Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Dog Attack Update

Someone just posted on my blog about how they know the person whose dog had killed the cat a few months ago near the vet clinic. Coincidentally I was just speaking to someone in the area about the situation today. The person who posted said the owner felt bad, but that I should not believe what I read in the papers as there was nothing more that could be done.

However, the news I got was not from the papers. I spoke to the people who (1) saw the cat being killed and (2) who were there when it was brought into the clinic. The cat according to at least two people, was still very much alive. The witness yelled at the man to stop but he walked away.

The friend or acquaintance of the dog owner claimed the dog was punished, but why punish the dog? This person asked why the cats not be removed so it does not taunt the dog. These are community cats - where should they be removed to? Should we also remove the market so the dog doesn't get tempted by the smell of food?

The dog however is behaving instinctively - it should not be punished. The owner however should have known better and should not let the dog wander PERIOD. There are dog runs if you want to let your dog run free, and even then a doberman has to be muzzled.

Plus, I'm not sure this is the first and last time it has happened.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi! Where can I read the complete story? Thanks

10/1/06 8:13 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

what about cats that kill and mutilate birds? who is responsible for that? who gets to be the subject of the witch hunt? your society?

10/1/06 9:25 AM  
Anonymous nonymouse said...

subject of a witch hunt? calm down, anon! no one is hunting nobody. if some guy deliberately let or encouraged his dog attack a defenseless cat, surely some sanctions are called for?

that said, yes, it is always troubling to figure out if domesticated animals and birds of any kind have any place at all in an urban, especially apartment lifestyle. Even domesticated animals belong more fully in a rural/farm lifestyle where they could possibly be part of the natural ecoology. In urban homes, the only "function" they serve seems to be to provide unconditional, 365/24, "completely dependent for food and love" sort of companionship to human beings.

Even what the CWS does, neutering our furry friends, even if for the greater good of having fewer animals put down, is a human intervention which is troubling. What if some rich nation forcibly sterilized some poor people so that they did not mistakenly have many more kids than was economically viable for them?

None of this is any attack on the CWS or pet lovers - it is just that the issue you raise - pet cats killing birds (or even rats for that matter) - just hides the more basic question of whether a civil society should at all be allowing people to "enslave" animals for their own personal emotional security. Yes, that is a rather extreme way of putting it, but extreme ways sometimes bring a discussion sharper focus. Not sure if that will happen here :D

Many of the other issues, veggie infested cat food leading perhaps to renal problems, are all connected to this basic issue - that pet dogs and cats are living a lifestyle that was not meant for them - and may not have got a chance to evolve nicely into this environment. Tough enough for us humans to adjust to this rapidly changing environment. For example, for strangers to be talking to each other by typing at each other across the oceans - yes, there are many benefits of that, but is something changing imperceptibly in the natural order of things and will this have longer term consequences for how people interact with each other offline? Some day, someone will figure out a way for dogs and cats to also interact with other dogs and cats online - someone probably is already doing it.

10/1/06 10:17 AM  
Anonymous imp said...

it's about taking responsibility and accepting responsibilities. if we are pet-owners, we are automatically responsible, to a very large extent, of what our pets do.

for large dogs, it should be muzzled. my husky's the friendliest thing in the whole of doggie-dom. that's MY idea. but my dog is overenthusiastic and to a child, it's a monster.

so how? MUZZLE medium/big dogs when one is out. as far as i can, i 'pre-empt'. my dog has chased cats and got scratched. i told him he deserved it.

10/1/06 11:27 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nonymouse, I agree with your points. Its just that from the posts, it looks like there is a witch hunt aginst the dog owner. I am sure he did not deliberately set his dog on the cat, and it was the animal's instincts which took over when the cat wandered into the field. But then again, this is a cat loving place, so there is no benefit of the doubt given. Thats perfectly understandable.

But you do raise up many interesting and valid points. CWS does a commendable job in trying to protect the lives of community cats. But at the end of the day, those cats are also just strays which do cause a public and hygiene nuisance, as well as pose a danger to local birds and children. So, there are two sides to this.

