Category Archives: NEA

National Environment Agency of Singapore. Instituted degree that NO cats are allowed near eateries.

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.

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.

Reuters 20090129: Small, furry, outlawed: Singapore torn over cat rights

I like this. But I confess I was hoping to see a more in-depth article. But hey, international spotlight! Thanks to Ms Murdoch for casting some light where the HDB obstinately insist should remain dark, dank, and smelly. Dawn’s comments are great too (appended)

Small, furry, outlawed: Singapore torn over cat rights

Reuters – Thursday, January 29

By Gillian Murdoch

SINGAPORE, Jan 29 – Cat lovers in Singapore are campaigning for felines to have the same rights as dogs — a roof over their heads and a safe home.

For decades cats have been banned from Singapore’s high-density Housing and Development Board flats, which house more than 80 percent of the 4.6 million population.

Anyone caught breaking the rule faces a fine of Singapore $4,000 .

Khin, a healthcare worker, was forced to move homes after a housing official spotted her cat and snapped four or five photos of the feline sleeping “illegally” on her couch.

“I never dreamt I would have to move house to keep cats,” said Khin, who has no surname.

“Singapore is modern and they have rules to keep people harmonious but this is ridiculous.”

While some pet owners can afford to move to cat-friendly private housing, others cannot.

“Irresponsible owners would just dump them,” said Boon Yeong, one of a multitude of informal cat feeders who take it upon themselves to look after the estimated 60,000 strays living in Singapore’s storm drains, carparks, and alleyways.

Being thrown or born onto the streets can amount to a virtual death sentence, Yeong said.

FURRY FUGITIVES

Every year more than 10,000 strays are culled by the island’s authorities, the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority and the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals .

Strays not rounded up and killed have a life expectancy of two to three years while indoor cats average about 20.

But with felines banned from the vast majority of homes, getting them off Singapore’s streets isn’t easy.

Some desperate cat lovers spend thousands of dollars to board “illegal” moggies, year-after-year, in non-profit cat shelters.

“It’s really a no-choice situation,” said Tay Sia Ping, the manager of the island’s biggest such cat shelter.

About a third of her 1,400 furry boarders were evicted from HDB apartments, she said. Few are ever adopted.

While Singapore’s cat lovers want the “cat ban” lifted, as it was for small dogs three decades ago, authorities say it is necessary to avoid cat-related spats between neighbours.

“Our principal consideration is to preserve a pleasant living environment and good neighbourly relations,” Singapore’s HDB told Reuters in an emailed statement.

“We need to strike a balance between pet lovers and those who are more sensitive to the disturbances caused by animals.”

HDB’s website says banning cats, not dogs, is justified, as “they are nomadic in nature and are difficult to be confined”.

Some 10,000 years after felines were first domesticated, easing human-cat tensions remains a “million dollar question”, said Kate Blaszak, Asia Veterinary Programmes Manager for the World Society for the Protection of Animals .

The world’s first top-level meeting of cat population management experts, organised last year, did not identify any magic bullets, Blaszak said.

“One size does not fit all. What is effective and appropriate in one situation may in another,” she said.

In the meantime, supporters of Singapore’s strays say they are waiting for the cats’ death sentences to be lifted.

“Most people who have problems don’t want the cats to be killed, nor does killing the cats usually solve the problem,” said Singaporean cat welfare advocate Dawn Kua, one of many who blog about their plight

“No one is happy with the ‘solution’ — it’s just a knee jerk reaction without solving the underlying problem.”

Here’s Dawn‘s comments:

Friday, January 30, 2009

Same old excuse

Okay seriously now – how often is HDB going to trot out the tired excuse about cats being ‘nomadic by nature’ and ‘difficult to be confined’ to justify not changing the HDB rule?

Since this has been raised yet again, let me refute this one more time, especially for people who may have come to this blog for the first time :-

1. Cats are excellent apartment animals. Why? They don’t need to be walked and they are small. They entertain themselves. They are pretty quiet most of the time and are generally much quieter than dogs. More than 30 local vets signed letters attesting to the fact that they are wonderful for people in apartments.

2. What on earth is being nomadic by nature? If you let a dog, rabbit or child run around with supervision, I would not be at all surprised if they wandered out of an HDB flat too. Don’t believe me? Just leave that door open :)

3. This also applies to cats being difficult to confine. Really? My cats are all confined indoors and they don’t go out. Ever. It wasn’t difficult at all to keep them in. All it took was some time and effort on our part to cat proof the place. Think of it as akin to baby proofing a home.

I know many people who have cats who never, ever go out. Most responsible people with cats do not want their cats to wander in the first place – there are all manner of dangers out there. Also as responsible neighbours, many realise not everyone likes their cats as much as they do and that it is better to keep their cats indoors.

So instead of a ban how about just focusing on responsible pet ownership? The problem isn’t in the inherent nature of cats – it’s in the irresponsible behaviour of some cat owners. Plus right now what incentive is there for being responsible and keeping the cat in? It just means that if the HDB comes along any cat owner can be fined (or possibly evicted) if any cat, no matter how well kept, is found in their flat. If the cat is outdoors though, that isn’t a problem with the HDB at all – but it may be a huge problem for your neighbours.

What’s the solution? Allow people to keep cats – but ensure that these people are responsible. Make sure that the owners are responsible for sterilising their cats and keeping them indoors at all times. Also a limit could be imposed on how many cats are kept in a flat. This also allows the HDB to better use their resources to monitor genuine cases when there is a problem. Currently, they have to have to inspect flats every time there is a complaint, whether that complaint is valid or not. The mere presence of a cat is enough to get a cat owner into trouble – and also means that the rule can, and has been subverted, by neighbours to get even with each other. Instead of promoting harmony, this rule is doing the exact opposite.

