On 15 December 2022, Singapore was stunned by a video of a boy throwing a cat off the 22nd floor of Blk 186 Boon Lay Avenue. The cat’s name was Panther.
Panther’s carcass was discovered by his caregivers. CWS assisted his caregivers with filing a police report on the cruelty case.
On 28 July 2023, it was reported that the boy in question had completed a rehabilitative programme conducted by the Animal and Veterinary Service. Amongst others, AVS informed the media through a press statement that the boy had been assessed by a psychiatrist from the Institute of Mental Health, who found that he did not have sufficient maturity to understand the nature and consequences of his actions. The boy was placed on a diversionary programme to get him to understand animal welfare, how to care for animals, living with animals in the community, and why his actions were wrong. He underwent these sessions at a cat shelter and was ultimately issued a stern warning.
For 7 months, there was silence around the investigations despite attempts by CWS to find out more information. The timeline reported in the media shows us that (a) the young offender was identified in December 2023, (b) it took four months to put together a case for presentation to the Attorney General’s Chambers, (c) at some point a mental health assessment was conducted and (d) the diversionary programme was completed in June 2023. Approximately one month later, a media statement and briefing took place.
The opacity of the process leads to several questions:
(a) What is the first-cut criteria employed by AVS in determining that an individual should be considered for a diversionary programme in the first place before one moves to the question of whether the programme would be appropriate for that individual or not.
(b) We understand that AVS created the diversionary programme. Did AVS obtain expert input on the development of the pedagogy from trained mental health professionals and/or educators in putting this together.
(c) What are the steps that AVS is taking to monitor the individual to ensure that there will be no repeat incident.
While we appreciate that investigations need to run its proper course, there must be a balance struck in assuaging concerns about the safety of other cats especially in cases of abuse where the offender may still have access to other cats. We would urge the authorities to strongly consider providing more regular updates, if not possible publicly, then with at least the stakeholders directly affected by this, such as the caregivers of community cats, or individuals who might have rescued abused cats, within a closed communication loop.
This was a tragic case and it is important for all parties to work together. This can only be achieved if there is trust, regular communication and close partnership to give the peace of mind to those most affected.