10/1/06 11:35 AM  
Anonymous nonymouse said...

heh! thanks, anon. But I hope this doesn't become a "war of the cats and dogs" - the point of the outrage at that attack incident i guess is more about being a responsible pet-owner or "domesticated animal care-giver" in the language of this politically correct environment.

and i wasn't saying that community cats are also a nuisance, just that many of these phenomena (like why there are stray cats and dogs in the first place?) are triggered by the presence of domesticated animals in urban environments in the first place, even as pets - and it is worthwhile thinking about whether a civil society should allow that at all, or have some minimal laws about who is allowed to have them. Another example: urban zoos and circuses seem great ways to expose little kids to wildlife until you realize that what is happening to the animals is really against the natural order of things - and it can then seem cruel punishment to these poor animals to be "used" just to provide urban human beings with entertainment. Take that one step further and ask why people need to have pets in urban settings - and the same truth perhaps has something to say here too - that pets are there to provide some sort of companionship - an emotional source of comfort. Many of the stereotypes of single people with large pet "collections" have some basis in fact i would imagine. Today's world is very mechanical, very techie, very alienating - and it is easy to live life functionally without any human companionship or interaction - but i think human beings don't easily just give up that basic need for emotional companionship - and domesticated cats, dogs, hamsters, fish, birds, et al. can become a source of that sort of comfort - and while it is better for these animals to have some home and food and warmth rather than fend for themselves in the street, it is not clear that in the greater scheme of things, if that is what is best for them - to transform into a different kind of animal than they were meant to be - eating microwaved processed foods and so on. Humans at least have a choice in how they want to live their lives - should these animals also be given a choice.

In a farm environment, these domesticated animals are a bit freer to move around, to kill for their own food, risk being killed themselves, etc. and they are not there to purely provide companionship - but are a bit more natural part of the ecology. In a high rise though? Tougher to see them fitting into that order of things. And i guess the original source of community cats and dogs is irresponsible pet owners dumping their charges or the issues of their charges loose into the community.

10/1/06 12:14 PM  
Blogger Dawn said...

Anonymous, why a witch hunt? We're trying to find a person who was irresponsible and let a dog that was potentially a danger off that killed a cat. It is NOT the dog's fault.

Why is this considered a witch hunt that we want to find someone who was irresponsible? Since you bring up children, what if the dog had attacked a child and he had run off? should we then remove all children so the dog wouldn't be taunted? How do cats pose more of a problem than a large unmuzzled dog to kids? Again, this is NOT the dog's fault.

Nonymous - it is of course ideal to think that animals be allowed to live 'naturally', but as you pointed out, what is natural anymore? I think that with animals, since they cannot consent,the concept that should be applied is the greater good of the animal - same as with a child which is unable to consent. The greater good here is that we prevent cats from being killed unnecessarily because of overpopulation.

Also, it has been found that humans are far more 'dangerous' to birds than cats ever will be due to deforestation. Look at Singapore, we have cut down so much of our natual rainforests many of our local flora and fauna is gone. Budak will be better able to tell us more.

Nonymouse, countries have already done what you mentioned - sterilisation of the population. I'm certainly not condoining it, just to say that it has happened. The issue of animals versus human sterilisation are a completely different kettle of fish though due to issues of consent.

10/1/06 12:17 PM  
Blogger Dawn said...

Anonymous one other point - if it was an accident, why didn't the owner help the cat? If the dog had attacked the cat by accident, and the man had rushed the cat to the clinic,no one would have said anything. However, I understand from the person who saw the attack that he yelled at the man to stop. The owner of the dog quickly walked off instead of stopping. It took enough time for the witness to run in, fetch the vet clinic assistants, who ran to the field and carried the cat back for the cat to die agonisingly. The clinic assistants were themselves shaken because the cat was in so much pain.

Accidents DO happen - not owning up to the responsibility of the accident is the question here. Also, there have been doubts raised about whether this was indeed the first attack.

10/1/06 12:23 PM  
Blogger Dawn said...

Nonymouse, you raise interesting points, but how are animals to choose? For example, I am quite sure that based on instinct - most animals (human or otherwise) would choose life instead of death. It's instinct. If we go with the consent argument, then animals should be allowed to procreate, or run in and out of homes, and do whatever they like. However, this will undoubtedly result in intervention as we humans then kill the cats.

Animals cannot consent. It's the same as with any human child. If we ask the child, if they want to go to school or if they want to go to the doctor when they're ill,and they refuse, then should we agree because it's against their will? the rule of the best interest of the child should apply from an objective standard.

Same here - it is in the best interests of the cats to be sterilised and not to die.

10/1/06 12:30 PM  
Anonymous mrs budak said...

Dogs must be leashed in public. Prima facie, the owner has already broken the law.

