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!

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

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