Click on the blog post title to read the discussion.

New Paper 20090228: Serious about changing law on strays? Join animal-welfare groups

This is the new-paper-printed version of Dawn’s repartee to Mr Lee Chiu San’s letter, which succinctly sums up the history of cat welfare in Singapore. Dawn deserves a medal for dealing with such bigotry with such serenity

The Electric New Paper :

Serious about changing law on strays? Join animal-welfare groups

28 February 2009

I WAS taken aback to read Mr Lee Chiu San’s comments in ‘Feel sorry for strays? Commit to repeal ban’ (The New Paper, 24 Feb).

It seems Mr Lee is unaware that people have been working for many years to repeal the ban on having cats in flats.

The Cat Welfare Society (CWS) and the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals have both worked on this for many years.

During my time as Director of Operations with CWS, we received the support of more than 30 vets, gathered more than 3,000 signatures in less than three weeks, met the Housing Development Board twice with two separate proposals (available online on CWS’ website).

The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority also had no objection to cats in flats. I am also aware of many individuals who have written to the HDB asking them to change the rule.

CWS proposal rejected
CWS would have been happy to revisit the issue and we took HDB’s concerns at our previous meetings and incorporated them into our new proposals. Our last request for a meeting to discuss a new proposal was turned down.

CWS’ suggestions were that all cats be sterilised, microchipped and that there be a limit on the number of cats in flats (subject to a compassionate period for existing cats as they did when the rule with dogs was changed).

A register could be maintained by the Residents’ Committee (RC).
CWS also offered to help with mediation in terms of complaints and advising irresponsible cat owners. There was also a town council willing to implement a pilot project with its RC, but again this was turned down by the HDB.

It was disingenuous that Mr Lee mentioned the case of Mr Tang. There was no active campaigning on the part of Mr Tang to change the law.

So quick to tar community
I was surprised that Mr Lee is so quick to tar the entire community of people working with cats with the same brush especially as he is an ex-committee member of the Singapore Cat Club. After all, isn’t this the same community we’re talking about?

Of course, it is the duty of every citizen to obey the law, but as Mr Lee is well aware, there is no law against cat feeding. In fact, his letter is an example of what he claims to dislike in others.

There is already a law against littering, which is the same law that should be used against people who do not clear up after cat feeding.

Why have an additional law to ban cat feeding specifically unless there is a particular bias against people who feed cats?

Mr Lee mentioned that ‘Those who feed cats near the homes of others may not experience their thievery, fighting and bad behaviour’.

Perhaps Mr Lee is in an estate where there are no responsible caregivers running a Trap-Neuter-Return-Manage programme, which involves responsible feeding, sterilisation and mediation of complaints.

Certainly, if the cats are fed, they would not need to ‘thieve’ in his words, and sterilisation would stop the fighting, though I am unclear what ‘bad behaviour’ he refers to.

If Mr Lee is serious about changing the law to allow cats in HDB flats, I am sure that people working for animal welfare would be happy to have him on board.

FROM READER DAWN KUA SU-WEN

NYTimes 20071221: To Dismay of Inspectors, Prowling Cats Keep Rodents on the Run at City Delis

Got this piece off Dawn’s blog. And she’s right about the situation, particularly in Singapore where the NEA specifically bans cats from eating establishments – premises and perimeter- of course.

To Dismay of Inspectors, Prowling Cats Keep Rodents on the Run at City Delis


(Richard Perry/The New York Times) Holly scares the rodents away at home, a deli in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.
Published: December 21, 2007
Across the city, delis and bodegas are a familiar and vital part of the streetscape, modest places where customers can pick up necessities, a container of milk, a can of soup, a loaf of bread.

(Richard Perry/The New York Times) Oreo roams at a deli in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.
Amid the goods found in the stores, there is one thing that many owners and employees say they cannot do without: their cats. And it goes beyond cuddly companionship. These cats are workers, tireless and enthusiastic hunters of unwanted vermin, and they typically do a far better job than exterminators and poisons.

When a bodega cat is on the prowl, workers say, rats and mice vanish.

That is the case at a narrow corner store in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, where a gray long-haired tabby named Halloween goes on regular patrols when she is not lounging on a plaid bed tucked behind dusty rows of Schweppes ginger ale and empty cardboard boxes.

“In the morning she is lazy, it is her nap time,” said Urszula Jawor, 49, the deli’s manager, a Polish immigrant who smiled with motherly pride at Halloween, adding that the cat was named for the day she wandered in off the street and claimed the Bedford Avenue store as her home.

“But in the afternoon she is busy,” Ms. Jawor said. “She spends hours stalking the mice and the rats.”

To store owners, the services of cats are indispensable in a city where the rodent problem is serious enough to be documented in a still popular two-minute video clip on YouTube from late February (youtube.com/watch?v=su0U37w2tws) of rats running amok in a KFC/Taco Bell in Greenwich Village. Store-dwelling cats are so common that there is a Web site, workingclasscats.com, dedicated to telling their tales.

But as efficient as the cats may be, their presence in stores can lead to legal trouble. The city’s health code and state law forbid animals in places where food or beverages are sold for human consumption. Fines range from $300 for a first offense to $2,000 or higher for subsequent offenses.

“Any animal around food presents a food contamination threat,” said Robert M. Corrigan, a rodentologist and research scientist for the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. “And so that means anything from animal pieces and parts to hair and excrement could end up in food, and that alone, of course, is a violation of the health code.”

