TODAY 20071103: Serial cat abuser arrested again

That makes it THREE times within a 2-year 1.5 year period that Hooi has been arrested for animal abuse now. This comes as no surprise at all. I can’t help but ask again: why doesn’t the warm arm of the law know how to handle animal abusers like Hooi?

Contextually, though I agree Hooi is also a victim who needs society’s help, I must qualify that I also believe Singapore’s animal abuse laws needs to be tougher.

Follow-up chronology:

The article itself:

This story was printed from TODAYonline

Serial cat abuser arrested again
(EDIT: click here for the pdf version, which has a inset box chronicalliy his arrests. Just click on the 3rd little thumbnail under TODAY SECTION HEADINGS)

Weekend • November 3, 2007

Sheralyn Tay

JUST months after his release from prison, serial cat abuser David Hooi has been arrested for the third time.

According to police, 44-year-old Hooi was picked up on Wednesday at 10.15pm for a suspected act of cat abuse.

Cat lovers had spotted Hooi playing with cats near his Bedok home and in Geylang soon after his most recent release. Last week, residents suspected that he was keeping cats in his flat, according to neighbour Abdul Rahim. But when they did a check of Hooi’s home on Oct 22, a Monday, they did not find any cats.

Three days later, Mr Abdul Rahim saw Hooi carrying a black-and-white kitten.

“(Hooi) told me he wanted to keep it as a pet and would not abuse it,” said Mr Abdul Rahim. The 58-year-old security guard had tried to stop him. “But some neighbours did not support me and said that (Hooi) was a changed man.”

The next morning, Mr Abdul Rahim alleges, he noticed the kitten meowing pitifully in front of Hooi’s door. It had a bloody eye, so he immediately made a police report and notified the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

“I feel so guilty for not stopping him,” the bachelor told Today. That same day, a Friday, he applied for a week off work, just so he could “keep an eye” on Hooi.

Mr Abdul Rahim and a few other neighbours like Madam Sharifah Khamis have formed an informal network that keeps tabs on Hooi. Mdm Sharifah was one of several Bedok residents who had conducted nightly patrols that led to Hooi’s first arrest in November 2005.

“Some neighbours are afraid of him,” she said. But she gave her number to others and told them to call her if they saw anything “suspicious”.

It was through a tip-off like this, Mdm Sharifah said, that she was alerted to a kitten being kept in Hooi’s home last month. When she went to Hooi and asked him to release the cat, she was relieved to see it was unharmed.

Last year, animal lovers were up in arms over what some saw as a mere slap on the wrist, when Hooi was sentenced to three months’ jail for abusing a kitten (see box).

In Singapore, the penalty for animal abuse is a maximum fine of $10,000, a jail term of up to 12 months, or both, under the Animals and Birds Act.

But animal lovers think that jail time alone is not enough for habitual abusers like Hooi, who was given the maximum jail term for his second offence.

“The sentences now are too lenient,” said Mr Abdul Rahim, who thinks that mandatory caning should be enforced.

But Cat Welfare Society director of operations Dawn Kua said: “Punishment cannot be just punitive because it may not be very useful. Some animals abusers may have underlying problems.” Rather, she felt, there should be alternative means of dealing with animal abusers, such as mandatory psychiatric evaluation to see if the offender needs counselling or treatment.

Ms Sandy Lim of one of the Bedok cat lover groups suggested preventive detention — detaining a repeat offender who is unlikely to change, for a certain period without chance for early release, to stop him from doing further harm.

However, Community Court Judge Bala Reddy, who presided over Hooi’s last trial, had noted that while he would otherwise qualify for preventive detention, it can be invoked only if the offence carries a jail term of two years or more.

Animal lover Goh Boon Choo thinks the current laws must be given more flexibility so that habitual animal abusers can get the help they need. Hooi, she said, “is as much a victim as the cats and kittens he abuses. Society has a responsibility to help him as well”.

Hooi had confessed to killing cats from as early as age 15.

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