Category Archives: HDB

TODAY 20051104: Why animal welfare groups in Singapore can’t reach out to the authorities

Hot News // Friday, November 4, 2005

The art of getting heard

Why animal welfare groups in Singapore can’t reach out to the authorities

Goh Boon Choo

IN Singapore, animal cruelty reports precipitate letters in the media calling for harsher punishment, tougher laws and stringent enforcement.

The authorities then issue sympathetic responses, explaining their stand and that they “will not hesitate to take strong action” against perpetrators — but stop short of committing to firmer penalties.

In a reply published in Today in June, the Agri-food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) said: “While we may not be able to adopt all the suggestions by the (letter) writers, we will definitely take these suggestions into consideration when we review our rules.”

So it was too, when news of Max, the Alaskan Malamute, broke in August.

For fatally neglecting him, Max’s owner, Lim Bee Leong, was fined $3,000. Singaporeans wrote letters and signed an online petition for stiffer punishment.

The persistent calls for tougher enforcement are a symptom of the gap between public disapproval of animal cruelty and official policies.

People understand that animal cruelty concerns society at large. Nine in 10 respondents believe “we have a moral duty to minimise suffering”, according to the results of an Asian survey commissioned by the International Fund for Animal Welfare, presented in March.

In July last year, a local newspaper reported that culling costs for 2003 rose 20 per cent. That year, AVA cancelled its five-year-old Stray Cat Rehabilitation Scheme (SCRS), following the Sars scare.

Eighty per cent of readers surveyed objected to AVA’s annual $600,000 culling bill, and more than half felt funds should go to animal welfare groups to re-home or sterilise strays.

Animal welfare groups play an important role in raising awareness and rallying like-minded citizens. But they seem unable to engage the authorities to the extent their counterparts elsewhere do.

The Humane Society of the United States collaborated with a senator to successfully lobby for an end to horse-slaughter for food exports. In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, it secured senators’ sponsorship of its proposal to change evacuation policies to include refugees’ pets.

The disparity may be due to cultural mindset and maturity of the political system — but in comparison, Singapore’s welfare groups are often left reacting to policy changes. For instance, the Cat Welfare Society championed in vain for the continuation, then reinstatement, of the SCRS.

In fact, AVA’s own case study of the SCRS in Bukit Merah View (since been removed from the AVA website) proved the scheme’s effectiveness over culling.

Tellingly, part of that study’s conclusion was that “sterilisation and responsible management has the support of up to 96 per cent of the public. The majority want cats controlled but do not want them culled”.

Another example is the Action for Singapore Dogs’ (ASD) proposal to the HDB. It suggested easing HDB’s rule on dog breeds, to widen the adoption pool for larger dogs, as temperament rather than size determines a breed’s suitability for flat-living. Despite volunteering to monitor trial adoptions, ASD’s proposal fell through.

Since collaboration is not welcomed, groups have to try to involve themselves indirectly. For example, a US group, pet-abuse.com, produced a training film on investigating animal cruelty and successful deterrent sentencing. Targeted at police and prosecutors, the film’s distribution has widened beyond America.

Welfare groups also need to be politically savvy: Identify and initiate contact with foresighted officials, as it seems change is possible only from within officialdom.

In recent months, readers have written in urging for a rethink on current laws, legislative support for pet ownership (for example compulsory microchipping) and cooperation between AVA and welfare groups to design humane and effective solutions to issues conventional policies cannot address, such as stray culling and unregulated pet breeding. So far, the authorities have issued the standard responses.

The equation between public opinion and official stance is a skewed one. Still, if only extreme cruelty cases compel Singapore to react, it would reflect poorly on our collective compassion.

There will always be another Max, but instead of decrying lax enforcement or incongruent penalties after the fact, Singapore should minimise the number of Maxes by deterring the potential Lim Bee Leongs.

This necessitates paradigm shifts, but to effectively address prevalent problems, the authorities must include Singaporeans and the welfare groups more thoroughly in its policy formulation process.

