Monday, September 18, 2006

Why SCRS 'failed'

My brain is fried because I've been trying to work out reimbursement claims and working on a paper.

Interestingly, one thing that has popped up a few times is why the Stray Cat Rehabilitation Scheme (SCRS) started by the AVA failed. Today, someone mentioned the cancellation in one of the comments to an earlier post. First things first, I don't think SCRS failed. I DO think that there are things that could have been corrected and refined about it to make it better, but it WAS a good programme in essence. In 2002, four years after the programme was started, the number of cats killed in Singapore, dropped for the first time in 20 years to 10000 from the usual 13000. In 2003, the programme was cancelled, and the number went up again.

So what happened to the SCRS and why it got cancelled? Besides the name which I have to say I never really liked - it conjured images for me of cats being sent to the gulag for hard labour! - the programme was sound.

The main reason it got cancelled was SARS. The programme had it's failings (and which progamme gets it right the first time) but it would have gone on if not for SARS. If SARS hadn't happened (and the hysterical responses subsequently), I honestly don't think SCRS would have been cancelled. It may have still run into problems, but I don't think it would have been scrapped outright. A case of a good idea but just plain bad timing I think.

Secondly, improper understanding of SCRS. Yes it emphasises sterilisation, but it also had management as a component, but that wasn't really clear. I just got off the phone a short while ago with a woman who said her town council officer told her that they could never get rid of sterilised cats in the estate because of the programme. What some officers thought was that once the cats were sterilised, that was the end of it. If other residents had problems, there was nothing they could do. They just had to keep bearing with complaints, while nothing was done and they kept getting heaped with abuse. Now I'm sure at least some of these officers used this as an excuse, but I know some genuinely frustrated officers said that they could not do anything about nuisance cases once the cat was sterilised. They didn't realise that there was a management component that allowed them to refer the complaints to the caregivers.

Some officers also felt they weren't consulted on the programme. It IS great to have official support for the programme (and I think that would be the single biggest thing that would help really). At the moment though, town councils and residents work out how they are working together - so hopefully town councils will feel more consulted too (though why they don't feel 'forced' to work with difficult complainants on the other hand, is beyond me).

At the same time, officers thought that people would be bringing cats in from other areas. To them, all 'cat lovers' want more cats - and there are more cats in the estate. Ergo, these 'cat lovers' are importing cats from other estates. I just saw this in a letter sent to the town council on Friday from a complainant asking that CWS stop being allowed to release cats all over the place!

Of course what they didn't realise is that while there are undoubtedly a small minority who do bring cats in, most of the cats that make up the increase are due to abandonment. And they didn't understand it was Trap-Neuter-RETURN-Manage.

Which leads to problem three - nothing was done about abandonment. So the cat population, while sterilised, kept growing. This meant that people were wondering why TNRM was not working. If the cats were sterilised, why did the population continue to grow?

Problem four was that some caregivers got complacent - since the cats were sterilised, they could not be caught, so a small group of them just sat back and didn't manage the population. Some stopped sterilising, and I know some told the officers that they could never remove the cats because they were sterilised - without any proper management.

Problem five - no proper statistics were kept. So few people knew if the programme was working. Were there more cats, were there less? Were there fewer complaints? No one really knew. So it was hard to prove the programme WAS working.

There are problems other reasons why the programme didn't work, but these are at least the main ones I think cause the programme to not be as successful as it could be. We'll need to keep this in mind when starting up programmes and try not to repeat our mistakes.

7 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

maybe it's possible to start up a similar government-type prog? with CWS spearheading?

18/9/06 6:50 PM  
Blogger Dawn said...

Anonymous we're in discussions about this - and that's the paper I'm working on too.

18/9/06 6:53 PM  
Anonymous anti-human said...

Dawn, one of the reasons you have correctly pointed out is abandonment. I've experienced myself and also heard from other estates that no matter how much the caregivers "cleaned up" (in this case, I mean sterilising)their areas, there are always new cats or kittens that keep apprearing in the estate. And most of these cats are tame, leading us to suspect that they are abandoned. Many caregivers are frustrated because no matter how much they "cleaned up", it is like a bottomless pit for them. And most of people who "abandoned" are Malay families who do not believe in sterilising. They probably keep 1 or 2 adult cats, unsterilised. And they usually do not confine their cats indoor. So, when their cats mate with other outside cats and gives birth, they throw out the kittens simply because the kittens are not their cats. This seems to be a perennial problem in some estates. Some caregivers have come to the point of giving up that whenever they see kittens, they send them to SPCA, an Auschwitz for the animals. That being said, I'm wondering....is it possible for CWS to work with MUIS to spread the message that it is not against the Islam religion to sterilise? I know that there is such a message by MUIS but somehow it did not get across very well. Maybe MUIS can create more awareness amongst its members?

19/9/06 8:55 AM  
Blogger Dawn said...

Hi Anti-Human, Yes unfortunately some Muslims have the mistaken impression that sterilisation is now allowed. We've just done up a Sterilisation brochure (as you may have seen) and it carries statements by MUIS and a Buddhist group to say Sterilisation is fine. The brochure comes in three languages.

19/9/06 10:19 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anti-human expressed a frustration shared by many other caregivers.
It is common knowledge that many Malays are brought up to love cats.
Malay caregivers have also expressed the same frustration with Malay families that keep unsterilized and then abandon newborn kittens or, perhaps "more mercifully" weaned off kittens.
If only there is a Malay cat welfare group that will reach out to the Malay communities and draw on Malay celebrities who are responsible in keeping pet cats as role models.
Why is there a lack of involvement of Malays in cat welfarism? Is there a general feeling of guilt in sterilizing cats?
I think we need to air this as it is a major obstacle in places where most of the cats are sterilized.
This is about concern for the welfare of the our community cats.

19/9/06 9:48 PM  
Blogger Dawn said...

Anonymous as you said yourself, there are very good Malay caregivers. It could just be that more Malays appear to be tolerant of cats or are more likely to be kind to cats, and that may make it seem that there are Malays who don't want to sterilise just in terms of the numbers, though the people not sterilising may be a minority. After all, it would be just as confusing to say for example, that it seems Chinese people like to kill cats because most complainants are Chinese.

It would be good of course to have role models who are Malay to speak up to correct the mistaken impression that Muslims cannot sterilise cats.

19/9/06 10:23 PM  
Blogger Mezzo said...

Gah. I feel lacking in my ethnic duties.

20/9/06 12:26 AM  

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