Monday, May 28, 2007

Meeting today

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.

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30 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

bottomline question, what DOES he mean when he talks abt a no stray policy? is he talking abt culling as the means of choice for TCs?

28/5/07 2:12 PM  
Blogger calsifer said...

Disappointing to the hilt but not unexpected. Still so much tai chi to our effects as cat caregivers. He's not seeing the whole for what it is. Clear all the strays, ala SARS cull? Any idea when this auspicious event will take place?

So much for the small things that matter.

28/5/07 2:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Housing all the stray cats?? Is government going to foot the bill? Does he know what is he talking about?

28/5/07 2:47 PM  
Blogger Dawn said...

He mentioned it's up to the TCs to decide what they want to do. He is supportive of sterilisation but he wants the cats to then be rehomed. He mentioned pursuing a policy of aggression adoption in private homes, offices, factories and other areas. However there is no place large enough - and it won't work anyway.

28/5/07 4:04 PM  
Blogger iwooiblog said...

At times he made sense and at times he seemed to be (self) contradicting...

Words... Talks... Just Say Say... it is so easy right? Like he is supportive of sterilisation and then he will leave it to the TCs... Haiz, you are right... a bit of playing "super ping pong" here and there...

At this rate, not much will come out of the meeting... and let alone the part with HDB to agree on housing/homing cats. That part I think need a greater higher level of intervention, i.e. talking to a minister.

Thanks and cheers

28/5/07 4:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just ask him and the cabinet ministers who live in big houses whether they are willing to adopt.

28/5/07 4:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i think if we read between the lines, he is actually talking abt culling as the ultimate solution. in the meantime, he gives lip service to TNRM, micro-chipping, etc, because CWS is there and he know that's what u want to hear. the fact that he contradicts himself and proposes ideas that are blatantly unworkable speaks volumes. he has not thought thru a viable alternative. this together with his repeated statements that he wants to work tward a no-strays environment, to me, points to only one possibility. perhaps i'm being overly cynical and negative but that's how i read the post abt the meeting this morning.

28/5/07 4:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

and what type of aggressive adoption drive are we talking abt when 75% of the population is immediately disqualified because they live in HDB flats? and he's not even willing to go on record to say that he would like to see that changed. also, there is no such thg as a policy of aggressive adoption is there? ppl shld adopt only if they love cats and can commit themselves to a lifetime of caregiving.

don't get me wrong, i am 100% behind CWS and really salute its efforts in meeting with Dr Teo and for going thru its arguments (in what must be the umpteenth time) but I am just highly disappointed by what i see is a really lame response on his part.

28/5/07 4:52 PM  
Blogger Dawn said...

Anonymous you may be right - but I'm hoping that the TCs will themselves see the advantages of a TNRM programme themselves and decide to support it. If you had the option of getting more caregivers to help solve complaints, why not? That means LESS work for the TCs.

I am also glad that the TCs seem to have continued to work with caregivers though this no stray policy seems to have been mentioned a few months ago. This I hope means that they will continue to do so.

28/5/07 5:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What is this nonsense about a no stray estate? Have they considered what the residents want instead of what the TC officers want? Whose bright idea was it to assume that removing all strays will make everyone happier?

Depressing and stonewalled as usual...

28/5/07 6:59 PM  
Blogger VeganCatsg said...

At this point, we got to be grateful for very small positive things and that CWS was invited to speak to all is a small but good thing.
I guess we just have to persevere and hopefully as more people get involved ine TnRm, our "voice" will become louder.
Well done CWS and our deepest appreciation for all the hard work put into this presentation.

28/5/07 7:25 PM  
Anonymous yskat said...

Thanks Dawn and the others for meeting up with these people. It must be extremely frustrating to try to talk sense to some of the least progressive and most unimaginative members of the government. Like Vegancat says, we just have to keep pressing on and maybe one day, the light at the end of the tunnel will get brighter.

28/5/07 9:20 PM  
Blogger calsifer said...

Just an idea: if any blog reader who's also a cargiver in Dr Teo's ward, please do consider talking to him, and showing him the stats and results of your work, especially if you've not done so. If you have, maybe it's time for an update?