The writer is an analyst concerned with animal and environmental issues.

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HDB’s cat ban elicits incredulity

Popular local blogger Mr Wang blogged about his brother’s art exhibition in Hong Kong. The interesting thing is its his “brother’s sixth exhibition of cat paintings, all of which are inspired by his real-life pet cat”. If this cat minion were in Hong Kong, this would an exhibition I’d go to. I was particularly piqued with this remark by Mr Wang:

And here’s another. I guess this is about HDB’s prohibition on flat owners having a pet cat:

The interesting thing is one reader’s reaction to the HDB cat ban:

Are you sure this is the case? I think this sort of statement spells disaster for credibility.
I think feeding strays is illegal or frowned upon, but not having legal pets.

I think this sort of reaction is good. People do tend to want to believe the positive where there’s a choice, never mind the reality. But this also shows how incredulous people find the ban to be. I’m interested to know the reactions when more people realise just how ridiculous Singapore’s pet and animal control policies are. I’ve responded (adding AVA’s pet cat brochure which extols the suitability of cats as indoor pets who do not need to roam for good measure), but of course it depends on whether Mr Wang approves my comment. I hope he does.

Forget awareness, I cannot believe in this day and age such things should be shocking news. What people need to do is acknowledge reality, not just about the pet legislations in place but also the whole animal population control situation – and the laughability of it all. TNRM is the way to go, culling is ineffective and an expense taxpayers should not be expected to subsidize. When the Singapore government and the bureaucrats running rings around their fingers see the light depends on more and different Singaporeans speaking up.

Foster Mum’s Homeseeker: Kanly, lovely doggy needs a home

Kanly-Dog_Foster_20090404_013_DSC_0152x

Kanly is a 8 month old black female puppy, medium-large size. She is sterilised and seeking a permanent home.

Kanly-Dog_20090404_001_DSC_0145x

Temperament: Friendly, trusting, affectionate, and calm. Does not bark. Shy with men.

Kanly-Dog_Bonnie_20090404_001_DSC_0150x
Kanly seems ok with cats. The orange blob in the lower right is Yo-yo aka Bonnie, a female ginger kitty in the cattery.

Her Story

Kanly was picked up of the streets as a young pup  5-6 months ago by a young brother and sister pair. She lived in a HDB flat happily, and without problems as she does not bark.

However, as she grew and grew, her family’s neighbours decided they would not tolerate her presence and made a complaint to HDB. Of course, the ultimatum was issued to her young owners. The kids were distraught but luckily, they were able to seek help. Kanly was rescued by Noah’s Ark and is now being fostered by Foster Mum.

Kanly is a victim of the same draconian HDB pet rules that threaten cats. As such, she cannot be rehomed to someone living in HDB.

ENQUIRIES: ADOPTION AND PROCEDURE
Please email sephycat@gmail.com with the following:

  • your name
  • contact
  • a summary of your background and experience with dogs

Serious adopters only, please. All info will be treated in confidence and forwarded to Kanly’s guardian.

TODAY Online 20090323: Pet issues can’t be legislated away

A follow-up to TODAY 20090316: Rise in lost dogs, despite laws. (Links and emphasis mine)

Today Online Voices Logo
Online Only – Pet issues can’t be legislated away
04:16 PM March 23, 2009
Letter from Goh Boon Choo

I refer to “Rise in lost dogs, despite laws” (Mar 16).The dog abandonment statistics released by the SPCA is alarming but not unexpected. When the tighter dog licence rules came into effect on 1 Sep 07, there was an immediate increase in large dogs being abandoned. I wrote a commentary on Singapore’s pet issues for TODAY, “Pet project: Let’s work together”, which was published on 7 Nov 07.

The SPCA statistics show the situation for dogs, and to a large extent cats, has not changed since then. 85 per cent of Singaporeans and Singapore residents stay in HDB flats, where only certain breeds of dogs are allowed, determined by size when temperament should be the determining factor.

