Tag Archives: letters

Bonding over a “community cat”



inter-racial harmony

Bonding over a ‘community cat’

Letter from Dr Tan Chek Wee

FIVE YEARS ago, when I moved into my block of Housing and Development Board flats, I noticed a tri-coloured cat at the void deck.

She was easily placed into a carrier and taken to the vet for sterilisation.

She was then returned to the void deck bearing a surgical cut on her left ear, a symbol of her neutered status.

Ginger (picture) — as she was affectionately called — became a mascot of the block and is cared for by several families.

One day last week, a Jewish neighbour told me that Mr Ali, a Malay resident on the third storey, was concerned that he had not seen Ginger for the past few weeks.

I went to his flat and we chatted about Ginger and cat-related things. Most importantly, a friendship was forged.

I then went to the second storey and knocked on the door of a Chinese family whom I knew was very fond of Ginger too.

Sure enough, the cat was safe and sound in the flat.

I walked up to convey the good news to Mr Ali who said he would pay a visit to the Chinese family to see our “block cat?.

I then took a lift to the 11th storey to inform the Jewish lady.

It is time for Town Councils to stop automatically? assigning “cat nuisance? to any feedback about cats.

What Ginger does to bring about inter-racial harmony and neighbourliness is akin to what some community events can achieve.

That is why cats like Ginger are aptly called “Community Cats?.

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Biggest cat killer is intolerance

THE Cat Welfare Society is heartened by Mr Teh Thien Yew’s support of kindness to homeless strays in Saturday’s letter, “Reflection of values”. He said that the way we treat animals is a “reflection of the values of kindness we hold in our hearts”.

His words as general manager of the Singapore Kindness Movement Secretariat gives us hope that our society can put our minds and our hearts together towards the humane management of these community animals.

An average of 10,000 cats are surrendered or trapped and sent to the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority and the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals every year.

Almost all of them are put down. Many are victims of abandonment, neglect and abuse, but the biggest cat killer by far is intolerance – a social quality that is affirmed every time a trap is loaned to residents with no love for the animal, and rewarded every time a complaint is satisfied with the activation of pest control.

Human kindness towards homeless strays prevails through the sheer dedication of ordinary Singaporeans all over the country and the officers of the authorities that align their practices to their convictions by supporting sterilisation and responsible management.

They lead by example in showing us that kindness towards strays is not at odds with the goals of our society for harmony, for well-being and for progress.

Ang Li Tin (Ms)

Cat Welfare Society

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Reflection of values

Reflection of values

‘The abuse of animals, environment, maids, the elderly and others is certainly of concern to any mature society.’

MR TEH THIEN YEW, general manager, Singapore Kindness Movement Secretariat:

‘I understand where Ms Michelle Elizabeth Yin is coming from in Tuesday’s letter, ‘Have a heart – How can Singaporeans show kindness to one another if they show no mercy to homeless animals?’

I am sure many share the same view, as I do, that the way we treat animals is sometimes a reflection of the values of kindness we hold in our hearts.

The same can be said about the environment and even those disadvantaged in our community.

The abuse of animals, environment, maids, the elderly and others is certainly of concern to any mature society.

And as Singaporeans, we should be concerned.

It was therefore heartening to read on the same day in The New Paper a contrasting account of a man’s selfless love for strays over the past two decades.

There are Singaporeans who are willing to – as Gandhi said – ‘be the change you want to see’.

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Cleaners who use too much bleach



04:00 PM Jun 15, 2009
Letter from Raymund Koh Joo Guan

I visit the Taman Serasi Food Court within the Singapore Botanic Gardens frequently.

Each visit for a meal certainly entails a trip to the toilet but I am quite disturbed by the strong stench of bleach that greets me every time.

The cleaner does not seem to be bothered to use this cleaning agent sparingly. In the small confines of the toilet, such excessive use is highly toxic. It can be dangerous for people with breathing problems to inhale such a high concentration of bleach. Fainting, nausea or even death can occur if such people are exposed to it for a prolonged period.

I urge the relevant authorities to advise the management and staff of public access toilets and toilets in office buildings to spare a thought for users with respiratory problems. They should constantly remind their cleaners to use bleach in moderation.

REMARKS: This can kill cats when irresponsible feeders throw food out of the windows and it drop onto the bleach powder!


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You sneeze, it suffers

Today Online
You sneeze, it suffers

Don’t jump to conclusions – your pet may not be the cause of your allergies
05:55 AM Jun 17, 2009
by Dr Tan Chek Wee

FOR years, he was the centre of attraction, a cute little puppy in a family of two elderly parents and an unmarried son.

Then one day the son got married and soon, a child came along.

The child developed a frequent running nose and she was taken to a general practitioner nearby. The GP asked if there were pets in the flat. When the dog was mentioned, the doctor right away identified the dog as the cause.

Since then, the dog has been barricaded in a small corner of the kitchen. His fur is now matted and his nails are long. There are bits of faeces stuck to the fur. He jumps and barks in excitement whenever there are visitors, but no one picks him up, pats him on the head, bathes him or takes him for walks.

I have offered to adopt the dog but the child’s mother said her husband might not be willing to part with it.

I feel sad and helpless.

I can only appeal to my fellow doctor colleagues: Please refer a child with suspected allergies to a specialist to be tested for allergies. Do not make sweeping statements.

Even if the child is laboratory-tested and is allergic to a pet, it is not necessary to so drastically isolate a pet.

There are humane ways to allow allergic people to coexist with a pet. As a last resort, find the pet a good home.

The pet is not guilty

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Why kill a cat over scratches on car?

Why kill cat over scratches on car?

ONE of the common conflicts between humans and cats in an increasingly dense urban setting arises from our increasing attachment to material things.

The more expensive the item, the stronger the attachment. The stronger the attachment, the more intense is emotional suffering from losing them.

A highly educated woman, who recently acquired a brand new car that cost “40 grand” was so worried about possible scratches from the few cats in the carpark that she complained to the Cat Welfare Society and the town council for the removal of the cats.

As far as the town council is concerned, that means activating the pest controllers for the cats to be killed at the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA).

Rejecting an offer of a free car cover from the Cat Welfare Society, the woman threatened to claim damages against the town council if she could capture the video footage of feline “culprits” with a camera installed in the car.

