Sunday 13 November 2011

Tan Chuan-Jin helps correct wrong perceptions of animal mistreatment

In a Facebook post at 1.57pm on Saturday, Minister of State for National Development and Manpower Tan Chuan-Jin noted that there have been many postings on the Internet on the mistreatment of animals and explains how the authorities are managing animal welfare.

This is what he wrote on his Facebook page: 'The mistreatment of animals is an emotive issue. It tugs at your heart when you see or hear about living creatures, people and animals alike, being abused. Yet, it is easy to misinterpret actions when the context is not viewed in full.

The picture (left) was widely circulated. Many claimed that the man seen dragging the dog was an AVA (Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore) dog catcher.

We did our checks. The picture is actually an image that is used in an online article on dogs in China.

'There has been a concerted round of postings in the recent weeks. For example, there was an incident shared on AVA's Facebook that AVA officers were rounding up two stray dogs and managed to capture the black dog, while the brown dog escaped. Some witnesses accused AVA officers of repeatedly beating the captured dog on its head using batons.

'AVA has clarified that this allegation was untrue, and this was corroborated by a Noah's Ark CARES volunteer who had spoken to the witnesses. The witnesses later admitted that they did not see the alleged act and assumed that it happened. In fact, I just came back from AVA's Responsible Pet Ownership Roadshow at Singapore Expo. I discussed this with our friends from the various Animal Welfare Groups. Many of them put in time to follow up and investigate and also do feel frustrated when it turns out that the picture isn't always what it was painted out to be.'

He continued: 'We need to ensure the well-being of Singaporeans. When we receive complaints of stray dogs, it would not be responsible to allow them to remain where they can pose a threat. AVA has received many reports of stray dogs attacking and chasing members of public. AVA has to perform its public duty to remove these stray dogs. And to do so as humanely as possible.'

Strays get to come in from the cold
HDB lifts ban on larger dogs; cats also allowed but with conditions
By Judith Tan, The Straits Times, 13 Nov 2011

Both stray dogs and cats in Singapore will soon find roofs over their heads in Housing Board flats.

While the mutts will be rehomed under a nationwide pilot project, their feline counterparts will be starting small - in Chong Pang.

Both programmes will kick off in the first half of next year, but details are still being worked out.

Announcing this yesterday, Minister of State for National Development Tan Chuan-Jin said he hopes the lifting of this ban will help to alleviate the stray animal issue.

The move to let stray dogs into HDB flats was mooted by animal welfare groups Action for Singapore Dogs (ASD) and the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA).

The groups submitted a proposal for deliberation by an inter-agency task force, formed in July to review pet ownership and stray animal management policies.

Currently, HDB dwellers cannot keep medium- sized mixed breeds. Only about 60 toy breeds are allowed.

Speaking at the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority's (AVA) Responsible Pet Ownership roadshow held at the Singapore Expo, Mr Tan said both trials will be tightly controlled.

Mandatory conditions for keeping cats in HDB flats include sterilisation, micro-chipping and confining them indoors; and cat owners need to register to join the pilot programme.

Similarly, all rescued street dogs and potential owners need to be properly screened by animal welfare groups to make sure they are suitable for the pilot.

ASD founder Ricky Yeo, 43, told The Sunday Times that these are early days yet. The volunteer group has been lobbying for the last seven years for HDB flat owners to keep street dogs.

'We are glad the authorities have taken our input and are coming up with this pilot project. The premise here is to start with the small- and medium- sized cross-breeds and not open the floodgates,' he said.

Dog rescuers also welcomed the news. Volunteer Siew Tuck Wah, 32, said it shows 'the government bodies are listening and responding to our pleas'.

He added: 'I don't know how this will turn out, but at least it is the first step towards the dogs' welfare.'

Yesterday, Mr Tan also asked animal lovers not to be over-zealous. He was referring to a recent case where a photo of a dog dragged by a dog catcher supposedly hired by AVA went viral online.

Checks later found the picture to be an image previously used in an online article on dogs in China.

He said that animal welfare is a 'very emotive topic' and 'there must be evidence of mistreatment before the authorities can take action'.

He invited the media and members of animal welfare groups to follow him and AVA on their rounds to gather stray dogs.

The first day of the two-day Responsible Pet Ownership roadshow attracted between 1,500 and 2,000 visitors. It ends today.

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