HDB also categorically bans cats as pets even though animal experts and the AVA have said sterilised cats make perfect flat pets. Though HDB’s ban applies only to flat interiors, the Town Councils took it upon themselves to extend it to the streets.

Most cats surrendered to the SPCA are homeless, or community cats. That the number of cats it receives has dropped to 300 from 500 monthly is concrete testament to the success of efforts by residents who sterilise, stabilise and manage their neighbourhood’s community cat population. This is TNRM: trap-neuter-return-management. It is humane and effective, compared to the AVA and Town Councils’ penchant for cat killing.

In Singapore, TNRM is commonly self-funded. I am one such Singaporean and I have been running TNRM for 3 areas in my estate for 10 years.

However, TNRM programmes are still not recognised by Town Councils, nor even some of our Members of Parliament as active citizenry, organic community building at its best. In fact, successful TNRM programmes are sometimes undermined by Town Councils’ enthusiasm to respond to all manner of cat-related complaints by rounding up every cat in sight to be killed at the AVA, without even investigating the root cause. It is a vicious cycle as the removals create a vacuum effect, leaving the neighbourhood open for new, often unsterilised, cats to take over. Resident volunteers like myself have to sterilise the new cats if we don’t want to see our TNRM programmes down the drain.

Despite more than 2 decades of cat culling, new cats keep appearing. Town Councils and the AVA need to address the pertinent question: where are our community cats coming from?

Out of Singapore homes, just like the abandoned pet dogs.

With changing demographics, Singaporeans’ needs and wants for a cuddly pet will continue to evolve and grow, ban or no ban.

The Singapore Government needs to recognise pet issues, like every other problem, cannot be legislated out of existence. The key is in acknowledging that people want to keep pets, that cats and dogs are very popular pet choices regardless of what type of residence they live in, and to manage the situation accordingly.

Myanimalfamily averted hoarder crisis

[EDIT 20090329] MyAnimalFamily: Animal hoarding in Singapore


Today, myanimalfamily blogs about a temporarily averted hoarder crisis.

I believe this is the same case V mentioned he was doing the transport for when we were making arrangements for Bradley and Saba as the details match, from the house filled with scaredy ginger-coloured cats, its unforgettable ‘fragrance’ and a retarded resident who needs help.

Hats off to the woman of myanimalfamily for managing this case, helping the cats and the people. I believe it is telling that transforming the sentiment from

… an entire floor of residents to band together crying for blood

to

They in fact, came to their own conclusion that it was not possible to take away all the old woman’s cats without causing her much pain and suffering and finally only asked that the situation with the smell be resolved.

One neighbour even spoke up to say that even though she was affected, she would not complain against a lonely old woman, causing some sheepish looks from the others.

was no mean feat. It helped that the woman was able to describe the situation inside the flat.

It was a good opportunity to ask them for their understanding of the old woman’s situation. Obviously, no one knew she was alone with no children, looking after a retarded brother.

Most people are reasonable and tolerant. Most people with complaints or grievances want the source of their pain taken care. Most people don’t want to see lives snuffed out or cause another to lose heath and home if there’s another way about it. There can be no better example than this case. So why do Town Councils still tend to be so trigger happy when it comes to cat-complaints?

The TC and even HDB officer in this case exempted of course. Give credit where credit’s due. Go read the account now.


[EDIT 20090329] MyAnimalFamily: Animal hoarding in Singapore

Reuters 20090129: Small, furry, outlawed: Singapore torn over cat rights

I like this. But I confess I was hoping to see a more in-depth article. But hey, international spotlight! Thanks to Ms Murdoch for casting some light where the HDB obstinately insist should remain dark, dank, and smelly. Dawn’s comments are great too (appended)

Small, furry, outlawed: Singapore torn over cat rights

Reuters – Thursday, January 29

By Gillian Murdoch

SINGAPORE, Jan 29 – Cat lovers in Singapore are campaigning for felines to have the same rights as dogs — a roof over their heads and a safe home.

For decades cats have been banned from Singapore’s high-density Housing and Development Board flats, which house more than 80 percent of the 4.6 million population.