28/5/07 9:53 PM  
Blogger calsifer said...

PS slightly off topic, but if a global IT company, a Fortune 500 co no less, ie 'cold' business, sees fit to involve all of its employees at headquarters, including SECURITY personnel to the zero-economic-returns programme of letting a bunch of birds nest on premises and features the birds on the main page of its official business site, why can't an entire nation tolerate, rather than pursue a program of annihilation of living things that are part of the communities on the ground and have been so throughout history?

28/5/07 9:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Requiem for an un-named politician

Once said a mayor named T__ H_ P__
Kill all the cats and we’ll be copin’
The outrage that sparked was
Not what he was hopin’
Next election he was a mopin’

28/5/07 10:22 PM  
Anonymous yskat said...

Calsifer: I could be wrong but I suspect some of the people running US hi tech companies are quite progressive when it comes to animals and the environment. I recently read a book which talks about how a significant no of high tech tycoons are from the generation X cohort, and they grew up with certain ideas which they are now putting into practice. Just think how much money is now pouring into charities from the likes of Bill Gates. And since these entrepreneurs are considered "heroes", their deeds could encourage others to do the same. Unfortunately, Singapore businesses are not like that at all.

28/5/07 10:30 PM  
Anonymous Longsuffering caregiver said...

How many of these MPs truly know the "heart" of the heartlands? They live in private estates and see the residents represented by those complaining ones in Meet-the-People session. Walkabouts are all prepared. When I see the contract cleaners polishing the lifts and peeling all the advertising stickers off, I know some VIP comes a visiting the next day. They form impression of what the residents want from listening to town councils who listen most to loud aggressive complaining repetitious residents.
When meek mild caregivers asked to be heard, all they receive are slaps after slaps because they always fear that the cats will be to lose out if they lose their cool.

28/5/07 10:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't understand how the government can be so blind NOT to see how Singaporeans take no pride in their estates, no matter how recently upgraded they may be. The amount of filth and vandalism is just unbelievable yet the cats are being witchhunted!
I think this island will be a better home for all if we have a "LESS HUMAN" policy.
The amount of irritation one gets at the start of a the day on the bus, on the mrt, at foodcourts..are all caused by human!

28/5/07 10:42 PM  
Blogger Dawn said...

Calsifer- lovely story and great example, and yskat is right, in Google for example, there are dogs on the google campus (besides apparently amazing food!).

The lady I met from California who was here the other day mentioned a community cat at her workplace.

longsuffering caregiver is right - many caregivers are worried their cats will suffer but complainants in that sense have nothing to lose. therefore they are more vocal, and they are heard more often perhaps.

28/5/07 11:58 PM  
Blogger EJ. said...

Very interesting article,Calsifer.
Corporate involvement in animal welfare is a big help.
Keep on trying, Dawn and CWS.
Some communication is better than none.

29/5/07 6:50 AM  
Blogger calsifer said...

yskat, Dawn,
Exactly. Examples abound, aside from the internatioal big names. like the series of free click donation sites by hungersite.com, in support of various causes - the sites were set up by a couple of dot.com enterpreneurs as an ingenious form of charity: surfers click a button, and a corporate donation is performed, and surfers do no fork any money on their end. Quite impressive and innovative. Catchphrase: Out of the box, baby!

Passion and compassion aren't restricted to the bottomline-obssessed either. I remember the efforts of the mayor of Albuqurque you mentioned earlier this year, Dawn. And the city-level programmes. Further afield - the cats of Parliament Hill in Canada?

I guess over there, they had the benefit of stuff like a bit of hippy flower power residue surviving beyond the 60's there - I have no doubt the likes of Gates, and even the elderly Warren Buffet have had a sprinkling. Too bad that would be considered odious here and all we get here are sanitized straitlaced varieties.

Off topic: Dawn, I don't have a photo memory, and had to scan through your January archive to get those links. In doing so, I realised that your January 2007 archive is really a great snapshot of the trials and tribulations of your work and what caregivers endure, plus it's peppered with great counter-examples from the world over. I highly recommend anyone who's trying to talk sense to their MP or whatnots to politely but firmly request they read the January 2007 archive on your blog here.

