Today 20080725: Canine Control. The Stray Dilemma For Animal Groups

Very good article in last Friday’s edition of Today. I am pleasantly surprised to see that this is a comment by a newswoman, vs the freelance comments that usually define such articles here. (I shall refrain from going link-happy here since I’ve already linked all our related posts and external references to death in similar commentaries in the past). We can only hope this triggers some action in the right direction, though I wouldn’t bet the kitty condo on it.

(EDIT: Links to letters in response at bottom too. Also refer to NewPaper 20080721: CARS ALONG JALAN PEMIMPIN SWERVE DANGEROUSLY TO DODGE CATS)

This story was printed from TODAYonline

The stray dilemma for animal groups

One plans to sterilise 400 industrial dogs this year, but it may not save them from being culled

Friday • July 25, 2008


THE volunteers get stray dogs sterilised, shelter them for a few days while they recuperate, then release them back where they came from, whether factories, industrial estates or the neighbourhood.

Left: AVA’s dog impoundment stats. Right: AVA’s sudden withdrawal of support for TNRM in 2003 (Scroll to the bottom of this post and click on the full pdf version to see details)

This year alone, one animal welfare group, Noah’s Ark Cares, hopes to get400 industrial dogs sterilised, in an effort to curb Singapore’s growing stray population.

All this adds up in terms of personal time and costs — some $250 a dog :— but for all their efforts, the dogs still risk being caught and culled by the authorities.

Responding to Today’s queries, the Agri-food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) said it does not condone the release of sterilised dogs into the environment, and it would round them up if they are found in public places.

“The sterilised dogs should be re-homed and licensed but not released into the environment,” said Mr Madhavan Kannan, head of AVA’s Centre for Animal Welfare and Control. Last September, the AVA had introduced tougher penalties for dog-owners to discourage abandonment, including a fine of up to $5,000 for not leashing one’s dog in public.

The problem? There are more dogs than there are people willing to take them in, and animal shelters such as the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) and Doggie Rescue Shelter are already overwhelmed.

“Every year, the SPCA receives around 9,000 animals; only a tenth find homes,” said its executive officer Deirdre Moss. “Not only are we competing with the many pet shops and pet farms to find homes for these animals, there are also limited avenues to re-home dogs because of restrictive housing board rules and no restriction to commercial breeding.”

So why do volunteer groups such as Noah’s Ark and Action for Singapore Dogs (ASD) persist with sterilisation, if their efforts are undone when the dogs are caught and put down? Their response: It is better to have sterilised strays roaming the streets than unsterilised ones that could add to the stray population.

A tough sell to the public

Noah’s Ark launched its Project Industrial Dogs scheme in June 2005 providing low-cost sterilisation, while ASD started its scheme in 2002. Noah’s Ark president,Ms Chew Gek Hiang, said the group often tries to get factory owners to take ownership of the dogs in their compounds.

“We encourage them to sterilise the dogs, have them micro-chipped and licensed.”

At Alexandra Village, where stray dogs have been a fixture for years, workshop owners that Today spoke to supported a mass sterilisation programme, although most were reluctant to share the costs.

Pointing to a dog nearby, Mr Tay Tai Hua, 58, of Champion Auto Air-conditioner Company said: “This dog is very pitiful. She gives birth three times a year. It would be good if she was sterilised, but I don’t know if I want to pay for it.”

Sterilised dogs are identified by a clipped left ear, and according to ASD’s president Ricky Teo, the group used to sterilise 10 to 20 dogs a month — but they kept getting culled by AVA, so they now only sterilise pregnant industrial dogs, which number two to five a month.

He added: “We just had to pay $500 to bail a sterilised dog out of AVA’s pound this week. The dog was outside the factory’s premises when it was trapped. All this is extra cost.”

For the strays’ sterilisation procedure, vets charge the groups a subsidised rate but even so, to achieve its target this year, Noah’s Ark needs to raise $50,000.

While animal activists maintain that sterilisation is a more effective way of reducing the stray population :— since new strays will simply enter the area where dogs have been culled, and multiply :— have they managed to convince the public of the merits of their case?

Said Mr YK Chan, 50, a security guard who patronises the Alexandra Village hawker centre: “I’m afraid of dogs. Some are more aggressive than others; I was bitten when I was a child.”

But sales executive Kelvin Yong, 27, said: “So long as the dogs are not near populated areas, I think we should give the sterilisation project a go.”

Dog trainer Patrick Wong said sterilised dogs are generally less aggressive and are not likely to roam, especially if caregivers provide food.

“Unless cornered or perceived as a threat, most dogs will leave humans alone,” he said. And if faced with a strange dog? “Remain calm and walk steadily. Do not run, scream or appear frightened.”

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