Anyone caught breaking the rule faces a fine of Singapore $4,000 .

Khin, a healthcare worker, was forced to move homes after a housing official spotted her cat and snapped four or five photos of the feline sleeping “illegally” on her couch.

“I never dreamt I would have to move house to keep cats,” said Khin, who has no surname.

“Singapore is modern and they have rules to keep people harmonious but this is ridiculous.”

While some pet owners can afford to move to cat-friendly private housing, others cannot.

“Irresponsible owners would just dump them,” said Boon Yeong, one of a multitude of informal cat feeders who take it upon themselves to look after the estimated 60,000 strays living in Singapore’s storm drains, carparks, and alleyways.

Being thrown or born onto the streets can amount to a virtual death sentence, Yeong said.

FURRY FUGITIVES

Every year more than 10,000 strays are culled by the island’s authorities, the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority and the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals .

Strays not rounded up and killed have a life expectancy of two to three years while indoor cats average about 20.

But with felines banned from the vast majority of homes, getting them off Singapore’s streets isn’t easy.

Some desperate cat lovers spend thousands of dollars to board “illegal” moggies, year-after-year, in non-profit cat shelters.

“It’s really a no-choice situation,” said Tay Sia Ping, the manager of the island’s biggest such cat shelter.

About a third of her 1,400 furry boarders were evicted from HDB apartments, she said. Few are ever adopted.

While Singapore’s cat lovers want the “cat ban” lifted, as it was for small dogs three decades ago, authorities say it is necessary to avoid cat-related spats between neighbours.

“Our principal consideration is to preserve a pleasant living environment and good neighbourly relations,” Singapore’s HDB told Reuters in an emailed statement.

“We need to strike a balance between pet lovers and those who are more sensitive to the disturbances caused by animals.”

HDB’s website says banning cats, not dogs, is justified, as “they are nomadic in nature and are difficult to be confined”.

Some 10,000 years after felines were first domesticated, easing human-cat tensions remains a “million dollar question”, said Kate Blaszak, Asia Veterinary Programmes Manager for the World Society for the Protection of Animals .

The world’s first top-level meeting of cat population management experts, organised last year, did not identify any magic bullets, Blaszak said.

“One size does not fit all. What is effective and appropriate in one situation may in another,” she said.

In the meantime, supporters of Singapore’s strays say they are waiting for the cats’ death sentences to be lifted.

“Most people who have problems don’t want the cats to be killed, nor does killing the cats usually solve the problem,” said Singaporean cat welfare advocate Dawn Kua, one of many who blog about their plight

“No one is happy with the ‘solution’ — it’s just a knee jerk reaction without solving the underlying problem.”

Here’s Dawn‘s comments:

Friday, January 30, 2009

Same old excuse

Okay seriously now – how often is HDB going to trot out the tired excuse about cats being ‘nomadic by nature’ and ‘difficult to be confined’ to justify not changing the HDB rule?

Since this has been raised yet again, let me refute this one more time, especially for people who may have come to this blog for the first time :-

1. Cats are excellent apartment animals. Why? They don’t need to be walked and they are small. They entertain themselves. They are pretty quiet most of the time and are generally much quieter than dogs. More than 30 local vets signed letters attesting to the fact that they are wonderful for people in apartments.

2. What on earth is being nomadic by nature? If you let a dog, rabbit or child run around with supervision, I would not be at all surprised if they wandered out of an HDB flat too. Don’t believe me? Just leave that door open 🙂

3. This also applies to cats being difficult to confine. Really? My cats are all confined indoors and they don’t go out. Ever. It wasn’t difficult at all to keep them in. All it took was some time and effort on our part to cat proof the place. Think of it as akin to baby proofing a home.

I know many people who have cats who never, ever go out. Most responsible people with cats do not want their cats to wander in the first place – there are all manner of dangers out there. Also as responsible neighbours, many realise not everyone likes their cats as much as they do and that it is better to keep their cats indoors.