Mr. Corrigan did concede that some studies have shown that the smell of cats in an enclosed area will keep mice away. But he does not endorse cats as a form of pest control because, he explained, the bacteria, viruses, fungi, parasites and nematodes carried by rats may infect humans by secondary transfer through a cat.

Still, many store owners keep cats despite the law, mainly because other options have failed and the fine for rodent feces is also $300. “It’s hard for bodega owners because they’re not supposed to have a cat, but they’re also not supposed to have rats,” said José Fernández, the president of the Bodega Association of the United States.

Luis Martinez, 42, has managed his brother’s grocery in East New York, Brooklyn, for two years. At first, despite weekly visits from an exterminator, the store’s inventory was ravaged constantly by nibbling vermin.

“Every night I had to put the bread in the freezer,” he said, pointing at shelves filled with bread and hamburger buns. “I was losing too much inventory. The chips and the Lipton soups all had holes in them.”

Then, last winter, a friend brought Mr. Martinez a marmalade kitten in need of a home. Mr. Martinez, who was skeptical of how one slinky kitten could fend off an army of hungry rats, set up a litter box in the back of the store, put down an old fleece jacket and named the kitten Junior.

Within two weeks, Mr. Martinez said, “a miracle.”

“Before you’d see giant rats running in off the streets into the store, but since Junior, no more,” he said.

Junior sometimes brings Mr. Martinez mouse carcasses as gifts, which he said bothers him less than the smell that permeates his store when the exterminator’s victims die and rot under a freezer.

In October, a health inspector fined Mr. Martinez $300 and warned him that if Junior was still there by the time of the next inspection he would be fined $2,000.

“He wants me to get rid of the cat, but the rats will take over if I do,” Mr. Martinez said. “I need the cat, and the cat needs a home.”

Because stores do not get advance notification of an inspection, Mr. Martinez is trying to keep Junior in his office as much as possible. Many bodega owners reason that a cat is less of a health threat than an army of nibbling rats. “If cats live in homes and apartments where people have food, a cat shouldn’t be a threat in a store if it’s well maintained,” Mr. Fernández said.

Some animal rescue groups, like the Spay and Neuter Intervention Project, support the legalization and regulation of store cats so that owners would be required to provide basic veterinary care and to spay or neuter their animals.

At a corner store in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, Andre Duran, one of the owners, said he had kept a cat for six years and had never been fined.

“That’s Oreo,” he said, as he lifted a tiny black cat with white paws into his arms and carried her like a football. “No one’s ever complained about cat hair in their sandwiches, and if she weren’t here, you bet there’d be bigger problems than hair.”

As a line formed at Mr. Duran’s cash register and he excused himself to take orders, Oreo’s ears perked up and she slunk away toward the back of the store. She was, perhaps, in pursuit of something.

Setting Aside Semantics: Not Killing Pets Must Be Our Goal

(If you find this post informative, you might like to check out these.)


While looking for reference for this post, I came across this article by Wayne Parcelle, President and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States.

Read it and maybe you’ll appreciate the amazing dovetail in the twin debate on pet-animal and homeless animal population that I’ve been harping so much about, most recently in this post.
martin_20061111_036x.jpg

I give you choice quotes from Mr Parcelle’s article, which you’ll see actually is a close reflection what we face here in Singapore too.

… America views those of us in the animal protection movement as being against the needless killing of animals. America happens to be correct. Everyone sincerely committed to the cause of animal protection embraces the concept of animals living complete and quality lives—uninterrupted by torment or cruelty.

… “No-Kill” as an outcome cannot be universally expected to occur overnight, and it cannot succeed without multi-pronged efforts by committed communities. Its conscientious backers recognize that. It’s simple mathematics. If euthanasia is not occurring and intake of dogs and cats is significantly exceeding adoptions, then overcrowding and warehousing—and the attendant suffering—are the undesirable and also unacceptable outcomes. Or if shelters close their doors to animals in need, then the problem is just being pushed off to someone or someplace else, with euthanasia the likely outcome and with the fundamental dynamics essentially left unchanged.

we must not accept routine euthanasia as a social norm. We should raise expectations and set aggressive goals, but recognize that shelters can’t do it without community engagement at every step. We must continue to reduce rates of relinquishment by ramping up affordable and accessible spay and neuter options and helping people resolve normal pet behavior issues. At the same time, we must show a renewed commitment to bring additional resources, a sustained sense of urgency, diligence, volunteerism and creativity to expand the number of suitable homes and adopt more animals. We can redesign shelters to be more inviting to potential adopters, make it possible for apartment dwellers to have pets, develop sophisticated and research-driven marketing campaigns, partner with other community-based institutions, and so much more.

The problem is not unsolvable….

Yet there are countervailing forces. Many puppy mills are now completely unregulated by the federal government, and they are selling animals direct to the public over the Internet. These marketers of dogs make it easier than ever for consumers to be duped into obtaining a puppy mill dog

And there are other types of challenges….

Our communities also face large populations of feral cats….

Even with these major challenges, the situation is improving…

Let’s keep moving forward until no healthy and treatable animals are euthanized.

If we’re willing to challenge ourselves and work together, we can get to our lifesaving goal far quicker. And this we must do—lives are depending on us.

Even if you’ve only been remotely aware of the situation in Singapore, you’d probably get a jolt of deja vu. It’s no surprise.

Depressing? I highlighted the encouring bits not just to vary the pattern for your reading pleasure. We do face a frustrating situation, and it is still an uphill battle – much like an osteoporosis-stricken senior having to climb the steps to her 12th storey flat, not because the lift broke down, but because the machinery won’t open sesame for her.