She said that even cats should not escape being punished.

Paint on a car is manufactured to withstand the tremendous force of the gravel missiles as it speeds along the road, otherwise every car will be pitted all over as it speeds along the highway!

A paint technologist on this website (www.flippyscatpage.com/carpaint.html) wrote: “The worst a cat can do to in normal circumstances is leave cute little muddy cat prints – annoying but not inherently damaging.”

High ground

Cats, by nature, like to rest on “safe” high ground or seek the warmth radiating through the car bonnet.

Being animals, cats don’t know that it is “wrong” to do so.

A friend of mine, who grew up in the US, told me that when her brother drove home a brand new car, her father “christened” it with some scratches.

The father had the wisdom to save his son from “future sufferings” from inevitable scratches and dents.

The car has no feelings, no matter how badly scratched it is, but it is we human beings who feel the pain because we define our happiness in terms of material possessions.

Attachment, and not the cats, is the cause of our anger and therefore our wish to take revenge on the cats by wanting them killed.

The solution is obvious but has eluded many of us.

Reader Dr Tan Chek Wee

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A free AVA that is unfair to taxpayers

TODAY Online only –

A free AVA that is unfair to taxpayers

Letter from Dr Tan Chek Wee

I know an expatriate who lives in a condominium in a prime district. She has several neighbours who think that the presence of cats devalues their properties. These neighbours request the loan free cat traps from the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA). Cats trapped, whether they are strays or free roaming pets, are euthanised free at AVA (www.ava.gov.sg). This does not resolve the problem as new? cats will move in to fill the vacuum? and hence an endless cycle of killing is perpetuated.

This is ironic as there are people like myself who have to borrow traps from the Cat Welfare Society (www.catwelfare.org) to trap cats in our estates, bring them to the vets for neutering and then release them back to the estate, all at our own expense.

However this T(rap)N(euter)R(elase) is an evidence-based method of controlling the cat population, humanely and effectively. Yet we fail repeatedly to get AVA to provide free sterilisation at its premises.

Would the AVA provide free service if the complaint is about rats or cockcroaches? If people who live in private estates feel that cats are pests?, then they should pay for private pest controller services.

I appeal to the AVA to stop this free service that is unfair to taxpayers


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Cats in HDB flats: Don’t punish responsible pet owners

from: http://singaporecommunitycats.blogspot.com/

Cats in HDB flats: Dont punish responsible pet owners

The Straits Times ST Forum Jan 2, 2009

Cats in HDB flats: Dont punish responsible pet owners

SOME months ago, a friend told me an HDB officer had passed her flat and noticed a cat sitting on the sofa in her living room. He whipped out a camera, snapped some photographs and threatened her with a fine. He also asked her to remove the cat.

My friend moved to a private apartment where there are no rules prohibiting cats as pets. Soon after she moved, her former neighbours saw two HDB officers knocking on her door, armed with a camera and two big bags, presumably to remove the cats.

Are HDB officers allowed to remove cats? I understand from the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) that only pest controllers are authorised to remove cats to the AVA.

The HDB should review the archaic rule banning cats. It is not cats that cause nuisance but owners who do not practise pet responsibility.

Fine irresponsible owners who do not keep their cats indoors, do not sterilise their cats or abandon them.

Similarly, it is not dogs that are irresponsible but their owners who do not clear up their mess in public, do not leash their dogs in public or do not obedience-train dogs that bark day and night.

Dr Tan Chek Wee

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Time to revive Stray Cats Rehabilitation Scheme


Time to revive Stray Cats Rehabilitation Scheme

I AM writing to urge the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority’s (AVA) Centre for Animal Welfare and Control and the town councils to revive the Stray Cats Rehabilitation Scheme and step up awareness among the public that offenders caught abandoning pets are liable on conviction to a maximum fine of $10,000 and/or 12 months’ imprisonment.

The presence of stray cats and dogs is the result of irresponsible pet owners abandoning their pets. These strays end up scavenging at food centres and rubbish bins for survival. Like humans, they mate and multiply. As their numbers increase, we complain of their defecation, noise from cat fights, caterwauling and scratches on cars.

If we can set up old folks’ homes to house elderly folk abandoned by their children, if we can run campaigns to raise awareness for Aids and yet continue to permit the oldest trade in the world, why can’t we make a humane effort to control strays rather than just cull them and teach the public responsible pet ownership.

The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) and the AVA put down 10,000 to 15,000 stray cats a year. Since 2002, the AVA has, on average each year, impounded some 3,500 dogs and 5,700 cats and received 4,000 and 5,000 calls complaining about stray dogs and cats respectively. SPCA receives some 700 abandoned pets every month but fewer than 20 per cent are successfully found new homes.

Controlling the population of stray cats and dogs requires a multi-pronged approach. As stated in the AVA’s media release dated June 13, 2003, culling of strays is one necessary method to control the population. But when will such a cruel exercise be stopped?

The Stray Cats Rehabilitation Scheme sterilised some 3,000 stray cats before it was stopped in 2003. These sterilised cats would have remained at 3,000 to this day, if they survived road accidents or illness. A pair of cats can mate and produce up to 324 progeny in about two years. Assuming an equal number in sexes and using only simple mathematical calculations, the scheme has effectively saved at least 486,000 homeless cats from being born in 2005. This naturally translates into fewer public complaints for the AVA and the town councils, and savings in costs incurred rounding up and culling these cats.

Phyllis Tan (Ms)

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Getting life’s priorities right


Getting life’s priorities right

A PATIENT once told me: “You know what, doctor, when I was told that I have cancer, suddenly all my shares, my properties and my brand-new car have no more meaning.”

Yet, the attachment that some Singaporeans have to their cars never fails to amaze me.

When they notice scratches on their vehicles after shooing off a cat resting on them, for example, they would complain to their condominium management or the town council.

These motorists get so angry with the destruction of their “happiness” that they will not rest their case until the cats in the carparks are removed.

In the Housing & Development Board carpark where I park my car, there is a cat which would occasionally rest on car bonnets, including mine.

I have found its paw marks on my windscreen several times, but there are no scratches on my car, just a few small dents that are definitely not caused by a cat.

Whenever I see the cat resting on other cars, I would shoo it off and brush its hair off the vehicles so that the motorists would not complain about the cat’s presence.

