Education and legislation to go hand-in-hand. Be the voice for change.

Make yourselves heard. Politely.

The recent Multi-Stakeholder Focus Group discussion brought together diverse views from invited members of the public, including stray feeders and complainants, who wrote into the MND Online Feedback Portal on pet ownership and stray management issues and representatives from animal welfare groups, town councils, housing board and animal welfare and control centre. We can possibly see more such discussions in the future.

We see this as a useful platform for bridging the understanding of stakeholders who have different concerns. But as animal welfare advocates, we must also work harder to continue to advance this dialogue with constructive arguments and solutions to prevent it from stalling the potential for positive action and change.

Let's take the recent spate of cat abuses in Marsiling, Telok Blangah and Kallang River.

These abuses happen in areas that are well-known dumping grounds with high-levels of abandonment. The current legislation is clearly not able to address this issue. In my group, 8 out of 10 people felt the HDB rule had to be changed to embrace cat ownership. The 2 people in the group that were against this also brought up good points. Is our society ready to embrace cat ownership when it is well known a segment of society is still against sterilisation and confining of cats indoors?

Also, will it open the floodgates to more demand for cats, leading to a kitten mill situation similar to the dog trade? HDB felt that education needs to come before legislation as it feels that the society is not ready to accept the responsibilities that come with cat ownership.

We believe education and legislation must go hand-in-hand.

Animal welfare advocates have come to the point when we cannot accept the situation at status quo. Abuse, abandonment and culling continue undetered. We need to see change at the root of the problem and it should come in proper cat ownership legislation as well as the tightening of the pet trade. We continue to stand by our proposed solutions below.

We need your support for these solutions as well as to bring new ideas to the table. Our cause has gone beyond simply asking for no culling, cat ownership in HDB or tougher enforcement on animal abusers. We need to work with government agencies on exactly how to get there.

So keep writing in. If you have good solutions and as Minister of State mentioned, you are polite in the way you put your point across, you just might be invited to the next focus group discussion.

The Cat Welfare Society believes the following vision is within reach:

A humane, responsible and informed society in Singapore where cats are cared for responsibly as pets and treated with kindness as community cats.

It also believes that the following milestones are achievable within 3 – 5 years:

  • Reduction of community cat population
  • Reduction in legitimate complaints about cat nuisances

What is required is leadership from the Ministry and Members of Parliament in implementing the following with urgency:

Licensing and ownership regulations on cat owners

1) Up to 3 pet cats to be allowed in HDB flats.

2) Pet cats must be kept strictly indoors.

3) Pet cats acquired after the regulation change must be sterilised and microchipped.

We should learn from the lessons from the introduction of pet dog licensing, leading to widespread abandonment and surrendering of pet dogs. Imposing that all cat owners bring their cats to the vet for microchipping is unrealistic and other measures must be introduced.

4) After the regulation change, existing pet cat owners are to be encouraged to microchip their cats or be registered with the Cat Welfare Society. Only owners willing to be subjected to the cat ownership guidelines of sterilisation and keeping indoors will be registered.

5) Cat owners with more than 3 pet cats who face complaints will be assessed on adherence to guidelines, hygiene and welfare of cats on case by case basis.

Enforcement of licensing and ownership regulations on cat owners 

1) Sale of pets at retail pet shops to be banned to curb impulse buying. Pets can only be sold at licensed pet breeding sources.

2) Licensed pet breeders are held accountable for the licensing of dogs and cats sold to new owners.

3) When a complaint against a cat owner is made, HDB will investigate if the cat owner has adhered to guidelines:

— Cats are sterilised and microchipped or registered with Cat Welfare Society.

— Cats are kept strictly indoors.

— If cat owner has more than 3 cats, they will be assessed on case by case basis with AVA and Cat Welfare Society.

4) If cat owner is found to have violated the guidelines, they will be given in succession

— A warning

— A fine

— Confiscation of cats

— If they are found to be destitute or mentally unsound, assistance from social welfare will be sought.

5) HDB to develop in-house animal welfare expertise and work with caregivers and volunteers in effectively resolving animal-related community issues.

6) AVA, with the courts, to establish clear grounds of evidence required for cases of pet abandonment and abuse to empower members of the public to report cases and to work with them to bring cases to successful resolution.

The vet clinic community can also play a part by reducing the cost of pet cat sterilisation to encourage more cat owners to sterilise their cats promptly.

A comprehensive Stray Cat Sterilisation Programme

Our urban environment is interconnected. Having a programme that is implemented only in some areas only and not all will only achieve laborious incremental results and not the breakthrough results achievable in stray cat population.

1) AVA to bear full cost of sterilisation of community cats up to a reasonable cap in all areas of Singapore.

2) Town Councils and NEA to implement designated feeding stations with guidelines on responsible feeding.

3) If cat feeder is found to have violated the guidelines, they will be given in succession — A warning — A fine and/or corrective work order

4) Town Councils to follow a community mediation protocol in resolving cat-related issues with the assistance of caregivers.

5) Town Councils and NEA to develop in-house animal welfare expertise and work with caregivers and volunteers in effectively resolving animal-related community issues.

6) Removal and culling should only be resorted to as a last resort in cases of chronic and unresolved pet abandonment in the area.

Animal Welfare & Control Officers in Every Estate

In every estate, there are active caregivers that sterilises the community cats and manages them responsibly to the best of their ability using their own time and resources.

Some of them also actively assist the Town Council in cat-related issues. The dedication and personal sacrifices of these caregivers are commendable.

With increased trend towards pet ownership, animal-related issues that require attention will also start to increase.

For these issues to be addressed effectively requires dedicated manpower that will be able to engage with pet owners and an active animal welfare community positively to advance a humane agenda and to provide effective resolution to issues to bring harmony to our shared environment.

With new animal welfare and control policies and guidelines in place, we propose that AVA employs 16 animal welfare & control officers to be seconded to the 16 Town Councils.

The officers will

1) Handle animal-related complaints

2) Work with relevant agencies such as HDB and NEA on issues such as pet ownership and public health

3) Work with CWS on education and mediation on cat-related issues

4) Work with SPCA on education on other animal-related issues

5) Work with caregivers who will continue to sterilise and manage the community cats within guidelines and with funding from AVA for sterilisation

6) Coordinate investigations on animal abuse or neglect with AVA inspectors and SPCA

7) Escalate issues to relevant agencies when necessary

Make your voices heard through MND's online feedback portal. Submit your views and suggestions today!

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