It is “a bit unfortunate” to make conclusions and call into question the professionalism of the veterinarian involved in the recent case of a dog named Loki being euthanised without having all the facts first, said Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam today (13 May).
In a Facebook post, Mr Shanmugam shared an email that was sent to him by a senior veterinarian who expressed “deep disquiet and concern” over how the professionalism of the vet in the matter was called into question by the public who didn’t even give them a “proper opportunity” to defend themselves.
In the email, the senior vet noted that the clinic has faced a “barrage of vitriolic attacks and criticism”, though the matter is still pending investigation by the Animal & Veterinary Service (AVS).
The vet went on, “As someone who has previously been the subject of online harassment by former clients, I have first hand experience of the fear and distress that the clinic’s staff, as well as the vet in question, is likely going through. “
The senior vet said that euthanizing an animal is “one of the hardest parts” of the job and one that is not taken lightly by those in the profession, adding “ It is hard enough having to deal with the emotions of ending a life, without also having to live in the constant fear of being ‘doxxed’ by individuals who seek to take matters into their own hands by engaging in cyber bullying.”
The email went on to urge the government to take the views of the Singapore Veterinary Association (SVA) into consideration regarding the recent debate about needing to adjust the country’s laws pertaining to euthanasia of animals.
Mr Shanmugam said in his post that he understands people are upset and want justice.
“No one likes to see a puppy, full of life, put down. But we have to get all the facts first, understand why the vet in this matter came to a view,” he stressed.
“Reputations can be damaged, and deep distress can be caused, as pointed out by the vet who wrote to me,” he elaborated.
Using an analogy, Mr Shanmugam said: Most of us don’t go out and hit people, when we are angry. The same applies, on the net. We can’t go and hit out at people, whenever we feel that some injustice has been done, we can’t just react and hit out, with our emotions, when other people are involved.”
He went on to say that he thinks those who were vocal about the incident may not have considered the effect their online comments might have on the targets, adding that if there has been any wrongdoing, there are avenues for justice.
“This particular matter is pending investigations by AVS, which should be allowed to do its job, without public pressure, one way or another.”
Unfortunately, netizens were not singing the same tune as Mr Shanmugam. Many pointed out that other past cases which were being investigated by AVS are still either ongoing or the results are not revealed, leaving people uncertain about whether any justice was meted out.
Past cases include the euthanising of seven-month-old puppy named Tammy seven years ago for its aggressive behaviour after biting a number of people, as well as the case of pet boarding service Platinum Dog Club last year which allegedly mistreating animals and even had a dog die under its care.
Several netizens also questioned the silence of the vet involved in Loki’s case, noting that if everything was done according to procedure and for the right reasons, there would be no reason for the vet not to defend themselves publicly.
Netizens also pointed out that the main question here is why a healthy dog, or in the Mr Shanmugam’s own wordss, “a puppy, full of lie”, was put down? They noted that neither the senior veterinarian’s email nor Mr Shanmugam’s remarks addressed this particular issue. .
Some said that the owners should be held responsible for the decision and be compelled to explain why they decided to put the dog down instead of rehome it or give it to an animal welfare group while others urged that the vet involved and the clinic should explain why they went through with the procedure at all.
A number of people disagreed with Mr Shanmugam statement that the public’s strong reaction should be tamped down to allow the relevant authorities to conduct investigations and pursue the available avenues for justice.
Geoff Ow argued that more can be done for animal rights in Singapore and asked, “Who is going to chase after justice for Loki if not the faceless public?”
Andrina Soh stressed that the reason so many people are making their voices heard now was because they do not want this case to be swept under the rug the same way previous cases have been.
One person, Bernard Lim, bluntly said that the police can address cyber bullying and that Mr Shanmugam’s “nagging” is neither here nor there. He suggested that the minister give the public avenues for redress and channels to vent their frustrations.
On that same note, Ricky Yeo pointed out that the real issue here and the real victim is the dog, not the vet.
Referring to the “cyber bullying” of the vet, others suggested that what has happened so far have not exactly fallen into the category of “online or social harassment” and people are simply stating how they feel.
They also said that the senior vet’s claim that insufficient opportunity was given to the involved vet to make a defence is inaccurate. Dawn Sta Maria said that the vet has had days to make a statement but hasn’t done so.
She also suggested that “doxxing” is something which is done with malicious intent, therefore it should not be viewed as the same as people expressing their sadness and anger over the incident.
Another netizen also expressed her puzzlement over the focus of the senior vet’s email on “doxxing” instead of ethical standards. Li Li Chua said, “If you are a professional and hold the life of another in your hands, you should be rightfully concerned about your practice and ethical aspects of your practice”.
What happened with Loki?
On 6 May, a member of Exclusively Mongrels (EM) post on Facebook the heart-breaking story of a dog that was euthanised by its owner to prevent the animal from biting their newborn baby after several biting incidents with other people including one of the owners. The incident sparked a public outcry on social media.
Exclusively Mongrels is a non-profit organisation that supports and promotes mongrel welfare in Singapore.
In his post, Mr Gan revealed that he has received news that a dog named Loki, who was rehomed two and half years ago, was put down by his owner. The owners, seemingly a Singaporean Permanent Resident couple from Copenhagen, Denmark, told EM that they were unsuccessful at rehoming Loki and so decided on euthanasia instead.
Mr Gan questioned the couple for not considering engaging a dog trainer to prepare Loki and themselves before the baby came into the picture. He even pointed out that Loki could have been returned back to the welfare group, adding that they would’ve done their best to find Loki a new home as it was the promise they presented when they rescued him.
The story blew up online and led to a public outcry as netizens called out the parties responsible for Loki’s death. Many painted the owners as “cold-blooded”, heartless”, and “shamlessly cruel”.
Other felt that the vet involved should also be held responsible for permitting this to happen and going through with euthanizing a health young dog. Still others questioned whether euthanasia is considered an essential procedure under the current circuit breaker measures.