So instead of a ban how about just focusing on responsible pet ownership? The problem isn’t in the inherent nature of cats – it’s in the irresponsible behaviour of some cat owners. Plus right now what incentive is there for being responsible and keeping the cat in? It just means that if the HDB comes along any cat owner can be fined (or possibly evicted) if any cat, no matter how well kept, is found in their flat. If the cat is outdoors though, that isn’t a problem with the HDB at all – but it may be a huge problem for your neighbours.

What’s the solution? Allow people to keep cats – but ensure that these people are responsible. Make sure that the owners are responsible for sterilising their cats and keeping them indoors at all times. Also a limit could be imposed on how many cats are kept in a flat. This also allows the HDB to better use their resources to monitor genuine cases when there is a problem. Currently, they have to have to inspect flats every time there is a complaint, whether that complaint is valid or not. The mere presence of a cat is enough to get a cat owner into trouble – and also means that the rule can, and has been subverted, by neighbours to get even with each other. Instead of promoting harmony, this rule is doing the exact opposite.

Click on the blog post title to read the discussion.

New Paper 20090228: Serious about changing law on strays? Join animal-welfare groups

This is the new-paper-printed version of Dawn’s repartee to Mr Lee Chiu San’s letter, which succinctly sums up the history of cat welfare in Singapore. Dawn deserves a medal for dealing with such bigotry with such serenity

The Electric New Paper :

Serious about changing law on strays? Join animal-welfare groups

28 February 2009

I WAS taken aback to read Mr Lee Chiu San’s comments in ‘Feel sorry for strays? Commit to repeal ban’ (The New Paper, 24 Feb).

It seems Mr Lee is unaware that people have been working for many years to repeal the ban on having cats in flats.

The Cat Welfare Society (CWS) and the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals have both worked on this for many years.

During my time as Director of Operations with CWS, we received the support of more than 30 vets, gathered more than 3,000 signatures in less than three weeks, met the Housing Development Board twice with two separate proposals (available online on CWS’ website).

The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority also had no objection to cats in flats. I am also aware of many individuals who have written to the HDB asking them to change the rule.

CWS proposal rejected
CWS would have been happy to revisit the issue and we took HDB’s concerns at our previous meetings and incorporated them into our new proposals. Our last request for a meeting to discuss a new proposal was turned down.

CWS’ suggestions were that all cats be sterilised, microchipped and that there be a limit on the number of cats in flats (subject to a compassionate period for existing cats as they did when the rule with dogs was changed).

A register could be maintained by the Residents’ Committee (RC).
CWS also offered to help with mediation in terms of complaints and advising irresponsible cat owners. There was also a town council willing to implement a pilot project with its RC, but again this was turned down by the HDB.

It was disingenuous that Mr Lee mentioned the case of Mr Tang. There was no active campaigning on the part of Mr Tang to change the law.

So quick to tar community
I was surprised that Mr Lee is so quick to tar the entire community of people working with cats with the same brush especially as he is an ex-committee member of the Singapore Cat Club. After all, isn’t this the same community we’re talking about?

Of course, it is the duty of every citizen to obey the law, but as Mr Lee is well aware, there is no law against cat feeding. In fact, his letter is an example of what he claims to dislike in others.

There is already a law against littering, which is the same law that should be used against people who do not clear up after cat feeding.

Why have an additional law to ban cat feeding specifically unless there is a particular bias against people who feed cats?

Mr Lee mentioned that ‘Those who feed cats near the homes of others may not experience their thievery, fighting and bad behaviour’.

Perhaps Mr Lee is in an estate where there are no responsible caregivers running a Trap-Neuter-Return-Manage programme, which involves responsible feeding, sterilisation and mediation of complaints.

Certainly, if the cats are fed, they would not need to ‘thieve’ in his words, and sterilisation would stop the fighting, though I am unclear what ‘bad behaviour’ he refers to.

If Mr Lee is serious about changing the law to allow cats in HDB flats, I am sure that people working for animal welfare would be happy to have him on board.

FROM READER DAWN KUA SU-WEN