To me, what is important about a car is that it is functioning well enough to be safe on the road.

So what if it has scratches or dents? Cars are bound to get such marks.

The car does not feel the scratches. Rather, it is our attachment to the car that makes us feel the pain.

The patient who spoke to me became depressed after he was diagnosed with cancer, but his condition improved after he took stock of what was truly important in his life.

When he was near his life’s end, I asked him if he was afraid. He said no.

He had done no harm to others, he said, and he remembered the good things that he had done. He also relished the happiness he had brought to others.

He died peacefully.

Dr Tan Chek Wee

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Where is the ‘heart’ in the heartland?

Town Councils should accord cat caregivers the same respect as they do other residents



Wednesday • June 25, 2008

Letter from Helen Gamp

IN MY estate and the adjacent one, several residents like myself go beyond just ad hoc inter-racial harmony events, to forge a bond through a common goal of managing the cats in our community humanely. We trap cats, most of whom are abandoned, for sterilisation and offer assistance to the Town Council to resolve feedback about cats.

In the neighbouring estate — that is under another Town Council :— we started sterilising the cats about two years ago and the Town Council has agreed to let us, the caregivers, look into complaints and not engage pest controllers to round up the cats to be killed at the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority.

Based on our knowledge about “community cats? and from talking to complainants as well as residents who may need to be educated on responsible pet ownership, we can resolve problems without the need to kill. This is important to us as we feel this is what the “heart? is about in a “heartland?.

However, we are disheartened by our recent discovery that a particular Town Council officer instructed the estate cleaning supervisor to direct his workers to trap cats and release them elsewhere. This came to light when a resident found a sterilised cat, bearing a left tipped ear, in a trap. We spoke to several workers, who admitted that they had trapped cats and released them in parks elsewhere.

This perhaps accounted for some of the missing cats over the last few months.

All we ask of the Town Council is to accord us the same respect as every other resident but we find that residents who complain seem to be accorded more rights especially if they complain aggressively.

When the Prime Minister was sworn in, he said that Singaporeans, through hard work and dedication, have built a cohesive and progressive nation that is founded on the principles of meritocracy, social justice and compassion.

We hope this inspiration can be translated in the paradigm shift of Town Councils and others as well. Instead of according due respect to residents such as ourselves, who are in fact following the Government’s repeated appeal for active citizenry, we are instead treated with disdain.

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Plight of abandoned & unsterilised cats

The Electric New Paper : Educate Cat Owners

9 April 2008 By Dr Tan Chek Wee

On Friday morning as I was walking towards the clinic where I work, I spotted a tiny black kitten,

small enough to sit in the palm of my hand.

It was skinny, hungry and so thirsty that it was lapping up water that flowed out from the washing of

a rubbish chute. I noticed the kitten’s inflamed backside. It was trusting enough to let me pick it up

so that I could examine its anal region.

To my horror, the anus was almost completely covered with tiny maggots!

The few cats seen regularly in the vicinity of the clinic are all sterilised, as indicated by a small surgical

cut on the tip of the left ear. This meant the kitten was almost certainly abandoned by an irresponsible

cat owner.

It would have been slowly eaten alive by the maggots, if I had not seen it then.

The kitten was subsequently handed over to a friend, who is taking it to the vet & seeing to its re-homing.

Abandoned cats and kittens often suffer terribly. I strongly appeal to all cat owners to sterilise their cats.

I suggest that the Town Councils and the Housing Development Board work with organisations such as the

Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the Cat Welfare Society to formulate effective grassroots

methods to bring the message of sterilisation to owners of cats.

These methods can include posters, offer of subsidised sterilisation to poor families and organisation of

‘cat parties’ to inform and educate cat owners.

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More abandon pedigree dogs



As number rises to alarming levels, SPCA calls for action

Thursday • February 28, 2008

Leong Wee Keat

AS THE number of abandoned pedigree dogs shot up alarmingly last year, the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) has urged the authorities to tighten the import, commercial breeding and sale of such dogs.

Three years ago, about one in four lost and unwanted dogs was a purebred. This number rose to “alarming levels” last year, with one in two unwanted dogs a pedigreed. Overall, the SPCA received an average of 250 lost or unwanted dogs each month last year.

The trend shows no signs of abating. Last month, the SPCA received 125 lost and unwanted pedigreed dogs alone. Some reasons cited by owners giving up their canines included leaving the country, moving house, expecting a child and — a frequent excuse — no time to look after it.

In light of this, SPCA has written in to the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) asking for curbs to be placed on the import and commercial breeding or sale of pedigree dogs.

“It’s time to take stock of the number being bred, sold and imported annually and to see if there are enough homes for them,” SPCA executive officer Deirdre Moss told Today. “There is definitely a surplus (of pedigreed dogs) and too many people buying on the spur of the moment.”

Another animal welfare group, Action for Singapore Dogs (ASD), supported SPCA’s call. Over the last six months, ASD president Ricky Yeo said the society has seen a 20 to 30 per cent increase in pedigreed strays being picked up.

Even more worryingly, he notes, this trend means that the chances of rescued local mongrels being adopted have also eroded, as pedigreed dogs are seen as being “superior”. At ASD, the adoption rate for pedigrees is on the rise, while that for mongrels has been slipping, said Mr Yeo.

An AVA spokesperson said the authority understands SPCA’s concerns but reiterated that Singapore operates on “a free market system”. He said: “It would not be appropriate to restrict the number and type of dogs imported or bred and sold commercially as long as the pet business is legal and complies with the regulations and applicable conditions.”

With the revision of the Animals and Birds (Licensing and Control) Rule last September, the spokesperson said AVA has also introduced several measures — such as compulsory microchipping and introduction of a differential fee for sterilised and unsterilised pet dogs — to discourage abandonment. Tighter controls on breeding dog populations on dog farms were also put in place.

Ms Moss urged would-be owners to think long-term before getting a dog. “Dogs require a lot of attention, socialisation and training,” she said. “Your part of the bargain also has to be fulfilled — you have to spend time with them and communicate with them. It is not unlike having a child.”

Under the Animals and Birds Act, a person found guilty of abandonment of an animal could be fined up to $10,000 or jailed a year, or both.

Please write to TODAY at news@newstoday.com.sg

with full name, address and contact telephone.

