11:55 AM February 3, 2009
Letter from Lee Chor Mui
I am inspired to pen this letter after reading the reply from AVA on culling “no easy solution for strays” (Jan 29). I like animals but would rather call myself an advocate of animal’s right for coexistence than an animal lover.
The topic on stray animal population control has been hotly debated for a long time and I have closely followed the discussion. In my opinion, the complexity of the issue is not about the stray animal population control per se, which Mr Goh Shih Yong pointed out, but how do we balance the needs and viewpoints of the various interest groups and find a common ground that satisfies all?
Let me illustrate with a real-life example. On various encounters with the Town Council (Kim Seng) in my constituency, I learned that there were a number of complaints directed at the stray cats. Those complaints were typically issues relating to improper feeding of stray cats (public littering waste food expecting strays to finish them), noise pollution from cat fights, cats’ waste etc.
These complaints most probably came from a minority group of residents who are less tolerant of the presence of cats and whom may harbour misperceptions about them. The existence of such complaints should be looked at case by case instead of imposing a one-size fit all capital punishment on the stray cats – culling. It is always easy to point a finger, find problems and pick up the phone to complain. But what we need is a constructive solution to a societal problem that calls for beyond animal population control via culling.
I am aware that the Town Council and AVA seem to be torn between the devil and the deep blue sea. On one hand, they need to attend to every complaint regardless of how minute they may be and on the other hand, they need to address the concerns of animal interest groups such as the SPCA, Cat Welfare Society and concerned residents like me.
Regardless, I believe there should be certain principle or fundamental values that we need to hold onto.
- he respect for animal lives
- Culling should only be used as a last resort when all else fail and when absolutely justified
I do not see that the stray cat problem has elevated to a public health problem where culling should be enforced as an effective measure. The sterilisation programme is already well in place and has proven to be an effective stray cat population control measure. I also do not see that the majority of the Singapore population is so unhappy about the issue that we ought to put those innocent animals to sleep forever.
We need a multi-pronged solution to address the current misalignment in public interests rather than jumping to a harsh measure as culling.
To the Town Council, AVA and relevant authorities: understand the nature and motivation of each complaint regarding stray animals. Sometimes, some complaints may just purely originate from preconceived prejudice towards the animal or baseless accusation about stray cats’ “improper behavior”; or it could be due to the irresponsible behavior of some residents – for instance, dumping waste food and expecting those poor animals to ‘bio-disintegrate’ the waste. The latter instance amounts to littering (akin to throwing cigarette butts) and the stray cats should definitely not be held culprit. The crux is to assess each complaint objectively and adopt action only when absolutely warranted. The relevant authorities could also look into funding shelters to house the stray animals.
To the SPCA, Cat Welfare Society and other animal interest groups: To continue to work with the authorities in public education about the respect for animal lives and responsible pet ownership. Pet is for life and people in a gracious society learn to coexist with nature and other species in harmony. I have personally witnessed how the residents in Athens, Greece put in place a permanent feeding area for the stray animals in public parks. This speaks so much about the love and care of the society for the less privileged beings.
To the residents who are unhappy about the stray animals: Till this day, there is no scientific proof or concrete evidence that stray cats are serious threat to public health. Cats are tame by nature and will not pose any physical harm to human beings. I do know some of us have perpetual fear/dislike of the animal, either cultivated from a childhood phobia or old-tale superstitions and it is difficult to change such long time beliefs, however, in no circumstances should they be justified as reasons for supporting the culling of the animal. Being living beings as they are; they eat, urinate and shit and sometimes might get into territory fights (like what we human beings do). We just need to exercise a little tolerance and kindness to understand this is all so natural.
In a tiny land like Singapore where space is such a luxury, it becomes more essential to take the extra effort to learn to coexist with not only your neighbours, no matter how nasty they can be (since we cannot choose who lives next door to us) but also learn to coexist with the other species who share Planet Earth with us.
I look forward to this day where visitors from a foreign land admire how big hearted we Singaporeans are to provide a lovely environment for the homeless animals and I definitely dread the day when we have to erect cat statues (like those ox or bull figurines we have on the streets for Lunar New Year) in replacement of the real ones.
01:06 PM February 3, 2009
Letter from Dr Ambika d/o Ommini Vidyadharan
I REFER to the letter “Cat management courses for Town Council officers” (Feb 2).
In my opinion, cats are far less disruptive, far less aggressive and far more odour-free than dogs. The unreasonable bias of the Housing and Development Board (HDB) is rather disconcerting. I fully support Dr Tan Chek Wee’s point that the HDB must review its archaic rule banning cats. May I also say I appreciate the efforts of Ms Deidre Moss, executive director of SPCA, in her ongoing crusade on behalf of cats, both pets and strays.