The notable exceptions between the US scenario and what we have here are 1) We do not really have feral cats – our homeless cats tend to be homeless due to abandonment or irresponsibly kept pets allowed to roam unsterilised; 2) there is a more active volunteer base, and greater awareness in the US than here; 3) there is probably a greater acceptance and empathy for pets even at the ethereal reaches of high politics, despite the pet tragedy of Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath (unlike the OVERT anti-pet stance of the HDB here, and certainly the official lack of tolerance for homeless animals, or the semi-apathy of the legal system toward animal abuse crimes)

Please read Mr Parcelle’s article, and then give yourself a good think – Why the difference in acceptance level in how our cats are killed? and see if there’s a part YOU can play to level the odds in the killing fields for Singapore’s cats and dogs – for example, don’t buy or breed pet animals. If you need more reason, read this, or this.


(If you find this post informative, you might like to check out these.)

TODAY 20071101: Pet project: Let’s work together (AND PLEASE WRITE YOUR LETTER!)

The latest in the HDB pet rule debate. Talk about cosmic coincidences or parallelism. The article calls for cooperation among the different stakeholders and a central body/entity WITH authority … just like the overarching authority created to manage Singapore’s (severely overdue) effort to go green announced yesterday.

Actually, it’s quite disappointing that since the originating article came out last week, we’ve seen 1 strongly worded anti-pet letter and 2 middle-of-the-fence ones, and only 1 pro-pet letter, and now this commentary.

Come on, people who have not done so: WRITE IN!

These are some possible points and formats for your letters, if you need some inspiration:

  • Victim of HDB pet rule: to write this, you must be a responsible pet owner who HAD to give up your pet because someone simply told HDB you got cats or an unallowed dog breeds in your home
    • your pets are indoors (for cats) or well-controlled when outdoors (for dogs) at all times
    • (optional but good to have) you have good rapport with immediate neighbours and are always mindful that your pets are not a nuisance to them (eg dog barking). They may have also expressed surprise or shock that someone would make a complaint about your pet(s) since they themselves hardly feel their existence or are tolerant and understanding
    • your family is devastated but have made suitable alternative arrangements for your (pets) through either fostering or adoption by someone responsible whom you trust OR not having such options available, boarded him/her at a pet hotel, where he/she misses being home very much.
      • EMPHASIZE the fact that you would not send him/her to SPCA where he/she has a 90% chance of being put down or to the AVA where he/she will be put down, 100%
    • Discuss how you find it disturbing that HDB doesn’t care what happened to your pet(s) as long as it is no longer in your home.
      • As a responsible pet-owner, you ensured that your pet(s) are taken care of. But what happened to the pets of irresponsible pet-owners in cases of complaints? Abandonment is a crime. So the HDB, a government agency, may be playing a part in pet abandonment.
    • Emphasize your disappointment that as a responsible pet-owner
      • you’ve been penalised by an out-dated rule
      • that your family is sundered simply because of an anonymous complaint with no reason given besides the fact that you have pets, even though your immediate neighbours are fine with your pets.
      • that by accepting anonymous complaints, you the responsible pet-owner were not given the chance to find out what the problem may be and rectify it
    • call for a review of the rules, and the legal responsibility of the HDB in abetting abandonment!
  • Long-suffering neighbour of irresponsible pet owner: you must be a very tolerant resident who puts up with the problems your irresponsible neighbours’ pet(s) cause you
    • you have problems with your neighbours who allow their pets to wander around or defecate.
    • you have spoken to your neighbours about controlling their pets and keeping them indoors but to no avail
    • you are at your wits’ end:
      • you can call HDB, but you don’t want to do so as you feel that your irresponsible neighbours will simply abandon their pets or send to SPCA where they have that 90% chance of being euthanised. If the pet is abandoned, he/she may cause problems for the neighbourhood or die from neglect. You may also feel that your irresponsible neighbours will simply go and get replacements once they feel the coast is clear. So this does nothing to resolve your problems
      • you can call Town Council, but they can only clear away the mess and round up cats in sight, which are not your neighbour’s pets. This also does nothing to resolve your problems
    • you know there are responsible pet owners around and so sympathise with their dilemma
    • call for a review of the HDB rules which doesn’t help you, and is putting the advantage on the wrong people’s side
  • TNRM caregiver who has problems with unsterilised pet cats wandering around, and endangering the community cats you care for, or your experience with the TC SOP of rounding up cats for culling: you must be a responsible caregiver who know what you’re talking about. No more need to be said, I trust?
  • Just someone in support of allowing people to keep cats and large dogs in flats: you do not need to be a rabid animal lover, just someone who respect others have a right to the livestyle they want to adopt
    • Point out the flaws and problems you see
      • HDB rule not in keeping with reality (there are pet cats and large dogs in HDB flats), penalise responsible pet owners, and is advantageous to the irresponsible ones It also creates ill-will among neighbours since a simple anonymous complaint about the mere existence of a cat or large dog is enough to get the animals into trouble
      • TCs standard response of rounding up animals to be culled does not address root causes and create vacuum effect
      • AVA’s dog licencing rules should have taken into account the possible fallout, and planned for such events – as the main authority on animal issues, saying things like “But dog licensing has been around for more than 50 years and “there is no reason for owners to abandon their pets because the rules have been enhanced” as the head of the AVA’s Centre for Animal Welfare and Control did in the originating article is really not helpful at all.
    • Use the article about the creation of a central body to oversee the green drive as an example that a central body who can enforce authority downward and across agencies is needed.

Please feel free to mix-and-match the points from the different formats. The key thing is to share YOUR view. Remember to USE YOUR OWN WORDS.

Address your letter to the Editor (email: news@newstoday.com.sg), with your full name, address and contact number. You may also want to cc or fwd your letter to the relevant authorities – government entities’ address book here.