Call for a BAN on import of dogs as well as the breeding of dogs. Many of the dogs come from hell-hole dog breeding mills overseas as well as in Singapore. Just pop by Pasir Ris farmway and look beyond the nice sale front into the back of the breeding farms and see the bad conditions the bitches and studs are in – many have terrible skin conditions.

Is AVA more concern of offending “dog” business people than the welfare of dogs?

There are enough abandoned dogs in shelters to satisfy the need of genuine people who care about dogs. Why is there a need to meet the need of people who buy dogs like they buy Gucci bags! And discard them like they discard things they lose interest in after a while. These are selfish people who do not deserve the love of a loyal dog! They are the ones who should be abandoned to suffer!

Speak out for these animals because only we have the voices to do that for them!




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HDB should reconsider replacing ban on cats with ‘motivational’ regulations

The Straits Times, 21-01-2008, STForum Online Story

HDB should reconsider replacing ban on cats with ‘motivational’ regulations

I READ with amusement the article in The Sunday Times about ‘Getting to know your neighbours? with a cartoon by Miel showing a smiling lady poking her head from her flat and a cat beside her (The Sunday Times, Jan 13). The problem we face nowadays is really ‘not knowing your neighbours?.

In my neighbourhood, I am fortunate to share a common concern with a few fellow residents on the plight of the community cats.

Cats are pushed to the brink by an increasing human population and decreasing tolerance. They are killed for reasons ranging from noise made during mating, defecation in ‘upstairs? common areas (usually caused by cat owners who let their cats roam out), residents’ phobia of cats, scratches on cars, etc.

Incensed by the ineffective killing of about 13,000 cats every year for more than two decades and at the public expense of more than half a million dollars annually, we decided to get our butts out of our flats and spent many evenings trapping the cats in our neighbourhood and brought them to the vet to be sterilised.

After about three years, we achieved a near 100 per cent sterilised colony of cats. We also work with the town council to help resolve complaints about cats.

Through this community work, we met fellow residents from all walks of life, of all ages and of all races. We also got to meet residents who complained about cats and residents who owned cats but were unaware of responsible pet ownership (that includes sterilisation and keeping them indoors).

We were touched by the fact that almost all the residents who complained about cats did not want killing as a solution. This was often not known to some town council property officers who assumed that engaging pest controllers to remove ‘downstairs? community cats was the solution. This naturally resulted in a recurrence of complaints. By identifying the right cause of the complaints, we could offer a solution that costs only a bottle of vinegar and a packet of camphor balls (to clear the smell of cat poo and to repel the cats).

However, the lack of HDB regulations on responsible cat ownership is a major setback to the success of a managed colony of cats. Irresponsible owners abandon cats and kittens for reasons ranging from moving house, spring cleaning and unwanted litters from unsterilised home cats.

Irresponsible owners let their cats roam freely, resulting in complaints from neighbours. Town Council officers are reluctant to speak to such owners about pet responsibility because they said that ‘HDB does not allow cats?. Referring such recalcitrant cat owners to their HDB colleagues will only result in the abandonment of these cats in the estate instead. This will only transfer the problem to the Town Council which may then blame the expanding population on caregivers like me and my fellow residents.

I appeal to the HDB to urgently reconsider replacing the ban on cats with regulations so that such irresponsible owners will be ‘motivated? by fines to keep their cats indoors and to have them sterilised. This is a win-win situation to residents in general, to caregivers and also to the property officers in the town council.

Tan Chek Wee

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Enact microchipping, neutering instead of banning cats in flats



Friday • November 2, 2007

Letter by Dr Tan Chek Wee

Housing and Development Board (HDB) flat owners like myself, who wrote to the Ministry of National Development, to keep cats as companion animals were given this reply: “Cats are not allowed to be kept in HDB flats as they are nomadic in nature and are difficult to be confined within the flats.

“Due to the nomadic nature of cats, the nuisances caused by cats such as shedding of fur, defecating/urinating in public areas, noise disturbance et cetera would affect the environment and neighbourliness in our housing estates. In view of this, the HDB has the policy of not allowing cats to be kept in HDB flats.?

During the last five years, I decided to keep three cats that were rescued when they were kittens. They are now all sterilised.

I installed door and window grills in my flat to make sure that they do not venture out. However, they are happily home-bound.

They do not make noise from mating calls, called caterwauling, in fact, my neighbours have to make noise to call for the cats so that they can stretch their hands through the grills to?sayang? them.

They are also fastidiously fussy and will do their “business? in a bin filled with recycled pellets of paper or pine dust.

Responsible owners like myself support regulations instead of a ban to compel the few “black sheep? owners to be responsible.

Regulations that include microchipping, keeping home cats indoors and sterilisation will be more effective in reducing complaints about cats and in reducing pet abandonment. It is a win-win situation for all.

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Pet project: Let’s work together


Thursday • November 1, 2007

Goh Boon Choo

Like some other countries, Singapore too has its set of pet problems, manifested in our homeless animal population and irresponsible pet ownership.

Government agencies address these problems independently: The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) regulates pet sales, the Housing and Development Board (HDB) does not permit cats and large-breed dogs to be kept as pets, and pet abandonment is a legislated crime.

HDB residents have the added option of requesting their Town Councils to remove animals for culling by the AVA.

Some 20,000 cats and dogs are put down by the AVA and the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) every year. And the AVA’s annual culling bill averages $500,000.

In spite of these efforts, we still hear of pet-related spats between neighbours and of abandonment issues.

The SPCA receives up to 1,000 animals each month and the homeless animal population stays at around 100,000. This begs the question: Do the current set of policies need a rethink?

Many abandoned pets are not neutered — those which survive become street-smart, ensuring the homeless animal population’s viability despite consistent culling.

While residents can request their Town Councils’ help, culling every animal is not a solution.

Another recourse is to contact the National Environment Agency if the issue is hygiene-related. But the agency can only warn errant pet owners or issue fines.

Is a blanket pet ban the solution? That would be a bad decision because it ignores the fundamentals of pet-animal issues.

The increased abandonment of large dogs as highlighted in the article, “Large dogs: Time for a rethink? (Oct 25), after the AVA tightened licensing rules is a good example. If the problem was simply stricter rules, then it would not just be large dogs being abandoned.

