Letter writing example

I like to use this letter and the CWS response as an example of letter-writing to the press. As a bonus, iIm adding my own unpublished response too.

Original letter

http://straitstimes.asia1.com.sg/forum/story/0,5562,377832,00.htmlMarch 15, 2006
Take the right action to take proper care of stray animals

Tanya Fong’s story “Neighbourhood patrol helped send cat killer to jail” (ST, March 11) had a picture which showed a woman feeding cats in the HDB void deck.

As we cheer the landmark case against animal abuse, it is also timely to think about responsible ways to care for stray animals.

Despite years of campaigning by the town council against feeding pigeons, residents in my neighbourhood still feed them with bread crumbs and leftovers. Such actions by compassionate residents have caused pigeons and crows to gather and the mess created by the food and bird droppings pose a health hazard.

Luckily, there are no stray cat feeders in my neighbourhood. I do not dislike cats but I would not want to see stray animals coming to the void decks for their meals for hygiene reasons. Stray animal feeders should also think about their neighbours who dislike or have phobia of animals.

Animal lovers could consider adopting stray animals if it is within their means and they comply with official guidelines on the allowable breeds.

They could also help by bringing stray animals to the SPCA or the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority so that these animals can be given the necessary medical treatment and a chance for adoption. More importantly, animal lovers could volunteer their time and money to the SPCA for such a cause.

The schools, residents’ committees and religious organisations could set up mini-pet farms to adopt stray animals if there is sufficient demand and support. Besides providing home for stray animals, the farms will help to inculcate love and responsibility for animals in students and fellow Singaporeans.

Joshua Chia Yeong Jia

CWS response


March 17, 2006
Cat feeder takes proper care of strays without messing up

We are writing in response to Mr Joshua Chia’s letter “Take the right action to take proper care of stray animals” (ST Online Forum, March 15).

We would like to point out that the volunteer mentioned is being responsible. She feeds responsibly and cleans up, and she sterilises the cats so they do not multiply.

This volunteer and many others like her also help to deal with any complaints that may arise. Volunteers also ensure that the cats are given proper medical treatment.

What Mr Chia is referring to is littering. Littering is never encouraged whether it be food left for cats, birds or people. For example, many people leave food remnants in void decks as well, and this should similarly be frowned upon.

Perhaps Mr Chia is not aware that cats are not allowed in HDB flats or that 13,000 healthy cats are killed every year for the last 25 years because they are not able to find homes.

Sending them to the already over-burdened SPCA and Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority means that most of the animals are put to sleep because they do not have enough space for them. The SPCA gets 1,000 animals every month and it does not have the space to house them all.

By removing the cats, you create a “vacuum effect”. Cats enter an area for territory, not for food. If you remove the cats, especially sterilised cats, new cats will move in.

Sterilised cats are more territorial and this keeps the population stable by keeping other cats out. This results in a controlled, managed cat population.

If we take Mr Chia’s suggestion, any shelter would be filled up in no time. Shelters are very expensive to run. In the meantime, cats on the streets will keep reproducing. Given Singapore’s limited space, large shelters are impractical.

In the US, it was found that when sterilisation was actively promoted, shelter admissions dropped by half. The number of animals killed also dropped drastically.

Simply put, if you control the reproduction of the animals, you will be able to control the number of cats humanely without having to constantly kill them. We have also found that this works in many neighbourhoods in Singapore. Mr Chia may want to find out more about the Trap-Neuter-Return-Manage programme on the Cat Welfare Society’s website at http://www.catwelfare.org.

On a final note, the reason Mr Chia may not see any cats or feeders in his estate may be that there are care-givers who are doing their job very well.

Many care-givers feed them without drawing notice to themselves and they cause the least inconvenience to others. It is highly unlikely that he has no cats in his estate. More likely, these cats may be so well managed that he does not notice them.