For more references, click here, here, and here. (EDIT: lookie breakthrough news – NatGeo News 20071031: Partial Cat Genome Sequenced, May Aid Human Medicine)

And here is today’s commentary. (Links and emphasis mine)

This story was printed from TODAYonline

Pet project: Let’s work together

Thursday • November 1, 2007

Goh Boon Choo

Like some other countries, Singapore too has its set of pet problems, manifested in our homeless animal population and irresponsible pet ownership.

Government agencies address these problems independently: The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) regulates pet sales, the Housing and Development Board (HDB) does not permit cats and large-breed dogs to be kept as pets, and pet abandonment is a legislated crime.

HDB residents have the added option of requesting their Town Councils to remove animals for culling by the AVA.

Some 20,000 cats and dogs are put down by the AVA and the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) every year. And the AVA’s annual culling bill averages $500,000.

In spite of these efforts, we still hear of pet-related spats between neighbours and of abandonment issues.

The SPCA receives up to 1,000 animals each month and the homeless animal population stays at around 100,000. This begs the question: Do the current set of policies need a rethink?

Many abandoned pets are not neutered — those which survive become street-smart, ensuring the homeless animal population’s viability despite consistent culling.

While residents can request their Town Councils’ help, culling every animal is not a solution.

Another recourse is to contact the National Environment Agency if the issue is hygiene-related. But the agency can only warn errant pet owners or issue fines.

Is a blanket pet ban the solution? That would be a bad decision because it ignores the fundamentals of pet-animal issues.

The increased abandonment of large dogs as highlighted in the article, “Large dogs: Time for a rethink” (Oct 25), after the AVA tightened licensing rules is a good example. If the problem was simply stricter rules, then it would not just be large dogs being abandoned.

Can this issue be handled better? Possibly.

The key is in acknowledging that people want to keep cats and dogs as pets, regardless of what type of residence they live in.

While some problems cannot be eliminated completely, they can be minimised with a consistent, comprehensive and progressive framework conducive to responsible pet ownership.

Such a framework requires a clear consensus that this is a multi-faceted problem requiring cooperation and coordination among all stakeholders — government agencies, pet sellers, pet owners, animal welfare groups and non-pet owners. Therein lies the crux: The absence of an entity with overarching authority that can facilitate communication at all levels.

For example, while the AVA oversees national rules on pet ownership, the HDB sets its pet laws independently, while Town Councils follow the HDB’s lead. According to animal experts and the AVA, sterilised cats are highly suited for flat-dwelling. Also, temperament and training, rather than size, dictates a dog’s manageability.

Yet, the HDB clings to these very reasons for continuing its ban. And Town Councils do not want cats and dogs outdoors.

Where do such rules leave responsible pet owners, or neighbours of irresponsible ones?

Denying the existence of flat-dwelling pets, and legislating them out of home and hearth aggravate existing problems. All parties should come together and play a part. It is time we rethink our pet policies, starting with the HDB’s rules on pets.

The writer is a reader of Today.

Copyright MediaCorp Press Ltd. All rights reserved.

Now scroll back up, go through the pointers and WRITE YOUR LETTER!

Animal lovers in Singapore: speak up!

Like Blackie of Yishun before him, Dober went from from nobody to Jurong pet, thanks to residents.


(source)

But Dober’s fate once again hangs in the balance, with his caregivers on one side, and pendanticism and complainants on the other.

We have compassionate Singaporens and HDB residents among us, for sure. There must be a fair number. There is strength in numbers. Can we not all do our bit to make the authorities listen? Listen to facts that large dog breeds does not mean trouble, that cats ought to be allowed in flats. Ask the authority why are they so hell-bent on banning large dog breeds and all cats from flats when large dog breeds and all cats are allowed and in fact live peaceably among the people who reside in private housing?

Please, sign the Petition: Allow all breeds of Dogs and Cats in HDB flats, and then WRITE to them too. It’ll take only a bit of your time, but it could make a difference to the cats and dogs out there on the streets, homeless because of pedantic and rule-bound authority… you really got to wonder: who made the rules in the first place?

NewPaper 20071002: Loud birdsong is disturbing my sleep

Thanks to Budak for telling us about this letter. I find it amusing that this guy is looking for empathy with his complaints.

But anyway, I do feel the burning question is, will the authorities actually take their own prescription and stop entertaining whiners and sundry? The real problem is, if authorities can’t or won’t differentiate between cats and cats, what hope is there that they will not discriminate against the poor bird, who’s a voteless loudmouth though no fault of his own?

The only non-negative thing about this letter is that nothing can be pinned on the community cats even if super-glue was used. But that’s nothing to cheer about, is it?

New Paper
Loud birdsong is disturbing my sleep
October 02, 2007

New Paper Online

I AM a resident of Pasir Ris.

Since early August, there has been a bird singing loudly in a tree near my flat on Street 52 between 5.45am to 6.30am every day.

I called Pasir Ris Town council in mid-August explaining that the bird is disturbing my sleep.

They promised to investigate.

For the next six weeks, I made about five calls to the town council, including asking to talk to the general manager.

But all I got was the response that they would investigate and someone would call me back.

For that six weeks, I was forced to wake up at 6am – even on Saturdays and Sundays, days that I do not work.

Six weeks later, the town council came back to me with this: that the bird making the sound is a bird called ‘koel’.

It also said that the bird is on the tree which happens to fall into the jurisdiction of either the Public Utilities Board or the National Environment Agency.

So it will get the relevant agency to give me a call.

What I don’t understand is why it took six weeks to come back to me on something that can be accomplished in two hours.

What is the use of telling me the type of bird?

