The news that the perpetrator of the abuse of more than 10 cats in the AMK North area has been sentenced to only 12 weeks of jail out of a maximum of 18 months under the current law was upsetting not least because it barely captures the magnitude and severity of the abuse.
Singapore has the fortune of not having many cases of abuse to test the law. That should be viewed as an opportunity to send a clear deterrent message against each case that is successfully prosecuted.
CWS wrote to the prosecuting body on requesting they appeal the sentence to seek (a) a longer jail term, (b) mandatory counselling and (c) a permanent disqualification against owning pets. We understand that no appeal has been filed against the sentence and that the appeal period has lapsed.
Link to news article: https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/community/animal-lovers-not-happy-with-12-week-jail-sentence-for-ang-mo-kio-cat-slasher
We set out below the full text of our letter to AVS dated 16 July 2021:
PP V LEOW WEI LIANG
1. We refer to the matter of Leow Wei Liang, the individual who perpetrated the abuse of more than 10 cats in the Ang Mo Kio North area.
2. We understand that Leow has been sentenced to 12 weeks of jail after pleading guilty to three counts of animal cruelty, with another four charges taken into consideration. This sentence has been backdated to 9 June 2021 which means that Leow will be released on or around 1 September 2021. Leow’s current sentence of 12 weeks is extremely alarming not just to the cat community, the cat caregivers in that area, but also to the residents of Ang Mo Kio North.
3. We are writing to respectfully request that the Animal & Veterinary Service (AVS) appeal for the sentence to be extended to a period of at least 12 months, for Leow to undergo mandatory counselling and for Leow to be permanently disqualified from owning pets.
4. We put forth several points for your consideration and request that you to raise these to the Honourable Court.
Leow deliberately and cruelly inflicted wounds on helpless animals
5. Leow did not act in an opportunistic or random manner. Instead, he specifically targeted only community cats which were used to human presence, went close enough to them on each occasion before slashing at their bodies. It is only sheer luck that the knife was perhaps not strong enough to penetrate more layers of muscle and cause more severe injuries or death.
6. Leow acted systematically and speedily on his malicious thoughts. Based on the article in Channel New Asia, he has stated that he had thought about cutting cats because he “wanted to have fun since the cats were stray animals and not human.” He acted quickly on this purchasing a penknife in April and harming 11 cats within the span of 1 month.
7. Leow also acted methodically in identifying and then deliberately harming the cats. Leow familiarised himself with the community caregivers and is known to have approached two female caregivers on at least one occasion to try to learn more about the cats. It is not clear to us if this fact was brought to the Honourable Court’s attention.
Leow was not deterred by public scrutiny of his actions
8. As at 23 May 2021, the date of the last injury, there was a great deal of public scrutiny over the matter. There were numerous news reports on the cases, a citizen patrol and even a door-to door flyering exercise on 22 May 2021. The fact that Leow managed to still harm another cat on the 23rd displays that he was intelligent enough to evade the patrollers and continued to harbour malice toward the cats. This is also borne out by the psychiatrist’s finding that Leow was not of unsound mind and fit to plead. It is readily apparent to us that had the AVS team not acted swiftly once they obtained relevant evidence, Leow would have continued on his spree.
Leow’s victim count is far greater than the charges may have represented
9. The total number of victims is 11 and not just the 7 cats on whom the charges proceeded or which were taken into account. The victims have suffered irreversible damage. A table setting out each of the cat’s details and injuries appended in Annex A.
10. Leow’s other victims are the caregivers of the cats who were injured. They have forked out their personal monies to treat the cats after Leow went on his spree. To date, the caregivers have spent close to S$11,000 on treating the injuries and boarding the cats for recuperation and/or rehoming.
Leow has not been reported to show any remorse
11. It is also alarming that Leow has never been reported to display any remorse for his actions. On the contrary, all Leow has displayed is self-pity and fear of going to jail when he appeared in court via video-link on 9 June 2021 crying about how he did not want to go to jail.