Dawn Kua Su-Wen (Ms)
Director of Operations
Cat Welfare Society

My unpublished response (which is of course is far too long a soliloquy for ST’s miserly requirements)

Subject: Letter by Joshua Chia Yeong Jia: Take the right action to take proper care of stray animals”
To: stforum@sph.com.sg

Mr Joshua Chia Yeong Jia’s attitude is typical of Singaporeans’ superficial concept of compassion (“Take the right action to take proper care of stray animals”, (Mar 15).

He is ignorant and selfish to say “I would not want to see stray animals coming to the void decks for their meals for hygiene reasons.”

Irresponsible feeders are the ones causing concerns about “hygiene reasons”, not the animals themselves.

Feeding is not illegal, and banning or telling people not to feed will only push them to ghost-feed instead. Mr Chia’s hygiene concerns can be addressed only by educating people about responsible feeding.

Mr Chia thinks feeders “should also think about their neighbours who dislike or have phobia of animals.” Instead, he ought to show tolerance and magnanimity, rather then allow his prejudice or zoophobia to stop others from feeding hungry strays.

Mr Chia then extorts animal lovers to adopt. Animal-lovers would, but for HDB policies.

“Our priority is to promote a pleasant living environment and good relationships for all residents in our housing estates,” HDB says. So, cats are not allowed “as they are nomadic in nature and it is difficult to confine them to flats. Cats can shed fur, dirty public places, make noise and cause disturbance.”

This is incomprehensible as cats are not nomadic, vets have stated that they are do well in flats, all living things shed in some way, and confined cats which are sterilized would not dirty public places, or cause disturbance.

HDB approves only small dog breeds as pets, even though they are the ones which have the tendency to bark and some large breeds are in fact more suited for flat-living. The greyhound, for example, despite its reputation as the Ferrari of dogs, is actually a couch-potato at heart. This policy also leaves thousands of mongrels out in the cold.

So, for 90% of Singaporeans, cats are out, and only approved dog breeds are permissible. We are expected to be content with fish, hamsters, rabbits, birds, animals that are deemed to cause no nuisance to ‘the neighbouring residents,” even though they also shed and birds sing.

Strangely, while the HDB considers cats nomadic and should not be confined, it supports the confinement of birds in cages where they are denied the freedom to flex their wings and fly.

Mr Chia also asks animal lovers to bring “stray animals to the SPCA or the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority so that these animals can be given the necessary medical treatment and a chance for adoption.”

This is a conscience assuaging myth – animals do not get medical treatment nor chances for adoption. Animals sent to AVA are culled, a.k.a killed.

Town Councils, condo managements, and other establishments round up cats and dogs when complaints are received and send them to AVA. Complaints range from the frivolous to vindictive – people want cats removed because they worry strays might follow them home, or for the same “hygiene reasons” of Mr Chia. Foolhardy dog owners encourage their pets to “interact” with cats, which instinctively defend themselves. If they injure either hapless dog or obtuse owner, these people demand the cats’ removal.

AVA kills 10,000 cats and dogs. SPCA puts down 90-95% of the 12,000 animals they receive, due to lack of resources. This means Singapore euthanizes 20,000 cats and dogs annually. These figures are published in the papers and yet Singaporeans remain oblivious to the implications.

Complaints lead to fatal consequences for strays. And think thrice, and then think again, before sending any animal to AVA or SPCA.

Finally, Mr Chia suggests “schools, residents’ committees and religious organisations could set up mini-pet farms to adopt stray animals.” But again, there are many inherent issues – proper supervision of visitor interaction, welfare and cleanliness. Animals in mini-pet farms and petting zoos suffer hidden cruelties – injuries from mishandling, inadequate veterinary care and unsanitary conditions which promotes the spread of serious disease.

Mr Chia, and Singaporeans like him, should discard their ignorance and prejudices and recognize the dangers of their superficial compassion. Learn and understand the causes and reasons for the situation of stray animals in Singapore, nurture genuine compassion for their plight in our intolerant and misguided country.


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