Does the problem go away for me if the tree falls under the PUB or NEA jurisdiction?

I woke up at 6am over the weekend on Saturday and wrote this letter.

Each month, I receive a conservation fee statement from my town council for monthly payments, and I have been paying it every month.

Each year, I fill my tax forms, and understand that some of the tax money I pay is channelled towards the public service including the town councils.

I was told that if I do not fulfil such payments, I will be jailed or fined heavily.

But if I do pay, it seems there is no guarantee that the payment will be used to hire public servants who can solve problems or at least empathise with me.

Leong Hock Mun

ST 20070602: Health and property deserve priority over stray cats

(EDIT: Letter responses to this letter)

What an uncharitable soul! This online letter was in response to the one titled “Let’s hope town councils do not start a ‘holocaust of cats’” (alt link to letter here) mentioned in our blog entry: Town Councils’ brilliant spark – ZERO Stray policy

I first became aware of this response via Dawn’s blog. There’s 51, FIVETY-ONE responses to her entry on this. If only there’s 51 letters rebutting this ignorant and egotistical letter!

THE STRAITS TIMES

2 June 2007

Health and property deserve priority over stray cats

I REFER to Mr Tan Chek Wee’s online letter, ‘Let’s hope town councils do not start a ‘holocaust’ of cats’ (Online forum, May 30).

I understand the concerns of animal lovers, whether morally or religiously related.

However, as a resident living in a public housing estate, I have concerns about the safety and hygiene of the area, more so since it is shared by many other residents.

Stray cats can be a nuisance. Some climb onto cars and leave scratch marks. Some scatter litter and rubbish.

Another problem lies with animal feeders, who leave food at void decks or throw it out of their windows, perhaps to answer the moralistic call of feeding cats and pigeons. This constitutes a littering offence.

Moreover, the food attracts more strays, pigeons and crows, which can pose health and hygiene problems.

I feel that our health and property, such as our cars, deserve priority.

I believe the solution is to educate public housing residents, on top of having a more stringent policy on strays.

Ho Chi Sam

Town Councils’ brilliant spark – ZERO Stray policy

Yes, you heard it right. It’s hardly a secret that an incongruously dark ages mentality taints and pervades the echelons of Singapore’s leadership and civil service, especially where animals, aka the voiceless, voteless ones, are concerned. This is the latest salvo from THEM. It’s the brainchild of Dr Teo Ho Pin, mayor and overall-in-charge of the Town Councils.

Chronology of posts on Dawn’s blog. Read and feel the sting of your jaw hitting the health-pebble pathway.

(LIST UPDATED 20071018)

PooDay 20070508: Why close one eye?

Just to demonstrate how closely the Singapore gay debate resonates with the cat issues, here’s my take on the today article of the same title.

(EDIT 20070518: Wow, there are people out there with great taste in cynical satirism. IF only I can make moola aka tec funds off it too… FAT dream I know. Oh well. BTW, I did a bit of editing and spicing up since the original was an impromptu shot from the hip.)


POODAY 

why close one eye?

Such an attitude towards flat-pet cats is a lose-lose approach

Thissmas Kitty

Tuesday • May 8, 2007

WHAT is clear from the suppressed debate on whether keeping of cats under the Housing Development Board’s rules should be decriminalised is that passions run high over this issue. And where passions run high, reason often runs dry.

Much ink has been spilt arguing whether roaming cats is about nature or nurture, choice or instinct, whether it is sinful or simply an alternative choice of lifestyle. It is unlikely that a consensus is going to be reached anytime soon. But in the fracas over whether keeping cats should be banned in flats, these issues are what one might call pink herrings.

Is the possible repeal of the HDB’s cat ban really about whether cats shed fur or roam?

The HDB’s cat ban is a rare mutant in the laws of Singapore. A paper tiger which provides for a punishment of up to 3 warnings or eviction but which the authorities have an official “close-one-eye” policy to. It also ignores the crime of abandonment, which provides for a punishment of up to 1 year and/or a fine of up to $10,000.

When the Cat Welfare Society proposed changes to the HDB’s cat ban, which is not likely to be debated in Parliament anytime soon, the HDB said that the cat ban would not be deleted. But anecdotal evidence suggest HDB would not be “proactive” in enforcing this law against flat-dwellers with cats unless a complaint is made.

Indeed, for over 20 years, the HDB’s cat ban conundrum must be an uncomfortable wrinkle in the HDB’s ironed facade.

This, of course, does not mean that there has been no cats in flats. And it is no secret. Launched frequently into cyberspace are blogs of Singaporean flat dwelling cats, coming out in Singapore itself no less, and even includes full names and photographs. Bold criminals indeed!

In March 2007, Dr Mohamad Maliki Bin Osman, Permanent Secretary (Ministry for National Development), true to HDB’s perennial form, repeated its warped reason for insisting on the cat ban which only showed that like the HDB, he did not have a handle, loved or otherwise, on the true flat-pet cat situation and its relation to the homeless cat issues. (source: http://siewkumhong.blogspot.com/2007/03/budget-2007-debates-ministry-of.html)

And in the same month, Ms Grace Fu Hai Yien, the Minister of State for National Development, (for the Minister for National Development) also backed the official line that the AVA, HDB, Town Councils receive 10,000 cat-related complaints a year and that “30 a day is probably more than what a few people could do, unless they do it on a full-time basis” despite acknowledging that, “Granted, there could be people who … complain more than once.” (source: http://catwelfare.blogspot.com/2007/03/cats-mentioned-in-parliament.html)

What conclusion can one draw but that criminal flat-dwellers exist among 85% of society? Flat dwellers who are responsibly keeping flat-pet cats are criminalised while flat dwellers who are irresponsibly letting unsterilised pet cats free-range enjoy the condonement of a gaping legal loophole.