10/1/06 12:36 PM  
Anonymous nonymouse said...

dawn, you make a good point about choice and whether animals should be allowed to do as they choose.

the comparison to kids though (and you could extend that to seniors too! - some senior citizens also sometimes need to have their choices taken away from them, as they could harm themselves otherwise :D), i'm not so sure about. kids will eventually get choices to make, while animals never will. some kids do grow up and live horrible lifestyles by choice (much worse than not seeing the doctor) and face the consequeneces. and if animals did get a choice, it might be to live life in the wild having their own kids as often as they wanted to have :D

but in any case, all i was wondering out loudly about (just as a wild brainstorming thought, not as anything that would be feasible ever) was 1. whether humans should be allowed to have pets at all in an urban environment, and whether we should not slowly start transferring animals back to the wild where they would have a choice in what they did and how they lived their lives 2. if we did allow pets, whether there should be some laws on who should be allowed to have them to make sure they are responsible owners and are able to provide some minimal level of "animal comfort" for their furry companions - if we have a licensing system for car ownership and use, and for adopting children, perhaps some sort of regulation of pet ownership and transfers should also be in place. At the very least, some law on microchipping so we know which animal came from which "home" and which human was responsible for that animal.

10/1/06 1:00 PM  
Blogger Dawn said...

Nonymous as a quick thought - cats were domesticated thousands of years ago, since the days of the Egyptians. What wild will they return to?

Also if we humans keep cutting everything down and building urban environments, where should they go?

One more thing - it is not just children. There are some people who have to decisions made for them all their lives. People with diminished mental capacity for example. The children you mentioned who grow up and have miserable lives - they have a choice because they are old enough to make an informed decision and it's not up to us to tell them what to do. Cats will never able to do the same.

10/1/06 1:13 PM  
Anonymous yskat said...

I admit to influence of the writings of Georges Bataille, Michel Foucault and Denis Hollier, and I think that the idea that animals are more "natural" than human beings (and hence, according to some people, should be released back to nature) is a problematic one; it is rooted in the kind of black vs white dualisms that underlie and limit they way we think: sacred/profane, nature/nurture, etc. Companion animals can contribute to the breakdown of the boundaries of "humanity" (which is just a travesty) by letting us learn that human beings are capable of inter-species affection, and that we are really much more similar to animals than we think: we eat, we sleep, we breath, we excrete - these are essential life sustaining processes - thinking sophisticated thoughts get us nowhere.

It is absolutely not true that cats and dogs in rural area lead a more "natural" life (whatever that means). It is just an urban romantic construct of country living that makes us think so. I remember that many cats in 1970s kampungs led miserable lives.

10/1/06 1:36 PM  
Anonymous nonymouse said...

... but, D, the egyptians did not live in highrises in polluted environments. imagine a single person in a polluted high rise neighborhood of Hong Kong who imports pure pred australian dogs for companionship - is that fair to the dog? I've seen that happen. I've also seen people who know they have a temporary assignment in some country where they know they can get domestic help to take care of their pet, get a little pup so that their daughter can enjoy her dream of having a pup playmate and also not have the hassle of caring for it. And then they send the pup back to the pup farm when they leave. And worse, on further visits to that country, the dog is pulled out for a week or two so that the daughter can continue to enjoy herself. shouldn't there be a law against that?

i think in a farm or rural environment, animals of all stripes do have a more natural role. i have seen many rural families where the animals are a very integral part of life and there is mutual co-existence of animals and humans functionally as well as emotionally.

and in any case, the egyptians and other ancestors may have done a lot of cruel and unusual things. We can also continue burning fossil fuels with our big cars as we were not the ones to invent cars, we can continue to enslave poor people from around the world (and some would argue that is what MNCs or employers of domestic help do) because we can afford to, and do lots of other great things that our near and far ancestors did because it is too cumbersome to think about changing things or near impossible to reverse the damage.

But is it worth while at all thinking some time from scratch about why something that made sense in a particular place and time (12, Cleopatra Road, Cairo in 200BC) may not particularly make sense in a different place and time (#35-11, 41, Lorong 6, Toa Payoh, Singapore in 2006)? Or that some unfair things were done a long while ago and it is time to set things right.

Banning pets is a bit extreme. But some regulation to control people who should really not have pets at all might be doable - Government should not always be the solution to all these societal ills (like the ill-treatment of animals), but i don't see how else you can ensure that we don't have more irresponsible pet owners.