Several things HDB officers do are comical and bizarre. In one incident, an officer was quick to notice a cat inside a home, but not the clutter and mess in the corridors he was walking along. Unwanted junk, old boxes, newspapers, rusty bicycles, etc, are much more of a public fire hazard and are a downright eye-sore. I wonder why the officer did not whip out his camera and snap some worthwhile photos of that, rather than the cat!
The officer had clearly intruded the privacy of the resident by taking the photos of her premises. To worsen matters, he over-stepped his limit by threatening her with a fine. He even returned with another HDB officer to snap further photos and with plastic bags to physically remove the cat.
Is this what HDB officers are appointed to do? There are far more important matters to be looked into than to launch a witch-hunt of pet cats.
It is indeed disheartening to learn that AVA does not allow cat ownership in HDBs. How else can we help as a humane society then to adopt
Banning cats in HDB is obviously a preference towards dogs issue for the HDB point of view. I was at Old Airport Rd earlier and saw a poodle, accompanied with his owner, spraying his urine at the lift entrance. Sterilised male cats do not even marked their teritories with their urine. When others smell the stench, they blame the stray cats. Oh, perhaps dogs’ urine are odourless.
If cats are not allowed in HDB flats, then where should they be housed? Imagine, if every household abandon their cats, the streets would be flooded with strays. Cats are very good companions. They are quiet and clean. It’s good animal therapy, even for sicked people at home.
01:11 PM February 3, 2009
Letter from Christina Kwan
This article is in response to the numerous writers who have written in to address the issues on the AVA’s stand, stated in “No easy solution for strays” (Jan 30).
Being an animal caregiver, I applaud the efforts that the AVA has put in actively over the years, on playing a vital role of adopting a balanced approach in the management of strays.
However, it is sad that to date, the AVA still chooses to use the “inevitable” method of culling to tackle the root cause of stray’s problems in Singapore. The question is, if culling has indeed been the most effective way to keep their population in check, shouldn’t their number have been reduced by now? Otherwise, why are we not promoting sterilisation as a more humane and holistic approach to address our stray’s population in long term? Or have we already come to a standpoint where we no longer view a stray’s life of great importance and that the blanket solution is simply to cull them?
While I fully agree with AVA that public education on responsible pet ownership is the key to reducing the problem of strays, it would also be good to adopt a positive “win-win” mindset where sterilisation is also given a fair chance.
While sterilisation is a cumbersome process that involves financial outlay and might take years to prove its effectiveness, at least our local strays are given a second chance in life. Most importantly, the desired outcome – a reduction in their population – could be achieved.
The AVA should be fully aware of the constraints caregivers faced in their during the caring of strays. Yet, time and again, the AVA reiterates their stand that “sterilised strays should be properly homed and not be returned to the environment”. Could the AVA then suggest to caregivers like myself the best solution to help rehome these strays, when our current animal policy prohibits us to do so since the majority of Singaporeans live in HDB flats?
I totally agree with all the writers who have written with a heart for our stray populations. Majority of Singaporeans live in HDB, and it’s disheartening that AVA limit true animal lovers
Flats for cats?
01:15 PM February 3, 2009
Letter from Balbir Kaur
I was shocked to hear about the killing of cats at Seletar Road; 45 lives gone for no apparent reasons and the killer is still at large.
What is happening to Singapore? What happened to our gracious nation?
The HDB should allow cats to be kept as pets in flats so to reduce the number of cats in public places, thus minimising the number of abuse cases. With more cats being sterilised, there should be no problems arising in HDB flats. This will also help the SPCA, which is struggling to accommodate so many abandoned and strays due to space constraints.
Being a cat lover myself,I agree with Lynn completely.It’s shocking to read about so many cats’ lifes just ended like tthat!
With so many concerned people it is incumbent of HDB to show some flexibility and allow cats to be kept in HDB flats. Cats are already been kept by private flat occupants without any problem. At the very least HDB could start with a pilot project of a few blocks instead of sitting tight and doing nothing. At the same time there should a stringent registration or a tracking system to prevent owners from dumping their pets. A cash deposit may have to be implemented.
Seeing the this case is an eye opener that if cats can be killed this way, im sure other animals can be killed the same way too. It was like a wake up for everyone esp the animal lover that a cat killer is lurking somewhere but what can we do??? HDB still ban cats in flat and all caregivers are really worried…. its sad and tragic that 45 cats life are gone just like that. Hope cat lovers all singapore to be united and stand up for them. If not us, who else will speak for them……hope the killer will be brought to judgement…..