So, the argument that repealing the HDB’s cat ban would transform owning flat-pet cats from a crime into an alternative lifestyle is blind to realities. Surely it already is an alternative lifestyle in modern-day Singapore.

The point is this: What purpose does the HDB’s cat ban actually serve and what difference could its repeal make when flat-pet cats — and even the Government — are today carrying on their affairs as though it does not exist? This should be the crux of the debate.

On this key issue, only one argument appears to be at all relevant. It is the somewhat-paranoid slippery slope argument that decriminalising flat-pet cats will open the floodgates to all sorts of evils — so that one day adopted pet-cat advocates might even clash with pet-breeding intere$t groups, and TNRM volunteers may be prosecuted for preaching that non-sterilisation of pets for sale is a sin.

Is this not getting leaps and bounds ahead of ourselves? After all, surely religious incitement is a crime in itself — look at what happened to the bloggers charged under the Sedition Act last year.

There is nothing inevitable about what will happen if the HDB’s cat ban is decriminalised. At every step of liberalisation we can question again whether the next step is a prudent one or not. It is difficult to see why this step of bringing the law in line with real life by repealing the HDB’s cat ban should lead to a tumble down a black hole of debauchery.

There is another difficult question that those who predict doom if the HDB’s cat ban is repealed should address. The HDB’s cat ban only makes flat-pet cats illegal; free-ranging pet cats and other pets (equally fur-shedding dogs and assorted cage-cooped animals like birds, hamsters who surely feel the restraints worse than cats ever could) are not. What great ill has befallen society from that?

An alternative argument could be made that even if the HDB’s cat ban serves no purpose, leaving it in the the HDB’s rules and by-laws does no harm. Why change the status quo?

First, there is the negative branding of Singapore as a place where individual freedoms are constrained and animalism, particularly catism are condoned at the highest level. This is particularly damaging to Singapore’s attempt to position itself as a global and vibrant city.

Second is the cultural and economic cost suffered from the loss of diversity when cat people shun Singapore. Tolerance of people who are different has been identified as one of the keys to nurturing compassion and empathy with its attendant economic benefits.

Third is the confusion that arises from having a law which is officially not enforced. Quite apart from the mistaken notion it may give foreigners that criminal laws in Singapore are generally not strictly enforced, one wonders what outsiders would think of a people who gain some sort of satisfaction from adopting an attitude which hints of hypocrisy.

And not least is the undermining of the rule of law itself. As more Singaporeans come to accept flat-pet cats as a personal choice, maintaining a official ban that is honoured only in its breach is bound to lead to erosion of respect for the HDB.

So, the retention of the HDB’s cat ban while maintaining a “close-one-eye” attitude to cats living blatantly in flats is a lose-lose approach for Singapore. If we are going to allow cats in flats, why not take credit for being open-minded enough to do so?

The writer is a true-blue plebian of Singapore. And she is a flat dweller. These are her personal views.

What is your view? Write to mews@mewstoday.com.sg.

Copyright MewdiaCorp Press Ltd. All rights reserved.

Singapore as illogical and bungling over gay debate as cat issues

As the appended TODAY article says: Why close one eye indeed?

With all due respect to the gay folks in our midst, I just can’t help but feel the Singapore gay rights debate has absolute resonance with the Singapore homeless cat and cat as flat-pets issues. (Edit 20070517: check out Pooday 20070508: why close one eye?)

A tiny sampling of posts on Dawn’s blog about this most mind-boggling and gut-twisting of government stance

This post on tec is a starting link to at least 2 series of letters earlier this year, sent in to the local news papers in support of tnrm and countering the HDB’s anti-cat stance.

And of course some of the stubbornness in the officious affects and spills over into volunteer-grief territory when the officious refuse or will not deign to work WITH caregivers for whatever reasons. For example, as this blog entry, HDB’s ban on cats prevent TC from nipping the root of problems related to cats, shows, it’s a case of damned if you do, damned if you don’t as a caregiver. And cat caregivers are only too familar with that feeling of perpetually having the rug pulled out from under our feet!

And today – “Better things to do than to really look into the problem” – Dawn talks about her interactions with a town council officer. Of course, the title is self-explanatory. (More examples here, here, here, here, here)

(Not that all caregivers are saints. Dawn has written about cases where the abysmal attitudes are in reverse eg, here, here, here, here. But the former situation is definitely more prevalent from what I gather. Woe betide me that we plebians of Singapore can only air our displeasure about the impending civil service pay hike online. Additional airing here.)


This story was printed from TODAYonline


why close one eye?

Such an attitude towards homosexuality is a lose-lose approach

Thomas Koshy

Tuesday • May 8, 2007

WHAT is clear from the rejuvenated debate on whether homosexual acts under Section 377A of the Penal Code should be decriminalised is that passions run high over this issue. And where passions run high, reason often runs dry.

Much ink has been spilt arguing whether homosexuality is about nature or nurture, choice or instinct, whether it is sinful or simply an alternative choice of lifestyle. It is unlikely that a consensus is going to be reached anytime soon. But in the fracas over whether gay sex should be a crime, these issues are what one might call pink herrings.

Is the possible repeal of Section 377A really about whether homosexuality is immoral?

Section 377A is a rare mutant in the laws of Singapore. A paper tiger which provides for a punishment of up to two years in prison for homosexual acts but which the authorities have an official “close-one-eye” policy to.

When the Home Affairs Ministry announced the proposed changes to the Penal Code which will soon be debated in Parliament, it said that although Section 377A would not be deleted, it would not be “proactive” in enforcing this law against consensual acts that take place in private.