Can this issue be handled better? Possibly.

The key is in acknowledging that people want to keep cats and dogs as pets, regardless of what type of residence they live in.

While some problems cannot be eliminated completely, they can be minimised with a consistent, comprehensive and progressive framework conducive to responsible pet ownership.

Such a framework requires a clear consensus that this is a multi-faceted problem requiring cooperation and coordination among all stakeholders — government agencies, pet sellers, pet owners, animal welfare groups and non-pet owners. Therein lies the crux: The absence of an entity with overarching authority that can facilitate communication at all levels.

For example, while the AVA oversees national rules on pet ownership, the HDB sets its pet laws independently, while Town Councils follow the HDB’s lead. According to animal experts and the AVA, sterilised cats are highly suited for flat-dwelling. Also, temperament and training, rather than size, dictates a dog’s manageability.

Yet, the HDB clings to these very reasons for continuing its ban. And Town Councils do not want cats and dogs outdoors.

Where do such rules leave responsible pet owners, or neighbours of irresponsible ones?

Denying the existence of flat-dwelling pets, and legislating them out of home and hearth aggravate existing problems. All parties should come together and play a part. It is time we rethink our pet policies, starting with the HDB’s rules on pets.

The writer is a reader of Today.

And please write your letters…..


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The instinct to care


This story was printed from TODAYonline

The instinct to care

Thursday • October 4, 2007

Goh Boon Choo

LIKE other countries around the world, animal welfare organisations in Singapore hold events to commemorate World Animal Day today.

The World Animal Day website, http://www.worldanimalday.org.uk, tells us it is a day which aims to:

• Celebrate animal life in all its forms

• Celebrate humankind’s relationship with the animal kingdom

• Acknowledge the diverse roles that animals play in our lives — from being our companions and supporting and helping us, to bringing a sense of wonder into our lives

• Acknowledge and be thankful for the way in which animals enrich our lives.

Do we need a special day to remember the dogs and cats we call our pets, the chickens and cows we eat, the orang utans running out of room in Borneo, or even the polar bears languishing at the melting North Pole?

While some would say yes, there are others who would surely say no. Many people would not have made the deeper connection about relationships between people, animals, the environment and our future. Although there is no lack of information, most people cling to the “out of sight, out of mind” mentality.

No doubt, it is a complex web of connections. But the underpinning principle is simple: Take too much of anything out of a system without allowing it to replenish, and the system will collapse, bringing everything else down with it.

While humankind may have dominion over the Earth — we build civilisations and, in the process, destroy forests and coral reefs — we are not self-sustaining. Wherever we are, we breathe in air that is produced mainly by the tropical rainforests of South America and Indonesia.

It is predicted that there will be no more orang utans to be found in Indonesia’s jungles within five to 10 years.

Needless to say, if they go, the rainforests — our oxygen tanks — will not be far behind. The yearly haze that chokes Singapore skies is our reminder that that day is coming.

World Animal Day began in 1931 at a convention of ecologists in Florence as a way of highlighting the plight of endangered species. Even then, the implications of losing animal species were clear. And yet, to date, politics and economics still dictate whether anything is done at all to save a species in peril — often due to human causes.

But before we worry about what happens to animals around the world, compassion must begin at home.

Said Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew at the recent Singapore Maritime Lecture: “I do not see any leaders saying let us eat less, eat more vegetables, eat less meat.”

Eating less, and eating less meat, not only translates into a healthier diet, it is kinder to animals and the Earth, and to our fellow men: Resources freed up from feeding farmstock can be diverted to feed the world’s 1 billion starving people.

Surely, we must also care about the animals we purport to love. For more than 20 years, 20,000 dogs and cats have been put to death every year. If we sterilise our pets, keep them indoors and do not abandon them, the number of homeless animals wandering our streets — and thus vulnerable to this death sentence — would be that much smaller.

Out of sight should no longer be out of mind. World Animal Day really isn’t just about the animals. It is about us, what we do to them and the environment, and what state we leave the system in for our children to inherit.

How will you be celebrating World Animal Day?

This was contributed by a reader.

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RCs should work with cat caregivers to solve feline problem

June 15, 2007

RCs should work with cat caregivers to solve feline problems

THE Cat Welfare Society was disappointed to read about the survey that was conducted in Nee Soon Zone F RC which wanted to remove cats based on the feedback from two residents in the block, ‘Animal carers given short shrift over the cats’ fate by RC’ (Online forum, June 12).

Ms Helga Koh has clearly spoken with a much larger number of residents who did not want the cats removed. That the RC should decide to remove the cats based on a very small return rate on the surveys (three responses in all) is both disappointing and frankly quite surprising.

Either the surveys are not getting to the residents (as seems to have been the case) or the residents do not respond to the survey, thinking it is unimportant and not realising the cats will be removed as a result.

It also seems a waste of resources and time to send out surveys that only three residents responded to. One wonders if the RC also sends out surveys about every other matter in the estate and if there is a more environmentally friendly and perhaps effective way of finding out what residents want.

The Cat Welfare Society hopes that the RC in question will work with caregivers who, as Ms Koh rightly pointed out, are residents themselves and practising cat management in the area.

They are more than happy to work with the RC to help with complaints and to work with fellow residents to make the living environment a better one for all.

Looking into the root cause of the problem is certainly a better solution than removing the cats which will just lead to more unsterilised cats moving in due to what is known as the vacuum effect.

It would be a shame if RCs which are there to foster community relations do the opposite by choosing to listen selectively to some of their residents.

Dawn Kua (Ms)

Director of Operations

Cat Welfare Society


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Animal carers given short shrift over cats’ fate by RC

Animal carers given short shrift over cats’ fate by RC

THE lives of three sterilised cats at Blk 875 Yishun St 81 are to be ‘terminated” as a result of a survey conducted by Nee Soon Zone F RC which showed that ‘two responders agreed and one responder disagreed to the removal of the cats’.

Madam Wong, a volunteer who lives in this block, did not receive the survey form. Hence, we were understandably upset as we have volunteered our time, effort and money in the neighbourhood’s ‘Cat Management’ programme.

This includes trapping the community cats to be sterilised so that the population remains controlled and eventually reduced with natural attrition, as well as assisting the town council to resolve feedback about cats so that effective solutions are applied. ‘Cat Management” helps the town council to conserve public funds by not engaging pest controllers to kill the cats.

