grew and grew, her family’s neighbours decided they would not tolerate her presence and made a complaint to HDB. Of course, the ultimatum was issued to her young owners. The kids were distraught but luckily, they were able to seek help. Kanly was rescued by Noah’s Ark and is now being fostered by Foster Mum.

Kanly is a victim of the same draconian HDB pet rules that threaten cats. As such, she cannot be rehomed to someone living in HDB.

ENQUIRIES: ADOPTION AND PROCEDURE
Please email sephycat@gmail.com with the following:

  • your name
  • contact
  • a summary of your background and experience with dogs

Serious adopters only, please. All info will be treated in confidence and forwarded to Kanly’s guardian.

Animal hoarding in Singapore

Insightful thesis from MyAnimalFamily, based on the hoarder cases the woman was involved in.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

animal hoarding in Singapore

City density does have its advantages. No animal hoarder has been left isolated and undiscovered long enough for the situation to spiral out of complete control. Usually an irate neighbour does everyone a service by blowing their horn.

Proximity to neighbours aside, it is probably also a reflection of our society that hoarders are kept from their irreversible slide from eccentricity to psychosis by their own tenuous but indissoluble family ties, and our wide-reaching government mechanisms. Their situations have hardly escalated to the kind of horror and devastation that are reported in bigger, more far-flung countries.

At least as far as we know.

Animal hoarding traits and types

(Click here to continue reading)