Indeed, for over 10 years, there has been no prosecution under section 377A for gay sex between consenting adults.

This, of course, does not mean that there has been no gay activity. And it is no secret. Launched last year, the book SQ21: Singapore Queers In The 21st Century tells of gay persons coming out in Singapore and even includes full names and photographs. Bold criminals indeed!

In July 2003, Mr Goh Chok Tong, then the Prime Minister, revealed that the public sector had begun employing openly homosexual people, even for sensitive posts. Criminal civil servants as leaders of society?

So, the argument that repealing Section 377A would transform homosexual sex from a crime into an alternative lifestyle is blind to realities. Surely it already is an alternative lifestyle in modern-day Singapore.

The point is this: What purpose does Section 377A actually serve and what difference could its repeal make when gays — and even the Government — are today carrying on their affairs as though it does not exist? This should be the crux of the debate.

On this key issue, only one argument appears to be at all relevant. It is the somewhat-paranoid slippery slope argument that decriminalising homosexual acts will open the floodgates to all sorts of evils — so that one day gay lobbies might even clash with religious groups and pastors may be prosecuted for preaching that homosexuality is a sin.

Is this not getting leaps and bounds ahead of ourselves? After all, surely religious incitement is a crime in itself — look at what happened to the bloggers charged under the Sedition Act last year.

There is nothing inevitable about what will happen if Section 377A is decriminalised. At every step of liberalisation we can question again whether the next step is a prudent one or not. It is difficult to see why this step of bringing the law in line with real life by repealing Section 377A should lead to a tumble down a black hole of debauchery.

There is another difficult question that those who predict doom if Section 377A is repealed should address. Section 377A only makes male homosexual activity illegal; lesbian acts are not. What great ill has befallen society from that?

An alternative argument could be made that even if Section 377A serves no purpose, leaving it in the Penal Code does no harm. Why change the status quo?

First, there is the negative branding of Singapore as a place where individual freedoms are constrained. This is particularly damaging to Singapore’s attempt to position itself as a global and vibrant city.

Second is the cultural and economic cost suffered from the loss of diversity when gay people shun Singapore. Tolerance of people who are different has been identified as one of the keys to stimulating creativity with its attendant economic benefits.

Third is the confusion that arises from having a law which is officially not enforced. Quite apart from the mistaken notion it may give foreigners that criminal laws in Singapore are generally not strictly enforced, one wonders what outsiders would think of a people who gain some sort of satisfaction from adopting an attitude which hints of hypocrisy.

And not least is the undermining of the rule of law itself. As more Singaporeans come to accept homosexuality as a personal choice, maintaining a law that is honoured only in its breach is bound to lead to erosion of respect for the law.

So, the retention of Section 377A while maintaining a “close- one-eye” attitude to homosexual activity is a lose-lose approach for Singapore. If we are going to allow homosexual activity, why not take credit for being open-minded enough to do so?

The writer is a former Deputy Public Prosecutor. And he is not gay. These are his personal views.

What is your view? Write to news@newstoday.com.sg.

Copyright MediaCorp Press Ltd. All rights reserved.

Area 2: Sally has company

Sometime in early February, btmao talked to the TCO about Sally’s case.

After hearing her out about the difference between responsible feeding and non-responsible feeding, he’s decided to take her suggestion to treat the family’s habit of leaving food and drink outside their home overnight as a case of littering. He’s gone to see the family with an NEA colleague and warned the family to stop or face littering fines. They cooperated and he observed no more food and drink bowls outside. Sally was safe from death for the monent it seems.

We were, as usual, a bit skeptical at the effectiveness of a mere warning but it must be said that the officious visit was more than what btmao and I ever achieved. In fact, we warned the family of Ian, Baby, Chica (and now it seems, Isam as well) about leaving food and drink out, and told them about what’s happening in Sally’s tuft, just across the road. They also cooperated, but good things don’t last – barely two weeks later, the food and drink were outside again. could we hope for any better across the road, at Sally’s? I wouldn’t bet on it.

Wait-and-see was still our modus operandus. After a long wait interval of more than a month, today was a good day to do that see bit.

Lo and behold, Sally came running. The only differences were that she looked slightly rounder and she was wearing a fuschia collar with a bell. Did the TCO/NEA officer visitation spook the family? But it wasn’t enough of a scare to make them make an honest cat of Sally. She was still free-ranging. And she’s as ravenous as we remembered.

Sally_20070317_-10x

Sally_20070317_-11x

Vid: Sally tucks in, just as always

We were relieved that Sally’s ok. As we settled down to wait for her to finish the food, we saw a new cat sitting a little aways, just outside the family’s flat, in fact.

A scaredy dilute calico, a scrawny and wary grubby boy who’snot developed the bigheaded look of mature virile males. He has lovely light blue eyes. We suspect he was newly abandoned.

DiluteCalicoMale_20070317_-06x

He was hungry as you can see from this vid – he was trying to approach the feasting Sally, but got hissed away.

Vid: Scaredy dilute calico and Sally

He took big circles around us, he wanted food obviously, but was too scared to approach. Finally, he was far enough to feel safe. btmao managed to push some food at him and he finally ate.

Vid: Dilute calico finally eats

As we wait on both cats to finish their dinners, what should we see but a large virile silver tabby male saunter up and help himself to the buffet outside the irresponsible feeder family’s flat. As Sally and the dilute calico boy both seem afraid of him, we did not draw his attention.

Vid: Silver tabby male tucking into buffet

This night was just full of surprises. But it’s not the end – see Salvi losing fur, and Isam’s established… semipet?