Ms Pang, also a caregiver and resident of this RC zone, had sought Mr Goh Han Chuan, the Nee Soon Zone F chairman, for clarification on an earlier survey. However, she was treated with an attitude that was anything but courteous.

A chat with the residents of Blk 875 showed that:

1) The total number of residents spoken to: 36

2) 18 of them claimed not to have received the survey forms

3) 27 residents do not want the cats to be removed and killed

4) Seven are neutral

5) Two wanted the cats killed

Residents who merely file complaints with the RC were given due respect. Surely then, it is not unreasonable for residents such as Ms Pang and I to ask for the same degree of respect.

We appeal to the RC to work with us, not against, because we really have the same goal of reducing the conflicts between humans and cats.

We believe that a humane solution to the problems of living with cats in our midst sends a positive message to our young people whose lives seem to be imbibed with increasing violence and killing.

Singapore prides itself on its multiple achievements. Trap-Neuter-Release-and-Manage is an evidence-based method that will achieve a long-term and effective solution to our problems with cats.

‘Cat Management” also provides a platform for residents of different races to work together, providing opportunities for us to know each other better which is a firm foundation of racial harmony.

Helga Koh Nee Gamp (Ms)


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SPCA applauds animal lovers who care for strays

The Straits Times, Online STForum

June 9, 2007

SPCA applauds animal lovers who care for stray cats

ON BEHALF of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA), we applaud the letter by Mr Tan Chek Wee (May 30), and subsequently the responses by Ms Dawn Kua Su-Wen (June 5) and Mrs Judith Lindley (June 5) following Mr Ho Chi Sam’s letter, ‘Health and property deserve priority over strays cats’ (ST Online Forum, June 2).

The SPCA takes heart to see the kindness of animal lovers who, out of their own pocket, feed and take these stray cats to veterinary clinics for sterilisation.

The society takes in about 500 stray cats every month. Many of these strays appear on the streets because of irresponsible pet owners who abandon them or let them run loose when they are no longer interested in keeping them. Many of these cats were not sterilised before abandonment, so their survival instincts cause them to reproduce prolifically.

Show your support for a more humane solution to the stray animal situation by e-mailing your plea to Mr Mah Bow Tan, Minister for National Development, at mah_bow_tan@mnd.gov.sg.

A scratch on your car may be caused by a fallen branch, an innocent child or even a cat, but it can be polished back to its full glory. However, the culling of innocent animals just because of intolerance and lack of understanding will leave a mark in history for future generations.

With awareness of global warming heightened, everyone is trying to play a role in saving Mother Earth. Singapore is famously known to be ‘clean and green’ but that colour green surely depicts not just a nation that has many varieties of trees, but more important, that it accepts the presence of other living creatures – birds, lizards, macaques, cats and so on.

If only there were as widespread and deep a sense of urgency to care for our strays.

For information and suggestions on humane stray control, log on to http://www.spca.org.sg/about_us/opinion.asp#10.

Chong Poh Choo (Miss)

Education Officer

Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals

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Cats blamed for acts not of their doing (ST 5 June 2007)

Straits Times May 30: Let’s hope town councils do not start a ‘holocaust’ of cats

Cats blamed for acts not of their doing (ST 5 June 2007)

WE REFER to Mr Ho Chi Sam’s letter, ‘Health and property deserve priority over stray cats’ (ST, June 2).

The Cat Welfare Society is glad that Mr Ho understands the concerns of people who care for animals. We would like to point out, however, that having an effective and humane community (stray) cat policy does not preclude having a safe and clean estate or, indeed, making it a priority.

We agree with Mr Ho that people who litter should be fined for the offence. This is regardless of whether the litter is food for community cats, or much of the other trash we regularly see in housing estates, be it soiled sanitary napkins, discarded cans or leftover packets of food left after human consumption.

Cats that are responsibly fed do not, however, scatter litter and rubbish. Furthermore, once they are sterilised (at the residents’ own expense), their cauterwauling, spraying and breeding is reduced. This is key to the programme we have been working to implement island-wide called ‘Trap-Neuter-Return-Manage.’

TNRM protects public health and advances the goal of reducing the number of community cats in the environment long-term while still being humane. It is also more cost-effective as sterilisation is a one-time cost, whereas removing and killing the cats is an on-going, continuous process that does not address the problem of cats breeding.

Also, as part of this programme, caregivers who are residents in the same estate, and who also want a clean living environment, help to resolve other residents’ complaints.

We must also point out that cats – while they may rest on cars – rarely scratch them and have been blamed in several cases we have dealt with for marks they did not cause.

It is in everyone’s best interest to keep the cat population down. However, removing and killing the cats (as has been practised for the last 25 years at a rate of 13,000 cats a year) is clearly not working.

One of the most significant failures of this approach is that it creates a ‘vacuum effect’ in which cats move in and take over territory and resources that have been left by cats that have been removed and killed. These new unsterilised cats breed and fill in the area to the extent that they can.

We have already killed more than a quarter of a million cats as a nation. How many more will we kill before we realise that the policy is not only ineffective but also a waste of both life and taxpayers’ money?

Dawn Kua Su-Wen (Ms)

Director of Operations

Cat Welfare Society

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Let’s hope town councils do not start a ‘holocaust’ of cats

Straits Times May 30:

I FAIL to understand why town councils are so ‘spooked’ by cats that they are bent on getting rid of all of them with the recent adoption of ‘Zero Strays’ policy, based on their perception that ‘most’ residents do not like cats.

Notwithstanding the killing of 13,000 cats a year for more than 20 years, costing taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars, many residents have volunteered themselves in ‘cat management’ which includes trapping and sterilising stray cats and identifying them with a surgical cut at the tip of the left ear and assisting town councils to investigate complaints about cats with resulting effective and cost-free solutions.

The impression at the grassroots level is that most residents are against killing cats and when informed there is a humane method of controlling the cat population, that is, trap-neuter-release-and-manage (TnRM), they have given the ‘thumbs up’.

Volunteer-caregivers like me, who spend much time, effort and money in TnRM, also wish for a day when there are zero cats on the streets with every cat in the safe refuge of homes.

