Today's meeting with all the TCs was a disappointment unfortunately. Corbie, Marcus, Michelle and I were hoping that we could work with the TCs to come up with a policy that would work for all involved.
We went in and gave our proposal to explain that firstly, we agreed that we should all work towards a no stray policy - that we would be happy if each cat eventually had a loving home and there were no more cats on the streets but we didn't agree with the methods being used. We mentioned that the main problems TCs face are complaints - and that the vast majority of these complaints happen because of cats in flats being allowed to wander or cats being fed upstairs, not community cats. In addition, irresponsible people have no impetus to sterilise cats - if the cats breed, they just abandon them downstairs, increasing the population. As such, removing the cats doesn't solve the source of the problem. In addition, if caregivers are allowed to run TNRM programmes, that helps to control the breeding - and if abandonment is stopped, then eventually there will be no cats on the street. They also help to handle complaints for the TCs.
We emphasised that the HDB policy needs to change - right now, as an HDB resident, it makes sense to be irresponsible and let the cats wander because that way, you can't be caught for 'owning' a cat. What impetus is there for cat owners to be responsible and keep cats in especially if they can get into trouble for it?
We also pointed out that if HDB does tell owners they cannot keep cats, most then dump the cats, again adding to the population.
Dr Teo however felt that the TCs want to have a zero strays policy in the town council. He said that he felt that while TCs were not against cats or dogs, and that many of them were animal lovers, having a policy to the contrary would encourage people to dump animals all over. He said that he has seen people driving in and throwing animals in an estate.
Faced with a situation of 5745 complaints about cats every year, he felt that it was important to manage this situation. The TCs responsibility is to the residents and that they must look after the common property. We pointed out that these complaints work out to just over 400 complaints over 14 TCs a year - that means about one complaint a day. This doesn't count numerous complaints, or anonymous complaints. We also said that people were using it to complain about their neighbours for personal matters. We also pointed out that TCs need to stop taking anonymous complaints.
Dr Teo felt that the TCs jurisdiction only extended to TC common areas. He said that for example if a dog runs onto the road, that no longer is under TC's jurisdiction but becomes an Land Transport Authority issue. They also have no say over what happens in the flat.
He said the main thing to do is to management the population and tackle the source of the problem, which he felt was breeders and pet shops. He said this was outside TC's jurisdiction and was within the jurisdiction of the AVA.
We pointed out that we agreed that the pet shop trade should be curtailed and stopped, but that even if that was done, there remained the situation of people who already have cats in flats. We need to tackle that problem if we want to permanently solve the situation.
Dr Teo suggested microchipping the cats, and that the TCs could help to trap the cats and send them for sterilisation at the AVA and then to the welfare groups for them to house the cats. He felt the TC common areas were not homes - he said if they had homes, they would help but they don't. He suggested putting the cats into shelters or farms. He said it was important to get people to care for the cats, whether it be in private homes, factories or even schools.
We pointed out that shelters are not a solution, not only are they costly, but they are ineffective. Removing some cats just means there are many more out there breeding on the streets. With that same amount of money if the cats were sterilised and returned, much more could be done. More importantly, we felt that due to the vacuum effect, new cats would move into the area and breed.
Dr Teo admitted that he agreed with the science of the vacuum effect. However he said that the TCs would add human intervention to plug this problem by clearing all the strays. He emphasised that TCs wish to have a zero stray policy.
He also suggested that we look into public education and that it is important to look to the HDB. He said if the HDB did not allow fish or hamsters, they would not allow them in the estate either.
We pointed out that these cats live IN the estate - that they are community cats. Many of them have not seen the inside of a home for generations. While it is important to stop abandonment, these community cats are already home. Eventually with a good TNRM programme, and with abandonment stopped, there will come a day when there will not be cats on the streets, but not if the policies do not change.
Dr Teo suggested that we look into housing cats. He said he was against the different agencies passing the buck to one another - and we agree with that. I asked if there could be a way that we could all work together to handle this situation. He said that TC is prepared to do their part if we can get the different groups together.
He felt that CWS only had one way to handle the cats - and that was sterilisation and management and it only addressed one issue. He felt the issue of the source of the cats had to be looked into.
We asked if we could cite his solutions and he was agreeable. We asked if we could mention to HDB that he was supportive of the idea that if HDB changed their rules, it would help to house the cats (and help to stem abandonment). We also explained what our policy entailed (sterilisation of every cat, microchipping and that every cat be kept indoors at all times). Unfortunately he said he was not willing to say that. He said this was our agenda to pursue.
We brought up this study to show that residents generally were supportive of cats being sterilised and not being removed. However he said every TC was different. He asked one of the TCs how their programme with us was working.
We asked if he had any objections to TCs working with caregivers and he said that he did not. Every TC had the right to set their own policies.
He also said that responsible pet ownership was difficult to teach. He said that each generation might be different and that for example, even in more developed countries, some of the parks were full of dog defecation.