Saturday, March 2, 2024

2023 has been a dark year for Singapore’s animals – but acts of kindness show there’s hope too

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SINGAPORE: In 2023, animal abuse and welfare cases in Singapore hit an 11-year high, painting a bleak picture.

But things can still get better. There were also incredible acts of kindness by good Samaritans and programs and initiatives from both animal welfare organizations and authorities for 2024 and beyond.

But first the bad news.

The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) revealed in October that it had investigated 862 cases of abuse and welfare concerns between July 2022 and June 2023, compared to 2011 and 2012. This was the highest since the same period.

During the same period, we rescued 266 abandoned animals. This was a significant increase from the previous year’s annual average of up to 70 cases. However, the group acknowledged that the surge in cases could be due to increased public awareness and willingness to report.

More than 400 cats were found in pet hoardings in the first half of 2023, with rescuers complaining of burnout. There was a “disproportionately high number” of abuse cases in the first few months alone.

A number of shocking incidents have surfaced in Singapore that have angered animal lovers, including a teenage boy who was caught on video trying to molest a cat outside a Housing Board apartment. This includes the arrest of a man, and the discovery of two emaciated cats in a locked room. He had been kept in a cage with the remains of three other people for more than a month in a rented apartment in Jalan Minyak.

Other incidents involved pets of all shapes and sizes. At least 20 hamsters were found abandoned under bushes, drenched by heavy rain, and more than a dozen guinea pigs were found abandoned on the side of the road in thermal food bags.

In addition, a parrot was rescued by the Humane Society after a video of a woman abusing it went viral, and the director of a dog training and day care center was seen on video hitting the dog multiple times and yelling profanities. He was arrested and charged with animal cruelty. I hear him say: “Welcome to hell, my friend. Four weeks of hell, you stupid dog. If you make one sound tonight, let’s see what happens to you.”

Pets aren’t the only ones in dire straits. The trade in illegal wild animals and animal parts is “thriving” in Singapore on physical and online markets, with the black market offering live exotics to tens of thousands of people who subscribe to such messaging groups. They are selling animals. .

There are several cases where boiling water, insecticide, or glue traps have been used to abuse and kill snakes, even though it is a crime to use them without permission. Speaking of glue traps, the Association for Animal Research and Education (Acres) revealed in March that nearly 1,000 birds and other wildlife have been accidentally trapped in these cruel contraptions since 2020.

Local animal shelters and welfare organizations here have seen the number of foster homes cut in half in recent years, citing rising costs of living and more people returning to offices after the COVID-19 pandemic. There are some people.

In fact, more pets are being abandoned post-pandemic, and the trend may be even worse as animal organizations report a sharp increase in the number of abandoned and surrendered pets. .

Experts told The Straits Times that boredom and exposure to domestic violence are among the reasons people abuse animals. Psychiatrists at the Institute of Mental Health call this a “complex web of related issues,” raising further questions and concerns in the search for answers to why people abuse animals.

Despite a tragic year, 2023 showed incredible acts of kindness, including three heroes who risked their own safety to rescue a kitten from a storm drain in heavy rain. Ta.

Motorists banded together to drive a frightened dog to safety on a busy highway. A worker was also praised for helping a lost and panicked mother hen and her chicks safely at a crossing.

Cats found by SPCA. Animal rights groups and veterinarians are calling on the public to be more aware that owning a pet is a lifelong obligation. - Photo: SPCA, via Straits Times/ANNCats found by SPCA. Animal rights groups and veterinarians are calling on the public to be more aware that owning a pet is a lifelong obligation. – Photo: SPCA, via Straits Times/ANN

Remember the two cats rescued from Jalan Minyak?

Today Barry and Nori found a furry house. Though separated from each other, they are free from the pain they have experienced.

Ellen Tay, 37, an avikeeper at Bird Paradise, couldn’t get her two cats out of her mind when she read about the plight of birds in ST in June.

“My senior cat passed away last December at the age of 16. He was my first cat and was adopted at just 3 weeks old. After reading the news, I decided to give this one cat a try. I couldn’t help but think about their plight. When I mentioned this to my husband, Ken, he was willing to give me a home,” Tay said.