To achieve that, we hope for the HBD to lift the ban on keeping cats, AVA to put a ban on import and sale of pets and the legislation of a law mandating the sterilisation of all pets, including home cats.

Meanwhile, we hope to be assured that the town council’s ‘zero strays’ policy is tied up with cat management and that there will not be a holocaust of cats.

A few months ago, one of my ‘senior citizen’ patients came to see me looking very distraught.

He wasn’t physically ill but he was devastated when he heard that a black-and-white tipped ear community cat that often sought out his company as he sat in the void deck was abused and killed.

Then a few weeks later, he came to see me again, this time bearing a big grin. He said ‘his’ cat was back. Someone has brought the cat to the vet for treatment. It has recovered from its injury and released back into the community.

If the town councils accede to request ‘zero strays’, I shudder to think what our ‘urban jungle’ will be like when residents request ‘zero birds’, ‘zero trees’, ‘zero bicycles’, et cetera. When does the town council deem such requests unreasonable?

American radio legend Paul Harvey said: ‘Ever occur to you why some of us can be this much concerned with animals suffering? Because government is not. Why not? Animals don’t vote.’

Is it true?

Dr Tan Chek Wee

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Veggie options easy to prepare

Letter by George Jacobs published in todays Sunday Times.

Below is the original version – not all of which was published

I refer to the letter, “Serve vegetarian food in schools? by Sarah Ng Hui Min (Sunday Times, April 2).

Vegetarian Society (Singapore), a registered charity, supports Ms Ng’s proposal to make more vegetarian food available in schools. Reasons why people are thinking about eating less or no meat include health worries, concern for our fellow animals and alarm over environmental destruction. One, research evidence is growing as to the possible links between an animal-based diet and diabetes, heart disease, stroke, certain cancers and obesity, not to mention pandemics, such as Bird Flu.

Two, many people are repulsed by the practices of modern meat production facilities, sometimes labelled factory farms. At these facilities, our fellow animals are treated like so many objects, rather than the thinking, feeling fellow beings that they clearly are.

A third reason for eschewing (rather than chewing) meat lies in the increasing concern about global warming and other human-induced environmental ills. Meat’s contribution to these ills has become unavoidably apparent. For example, a recent United Nations report states that the international meat industry generates roughly 18% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions—even more than the percentage generated by transportation, such as cars.

Fortunately, Singapore is one of the world’s most vegetarian-friendly countries. For instance, the website of Vegetarian Society (Singapore) lists over 300 vegetarian eateries. There are even vegetarian stalls at a few Singapore schools, such as Raffles Institution.

In addition to Singapore’s many vegetarian outlets, most non-vegetarian outlets here are sensitive to the needs of vegetarians and provide vegetarian options on their menus or are willing to prepare vegetarian dishes if asked.

Furthermore, in many cases, little effort would be needed to convert a dish to being vegetarian. For example, many vegetable dishes that are now off limits for vegetarians could swap categories if they were made without the chicken broth, ikan bilis or small prawns often found in vegetable dishes. Expanding a food outlet’s vegetarian options not only benefits vegetarians, it could also bring more business to the outlet.

Humans are, in many ways, the superior species on the planet. Eating less or no meat is one way that we can use our superiority to help other species and ourselves.

Vegetarian Society welcomes Sarah to contact us at info@vegetarian-society.org. We do talks, exhibitions and food demos for teachers, students and canteen staff.

George Jacobs, Ph.D.

President, Vegetarian Society (Singapore)

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Town Councils, please educate irresponsible pet owners

The Straits Times Online STForum

April 7, 2007

Town councils, please educate irresponsible pet owners

OUT of concern over the constant killing of cats by the town council in response to complaints, a few residents including me, decided to volunteer in ‘cat management’ to cover about 20 blocks of HDB flats in my estate. ‘Cat management’ includes sterilising community cats and helping the town council investigate and resolve complaints about cats.

After four years that include many hours waiting for elusive cats to walk into cat traps on loan from the Cat Welfare Society, we are happy that almost all the cats in our part of the estate now sport a left tipped ear, a sign that it is sterilised, will not emit a caterwauling noise and will not produce litter after litter of unwanted kittens. Noise from male cats fighting to dominate female cats is now limited to the occasional fight over territory.

Our concern now is the lack of regulations on pet ownership. During the four-year period of ‘cat management’, we identified two families with unsterilised cats that were allowed to roam freely. We spoke to these families and persuaded them to let us send their cats to the vet for sterilisation. Recently, there was a family with five cats but they allowed us to send only four for sterilisation. As this family admitted they leave their cats ‘downstairs’, we now worry this one unsterilised female cat may be allowed to breed and the kittens will be abandoned. This will be a setback in the control of the cat population in the estate.

We appeal to the town council and perhaps the residential committees to help educate these irresponsible pet owners.

However, if the HDB will replace its ban on cats with regulations to impose a fine on owners who refuse to sterilise their cats and allow them to roam freely in the common corridors, this will speed up the success of the Trap-Neuter-Release-Manage (TnRM) programme to reduce the population of community cats humanely and cost-effectively. We too want a decrease in the cat population but we believe this can be done without the need to kill them by applying evidence-based TnRM.

Carol Sim Swee Chin (Ms)

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Bring back cat-rehab scheme

A great letter by Dr Tan in today’s papers!


March 9, 2007
Active citizenry? Bring back cat-rehab scheme

MY WORK as a doctor in a home-care medical team takes me to many parts of the island.

In every estate, I chance up community cats with part of the left ear cut off surgically. This is called a tipped ear and symbolises not only that the cats have been sterilised but, more significantly, also that it is a result of the active citizenry the Government has been trying very hard to inculcate.

It is my impression that the number of tipped-ear community cats is increasing. This is a sign that there are those among us who, instead of complaining, believe so strongly in a cause that they are willing to spend time and their own money trapping community cats to take to the vets for sterilisation.

They strongly believe that killing 13,000 cats every year for more than 20 years – with no decrease in the cat population – is not in keeping with a society that strives also to be spiritually rich in compassion.

I hope the Government will keep this spirit of active citizenry going by reinstating the Stray Cat Rehabilitation Scheme that was terminated abruptly in 2003.