29/5/07 8:48 AM  
Anonymous furry said...

If the TCs is so adamant about the "not cats" policy then I am going to give them my "no garbage" policy too. I am going to give my tc a earful by calling every day during every free time that I have.

29/5/07 9:12 AM  
Blogger Dawn said...

furry funnily enough I drove by a TC sign that said "Zero Litter 2011" yesterday. Though it seems that with the litter, they try and work towards that. I remarked to my friend that it seems that they be having a 'zero' campaign - but education on littering might be even harder than responsible pet ownership.

29/5/07 9:16 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Some people are not ashamed of littering and spitting in public... so why should we be afraid of been seen feeding/playing/talking with our community cats. The govt shld really deal with the garbage city before they come up with some new rubbish policy...

29/5/07 1:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I believe it is the general culture of the certain races that creates the problem. What I am going to say might be offensive but I feel better to face the truth than to keep quiet.

The Chinese are typically callous to animals, eating anything that can move, to them animals are just animals and those who regard animals as anything more are thought of by their peers are mad or losers.

The Malays dont plan for anything. Be it marriage which is always at a young age, the soccer team size of children, buying everything on installments. Hence when they keep cats, they just buy and buy cos it is so cute but dont want to sterlize. When they cant manage, they throw them into the streets.

So you have 2 major races that have major problems with pet attitudes. How do you think the authorities will react? They would rather take the easy way out which is to cull all strays than to do TRNM which is seen as encouraging strays. All the vaccum effect and etc put aside, the govt's thought is when I have cull every single stray in the streets, there is no more cats so no more vaccum effect. And if I ban cats in HDB, most Malays who stay in HDB wont be able to let their cats breed.

The ban on cats will stay for a long time to come.

29/5/07 1:49 PM  
Blogger Dawn said...

Anonymous I think that what you stated is a generalisation as you stated. It certainly isn't true of every person of Chinese and Malay ethnicity. I certainly have friends who are Malay who (1) married late and (2) don't have children or have one or two - not any different from any race and (3) are very responsible with their financial matters. And there are certainly Chinese people who love animals and who could be said to be guilty of many of the things you said about people who are Malay too.

The flaw in the argument you pointed out that the authorities always trot out is that it isn't effective. They 'ban' cats but they can't enforce it effectively - and many people DO keep cats, DO let the cats breed, and multiply. Why should they do otherwise? To keep a cat indoors and responsibly means I COULD lose my flat. So why should I sterilise it?

The attitude right now is basically someone saying for example that if we refuse to admit there is an issue that we won't have an issue. For example, if we refuse to admit that there are aedes mosquitoes spreading dengue, they'll all go away and no one will have dengue.

There IS a problem of abandonment. We have to tackle it squarely instead of running away from it and pretending it doesn't exist.

29/5/07 2:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Campaigns are on "posters" & zero on people's mind : people still litter and spit and drink-drive and breed mosquitoes and whatever.
It has near zero achievement if a monetary fine is not involved.

If you don't have that army of foreign cleaners, it will be zero-cleanliness.

Zero-littering - that day exists only if there is zero-population.

Politicans need to walk around their constituencies without their entourage (like a Chinese emperor who went incognito) to see what is really happening on ground zero.

29/5/07 9:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Take photos of the real state of your estate, including video clips of human beings spitting, nose-picking and then rubbing their nose-shit on walls and public seats, children discarding the tubular plastic containers after sucking the ice, sanitary pads thrown at back of HBD blocks and post them on free album sites and youtube. Then politely invite our PM, MP and TC officers to have a look at what is really sick about our people and we can't forever blame the cats!!

29/5/07 10:29 PM  
Blogger Dawn said...

I think Vegancat and Yskat did something like that with the photos - very eye-opening.

Anonymous - you're right. I heard one of the caregivers tell me that when their MP came by they were told to bring the cats in by their TC officer. I just heard another similar story the other day. To get a true view of the estate, MPs need to just turn up unannounced.

30/5/07 3:23 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

No place for compromise here in Singapore. I have grown to despise this country. I am going back to my own country where they are more humane.

14/9/09 2:22 AM  

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