Leow’s sentence is manifestly inadequate and sets a poor precedent
12. The sentence is manifestly inadequate in consideration of the severity of Leow’s actions. Leow has been sentenced to only 12 weeks (approximately 3 months) in jail, less than 20% of the maximum sentence of 18 months.
13. In 2017, Fajar Ashraf Fajar Ali was sentenced to 18 weeks of jail after causing the death of a cat. He had brought a community cat up to the 10th floor and then pushed it down. The cat survived but he slammed it on the ground twice. According to the media reports, Ali deliberately lured the cat to the lift to bring it up to the 10th floor and killed it out of frustration. In this case, there was only one victim, but the Honourable Court was clear that even one such act could not be condoned when it sentenced Ali to 18 weeks of jail.
14. Leow is mentally sound and so must be cognisant that his acts will cause pain and suffering of the animals. Despite this, he proceeded because the cats are “not human”. A mere 12-week sentence does not capture the severity of his actions in harming 11 cats.
15. Singapore has a history of violent abuse against animals. We highlight three cases of cat abuse which were publicly reported but in which the perpetrators were never identified as a reference:
a. In October 2018, several community cats were found dead in Seletar Hills Estate with circular shaped wounds on them. The wounds were similar in nature (not unlike this case where the wounds were inflicted by the same object, a penknife). At least 2 of the carcasses found had been cut so badly that their intestines were found outside the body. The perpetrator was not found.
b. In May 2019, a partly shaved cat was found dead at the void deck of an HDB block. The wall above its carcass was stained in blood including in the corners of the pillar and the wall. The perpetrator was not found.
c. In December 2020, a dead cat was found in a pool of blood with its hind limb cleanly severed. The severed limb was found several metres away and with a kitchen knife lying nearby. The perpetrator has not been found.
16. The heinousness of crimes against cats is immediately apparent and this is only the sliver of cases that have been picked up by the media or on social media.
Possibility of repeat of abuse
17. It is also worth highlighting that Leow’s repeated abuse of different cats even in the face of scrutiny suggests that he may again take to abusing cats after he is released.
18. Such repeated abuse occurred in 2005 and 2006. The individual in question was one David Hooi who had found guilty of hitting one cat in the head. The cat had to be put down. Hooi was jailed for 3 months. The penalty for animal abuse at that time was a maximum fine of $10,000, a jail term of up to 12 months, or both, under the Animals and Birds Act.
19. Barely 3 months from his release, Hooi tortured a four-month-old male cat by hitting its head repeatedly, breaking its tooth and causing swellings in both eyes. The cat had to be put down as well.
20. While there is no assurance that Leow may or may not re-offend, it is apparent that there is a need for close monitoring of Leow and his actions. To that end, it may also be necessary to place Leow in mandatory counselling to manage his condition.
21. SPCA reportedly receives an average of 80 to 90 reports of alleged animal cruelty every month. Even if only 10% of these cases are deliberate acts of cruelty, Leow’s current light sentence will not serve as a deterrent to those individuals. It may serve the opposite purpose in showing them how lightly they may get off for their crimes even if they were caught.
22. Singapore is a country where human beings, community animals and even wildlife co-exist. Community cats number in the thousands and peacefully co-exist with their human counterparts. In fact, the nature of their relationship with human beings as their caregivers makes them especially vulnerable to abuse.
23. While there is bound to be some tension through interaction, at no point must it be or appear to be the case that Singapore tolerates violence against its community animals and/or wildlife. Without (a) a higher sentence for Leow, (b) counselling to monitor Leow’s actions; and (c) a permanent disqualification to prevent him from ever owning any animals, there can be no assurance that any community or companion animals will be safe from Leow or that his successful prosecution will be a deterrent to any other abuser.
24. We request your assistance in considering these points and raising them to the Honourable Court for its consideration within the appeal period. We remain available to assist your good self or the Honourable Court in any manner as may be required on this matter.
Signed, Thenuga Vijakumar, President, CWS