Cat guardian Fiona Law, who had two cats on bail from the Animal and Veterinary Service (AVS), had her hands full with other rescues when Tay approached her about doing a home trial for one of them. was.

“The home trial was to see if Nori would get along well with other cats. I heard that he was quite difficult because he cries and meows loudly for food.” she said.

After two months of living with the couple, Nori has settled down. He gained weight and became especially good friends with a tabby dog ​​named Goma.

“The only time he whines or cries loudly is when we are apart. He currently weighs about 20 pounds and plays with toys like a kitten and loves us like a dog. I’m chasing after them,” she said.

The story of another cat rescued from Jalan Minyak, now named Barry, also has a happy ending.

He currently lives with Leo Yan Ping, a preschool curriculum specialist, his mother, and younger sister.

Leo, 31, said he was scrolling through Instagram at a bus stop in July when he saw Lo’s post about his two cats.

“I was heartbroken reading about their plight and cried openly. I was particularly drawn to Barry, so I messaged Fiona to ask about him and if we could adopt him,” she said. Told.

Like Tay, Leow’s previous cat passed away in December 2022, and he felt it was time to adopt another cat.

“When Barry came, he was sniffing around other cats,” she said.

When the family goes away for two weeks, Barry takes up residence in the cat’s crib.

“There he was reunited with Ron, a tabby cat. After Fiona’s rescue and rehabilitation, they stayed together and seemed to need each other, so I decided to adopt Ron as well. After I returned from my trip, we both returned together on December 13,” Leow said.

Mr Law said it was good that the two cats went to different families. This will help both cats heal and perhaps forget the trauma they experienced.

Asked about the cat abandoned in a rental apartment in Jalan Minyak, AVS said it was still investigating the incident.

Anyone who abandons a pet may be charged with a crime under the Birds and Animals Act. First offenses can result in a fine of up to $10,000, up to 12 months in prison, or both. However, approximately 95 percent of cases reported to AVS are unsubstantiated.

Rare animals are also bouncing back from the brink of extinction, from a crab that lives only in and around Singapore’s last freshwater wetland forest to the Raffles’ striped langur, which in the 1990s was predicted to become extinct within 40 years due to habitat loss. . and fragmentation.

Mandai Wildlife Group revealed in March that nearly 800 animals were born or hatched in Mandai Wildlife Group parks in 2022. These include an endangered parrot and the 14th offspring of the zoo’s oldest pygmy hippopotamus couple.

The authorities have launched a new initiative to protect the animals in order to ensure a better future for them in 2023.

In October, it was announced that a council to improve professional standards and practice in the field of veterinary medicine would be established by 2025. Standards for breeding and selling pet cats in Singapore have been brought in line with conditions already in place for pet dogs, as part of efforts to ensure the health and welfare of pet dogs.

Authorities will extend a program to control the stray dog ​​population by trapping and neutering them, with 80% of stray dogs having been sterilized since November 2018.

A new bridge will be constructed to allow both wildlife and pedestrians to cross between Bukit Timah Nature Reserve and the Western catchment area via Bukit Batok Nature Park.

In December, the government proposed a cat management framework that would lift a 34-year ban on cats in Housing Board apartments. Two cats are allowed per HDB apartment and three cats per private house. Of course, this assumes that it does not disturb nearby residents or affect public health. It is scheduled to come into force in the second half of 2024.

Welfare organizations also stepped up their activities.

Local animal welfare group Chained Dog Affairs Singapore has launched a new campaign to educate the public about dog behavior and science-based pet care.

The SPCA has enhanced its youth education program to raise awareness of animal abuse among young people. In May, the SPCA launched an initiative to provide free health checkups to more than 100 pets owned by low-income households.

Meanwhile, two nursing homes are running a pilot program where residents play with cats to improve their mobility.

In a world where poor mental health is a concern, caring for animals can be a source of comfort and purpose.

The self-proclaimed “cat mom” said her depression has subsided since she started caring for community cats more than 20 years ago. She has “completely recovered,” said Madam Pirie Lim, 68.

“When I’m with the cats, I forget all my worries.” – The Straits Times/ANN

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