10/1/06 1:39 PM  
Anonymous nonymouse said...

ysk: it is not a case of whether animals are more natural than we are not, just that we have a choice of where and how we want to live, and animals don't. Lots of poor human beings also don't have the choices that richer people do, at least not in their own countries - and many of them slave away (from the eighteen hours a day workaholics in the silicon valley software cubicle dungeons sipping starbucks coffee and eating pizza hut pizza to the simpler leaving women from S E Asia sleeping on the floor after a night's meal of congee in many rich people's asian homes) - but at least these people are choosing to give up something (their families, their identities, their emotions, their pride) for something material of their own accord (more or less). If you really think animals are so similar to humans, should they not also get a choice of what they want to do with their lives - have as many kids as they want, even if they know that many of their kids would not survive.

Have not read all the intellectuals that inspired your thinking, but do share what they have to say about any of this. Like i said before, I'm partly making an extreme argument for the heck of it because it can provide sharper focus to an issue being debated - so would love to know what greater minds have said about all of this.

And yes, of course, just being in a rural environment is no guarantee of happiness and there may be many happy/contented animals in urban settings and many unhappy rural animals eager to do an MBA and move to the city :D But am not sure what the point is of pointing out that ill-treatment of less powerful beings by more powerful beings is common everywhere. Ideally, perhaps there should be no domestication at all of any animals, rural or urban. If you want to eat meat, you should be forced to go to the jungle, and go kill your own animal at the risk of losing your own life in the process. Yah! :D

10/1/06 1:51 PM  
Blogger Dawn said...

Nonymous, I know you're basically playing devil's advocate, but you are basically agreeing with what I said - cats have been domesticated. If we follow your argument to its natural conclusion, then human in their 'natural form' should be living in the forest, hunting animals and killing other people who displease them. Humans have evolved - so have cats and there is no 'natural' environment for them to go back to.

This is not about importing pets but that animals cannot chose because they have no ability to consent, which was your original argument. Humans do make decisions in their best interests, just as courts do for wards who cannot do the same. Your comparison with people who are poorer thus cannot stand - people, however poor, do have the ability to consent. Animals do not.

I also agree with yskat that we tend to romantise the 'natural' life. Doris Lessing wrote a very interesting book about 'natural' animal control on a farm in her childhood. They drowned all the cats.

10/1/06 7:51 PM  
Anonymous nonymouse said...

dawn - yes, it might be impossible to go back to un-domesticating and re-wilding cats (or dogs, or hamsters or goldfish). but there might still be room for some regulation of pet ownership.

and yes, some people would really argue that humans were not meant for this kind of techie, mechanical lifestyle - but my only point was that for humans, this is a choice you make. the amish in Pennsylvania live a simple farm life, lots of executives give up their high paying jobs and do social work in rural areas in the third world. so if someone does not want to live a life that he/she thinks he/she is not suited for, well, then, he/she can choose to quit and live a different life. the tragedy to me is that even in a prosperous country like singapore, lots of talented people "slave" away in meaningless jobs that they hate, but feel compelled to continue in, to pay for things that they were "forced" by their peers to buy - a condo, a car, a fancy vacation, branded clothes, the latest gadgets, etc.

but i digress :D - Dogs and cats don't have that choice. a poor dog used to a very cold climate in a rural part of europe may be forced to live in a very different environment - a hot, urban, polluted, highrise, claustrophobic asian urban lifestyle. sometimes, an expensive dog is just another status symbol to have - five c's and a d, or six c's (there must be some really expensive designer cats too, yes?)

given that, perhaps there should be some minimal vetting of suitability of pet and "pet-owner/domesticated animal caregiver/animal slaveowner" (choose your title based on your political stance on animal rights) - the two examples i gave of a single person importing a big dog from a different country so s/he could have some emotional comfort, and the family that "rented" a dog to cheaply satisfy their daughter's desires, to me, seem exploitative of a defenseless animal.

that is all i think is feasible - we cannot re-wild the animals but we can try to make sure that humans who cannot adjust to other humans don't try to use animals as a substitute; or if they do, they do with adopted community animals (for whom this home environment perhaps might be healthier than the street environment) and not imported pet farm animals.

and i reiterate that none of what i said should be construed as any kind of attack on the CWS or pet owners or anything like that - i am a big fan of the CWS :) and most (but not all) of my pet owning friends and acquaintances are more humane and better human beings than most of my non-pet-owning friends and acquaintances.

Peace to all and joy to the earth!

11/1/06 1:49 PM  
Blogger Dawn said...

Nonymouse, thanks for your thoughts but this has gone rather off-topic. We have never promoted importing animals so I think that this really isn't very relevant here at all.

By the way, I've been to Pennsylvania and even some of the Amish have modernised to quite a large extent. It may well be that we're again romanticising what is an 'ideal' farm life.

11/1/06 2:29 PM  

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