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Cat welfare volunteers urge more transparency and resources in fighting abuse

More collaboration, transparency and resources will be needed to fight against animal abuse cases such as the cat murders in Yishun, animal welfare volunteers said at a dialogue session on Saturday.

Volunteers who have been dealing with cat abuse and abandonment cases expressed frustration over the lack of enforcement of laws that criminalise animal abuse and abandonment. Without adequate policing and prosecution, they say, the harsh penalties for cruelty towards animals have little deterrent effect on abusers.

While the police tend to be the first responders when a carcass is found, the investigation into animal abuse is led by the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA). Yet volunteers say it is unclear whether the AVA has the resources and expertise to conduct such investigations, and that the police and AVA do not share resources such as forensic labs that could help to pin down perpetrators.

Volunteers also often felt discouraged by the lack of follow-up after submitting evidence to the authorities. Such a lack of communication makes it difficult to know if the evidence had been sufficient for action to be taken, or whether the authorities are truly interested in investigating the case.

Organised by the Cat Welfare Society, the dialogue session aimed to come up with concrete proposals and suggestions for the government. Representatives of the Ministry for National Development and AVA were present, as was Guest of Honour Louis Ng, an MP from Nee Soon GRC.

Ng last week announced a fast-response team made up of volunteers and cat feeders to help collect evidence – and hopefully prevent future attacks – on the abuser behind the cases of cat killings in Yishun. There have been 17 reported cases of cat abuse in the area since the end of September this year. Only one of those cats survived.

At the dialogue, Ng said that the police and AVA did not have enough resources to be able to patrol the Yishun area every night. He suggested that the Citizens on Patrol programme could perhaps be extended to allow residents to patrol the area at night to support efforts by the authorities.

People at the dialogue also suggested the creation of an animal police unit within either the police force or the AVA, to provide a dedicated team of trained individuals who will know how best to proceed in the event of animal abuse being reported. Trained personnel could also be present within the town council, as people sometimes make reports to the town council when animal carcasses are found.

Volunteers are already patrolling the neighbourhood, looking out for suspicious activity. They have been briefed not to confront anyone, but to collect evidence through photos or video if they see anyone hurting a cat, or approaching a cat with a weapon.

Janet Sum, the founder of the group Yishun 326 Tabby Cat, told The Online Citizen that more volunteers are needed at night to patrol the area. Those interested are invited to message the group through Facebook, indicating their availability. As most of the abuse cases appear to take place late at night, patrollers are needed from midnight to 4am.

The dialogue session was held in conjunction with the launch of their coffee table book, Society of Cats. The book is being sold for $25 to raise funds for the organisation, who spends tens of thousands each month to trap, sterilise and care for cats in Singapore.