Dr Lou Ek Hee, head of the Animal Welfare Section at the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA), wrote in his article, ‘Stray cat sterilisation project at Bukit Merah View’ (published on the Singapore Veterinary Association website at http://www.sva.org.sg/papers_full.asp?paperID=9):

‘Sterilisation and responsible management has the support of up to 96 per cent of the public. The majority of people want cats controlled but do not want them culled. They are happy to know that AVA’s present approach to the stray-cat situation emphasises humane management and is targeted towards achieving long-term results.

‘Sterilisation and responsible management is humane and helps to promote a kinder and more caring and gracious society.

‘It promotes volunteerism and encourages both animal lovers and the people bothered by cats to be active in a constructive and self-help manner, working with the authorities to deal with the stray-cat situation.’

Instead of ceaselessly killing cats at the AVA, why not sterilise them? It will be more cost-effective in the long run.

Dr Tan Chek Wee

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Forced to put on the coat of Dr Death



Forced to put on the coat of Dr Death

As sole welfare body, rigid Government policies give SPCA no choice but to euthanase strays

Wednesday • January 24, 2007

Letter from Deirdre Moss
Executive Officer
Society for the Prevention of to Animals (SPCA)

I REFER to the letter “Killing strays is not an act of kindness (Jan 19)” by Fiona Yuen. Reference was made to how the SPCA should learn from Albuquerque’s Mayor Martin Chavez and the Canadian authorities, who are working towards ending euthanasia.

The SPCA wholeheartedly supports the idea of not having to euthanase stray animals or abandoned pets. No one would wish that more than our society, which has the dreaded task of dealing with half of Singapore’s annual unwanted animal population, of which more than 50 per cent are strays.

Being the only animal welfare organisation that has a shelter taking in 900 animals monthly — Singapore, unlike countries such as Canada, has no alternative shelters or private organisations taking in masses of strays or unwanted pets — euthanasia has become a necessity.

As long as there are strays proliferating on the streets without a mass sterilisation programme, and as long as there is no restriction on the commercial breeding and sale of pets (SPCA animals are having to compete for homes with the masses of pets on sale), the problem of having to put down surplus animals is going to be with us.

Restrictions on the keeping of cats and medium-sized dogs in Housing and Development Board (HDB) flats is another obstacle to our goal of euthanasing fewer animals. For years, the SPCA has been lobbying the authorities to change the HDB’s policies to accommodate more pets, so that the surplus population of strays can be reduced.

Since 1991, the SPCA has had a voucher programme for the sterilisation of stray cats at participating veterinary practices, which enables stray caretakers to sterilise a stray and put it back at its original location, with SPCA footing the bill; $4,800 is channelled to this project monthly, translating to 140 free vouchers each month.

Without the Government’s cooperation, animal welfare organisations cannot hope to make a reasonable dent in the stray population because sterilisation on a large scale must be carried out across the island.

The SPCA has been writing to the authorities and asking members and friends to request that the Stray Cat Rehabilitation Programme — halted during the Sars outbreak — be reinstated.

The SPCA agrees that euthanasia does not get to the root cause of the problem, which is that too many animals are being born or imported. Our website, http://www.spca.org.sg, and our staff also inform those considering bringing a stray or unwanted pet to our premises to please exhaust all other possibilities first.

If owners shoulder the responsibility of finding a home for their unwanted pets, and if those who find stray animals do the same, the SPCA statistics of putting down animals would drop dramatically from its present rate of 82 per cent.

For now, the SPCA must continue to shoulder the burden of putting excess animals to sleep — the alternative being to turn people with unwanted animals away.

This notion has been deliberated on over the years, but most of our members baulk at turning animals away, as this would result in many being dumped back on the street where they may suffer a fate worse than death.

The SPCA sincerely hopes the Government is listening to all pleas to institute a mass programme for the sterilisation of strays, in addition to being more flexible in its HDB policies on pets, so culling and euthanasing can become a thing of the past.

Only with proactive and more humane approaches plus organisations and individuals working together, can we hope to become a truly compassionate society.

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Link between AVA pest controllers and cat stranglers?

Cat strangled with nylon string: http://groups.msn.com/SingaporeCats/sporenews.msnw?action=get_message&mview=0&ID_Message=12370

One of the letters to the Straits Times regarding the latest incident of cat abuse:

Jan 13, 2007
Link between AVA pest controllers and cat stranglers

In Singapore, when crows are seen feeding from hawker centre tables, the next thing you see is shooters from the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) with shot guns shooting crows from the sky.

In Singapore, when flocks of pigeons are seen congregating, the next thing you see is flocks of dead pigeons poisoned by the AVA in the name of pest control.

In Singapore, when cats are seen sleeping on car bonnets or wandering in the neighbourhood, the next thing you see is a pest control vehicle rumbling off to the AVA with cages of ‘pests’ to be put to sleep.

Hence, it is no surprise to see the occasional cat beaten, or in the latest incident strangled. After all, if the answer to every ‘pest’ is summary execution, the perpetrator of the latest spate of cat abuse is merely repeating what the authorities are doing – taking matters into his own hands and engaging in ‘pest control’.

Perhaps it is time for the authorities to rethink their methods to prevent more copycat actions by members of the public.

Adriane Lee Swee Mun

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Be kind to animals

The Straits Times Interactive ST Forum – December 21, 2006

At this time of the year, the weather turns cold with northern wintry winds

and frequent rain.

More often than before, I would find a community cat curled on the bonnet

of my car, seeking the warmth of its engine.

I felt joy seeing this. Compassion and the act of giving are part of the

Christmas spirit.

I hope that the other car owners will be forgiving and not complain to the

Town Council about cats sleeping on their cars.

I hope that the Town Council officers will not engage the pest control firms to

trap the cats to be killed at the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority in

response to such complaints.

I am glad that this year, there were more letters published in the ST Forum

“speaking” up for our “dumb” animals because it shows that we have not

traded our souls for compulsive materialism.

For this I say “Thank you Straits Times”.

I have a wish for the New Year and the essence of this was voiced by Dr.

Tony Page, a well-known personality among people who are interested in

the welfare of animals, in an interview in 2000.

He said: “Yes. I dream of a world where animals are viewed as sentient and

sensitive people, whose right to be free from human-enforced suffering is

respected and where our only relations with animals are motivated by the

wish to love and help them.”

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

– Dr Tan Chek Wee

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