Happy Vesak Day
Happy Vesak Day to all our Buddhist friends and for the rest of us, as we enjoy a day off, let's remember the idea of compassion and tolerance that Vesak Day embodies - and hope it'll extend to the cats too!
Happy Vesak Day to all our Buddhist friends and for the rest of us, as we enjoy a day off, let's remember the idea of compassion and tolerance that Vesak Day embodies - and hope it'll extend to the cats too!
I just received a complaint that made me wonder if I ought to laugh or cry. The complainant claimed several things, including the fact that the cats were scaring residents with their sudden lunges from quiet corners. In addition, furballs were seen rolling/flying around the common areas - must be a huge cat to generate that much fur. I somehow have this image I cannot erase in my mind of a dusty Western town with tumbleweed blowing across the screen as the cowboy squints across the dust, and sees - a CAT! The cat lies in wait, waiting to lunge at him as giant furballs fly across the screen.
The complaint was sent in by Dr Teo who wanted to know if we could help. I wrote back to say that we'd be happy to look into it (and jokes aside, I would have been happy to go down and take a look), but that I didn't see how we could help with a no-stray policy.
He just replied to say that he would like us to arrange for adoption by cat lovers into their homes in private estates. I just replied to say that I was sorry all the people we knew in private estates were already full and that if he knew of anyone to please let us know as we were always on the lookout for people who want to adopt cats. I also said that we had an adoption board that we encouraged him to look at to see the large number of cats up for adoption and for which we were already looking for homes for.
During the meeting on Monday, he suggested that CWS should have a hotline which town councils can call every time they have a complaint so that the cats can be turned over to us. He said that the TCs might be able to support this by rounding up the cats, sending them to the AVA for sterilisation and then sending them to us to be rehomed or removed.
He had suggested then as well that they could go into private homes. We pointed out that the fact that the vast majority of Singaporeans live in HDB flats meant that there simply cannot be enough homes in the 15% of the population who happen to live in non-HDB estates. That's why we asked during the meeting if he would consider supporting our proposal to the HDB as well in terms of allowing cats to be rehomed into HDB flats for his policy of aggressive adoption, but unfortunately he was not prepared to do so.
I've been thinking about the number of complaints that Dr Teo mentioned on Monday. Now 5745 complaints sounds like a large number at first glance, but as I mentioned there are a few things we don't know about this. How many complaints were repeat complaints? How many were due to people having an issue about their neighbours? And how many complaints are there about other issues - clothes dripping, litter, etc.
It occured to me that it works out to just over one complaint a day to each town council and that really isn't a huge number. However TCs are only getting one side of the picture - what about the people who WANT the cats to stay?
Right now the TCs get a very lopsided view of the picture - people call up and complain about the cats and the cats are removed. How many people though call up when the cats are removed and mention that they're upset and complain they didn't want the cats removed? I certainly get quite a few of those calls, but I wonder if it's reflected to the TC.
As a matter of fact, how many people call up and just say that they appreciate the cats being there and would like it reflected that they don't want the cats removed? That will also give TCs something to say to complainants who want the cats to be taken away because there are an equal (or greater) number of people who DO want the cats there. It'd be nice for the TCs to get positive feedback for allowing the cats to remain where they are sterilised and managed I would think instead of all the complaints they get. Do ask for it to be logged though if you're calling in - in case it's not counted into the 'complaints' that TCs tally every year.
What do you see when you look at this photo? A photo of a fairly typical HDB corridor? Or do you see "Obstruction of the Common Property"? It can be argued that it's the latter and that owners are not supposed to leave things out in the corridors.
I bring this up because the adoption volunteer and I were speaking just now about why it is that only certain things seem to be enforced. Say I complain about a cat downstairs, the cat is likely to be removed - but what if I complain about the complainant with plants in the corridor?
We brought this up at the meeting on Monday - that some complaints are based on personal vendettas and that's why anonymous complaints should not be entertained. If there is a nuisance it should be dealt with, but not if it's a frivolous complaint or a complaint by one neighbour to get another neighbour into trouble.
The adoption volunteer was saying that it wasn't fair to enforce action against one complaint and not against another. She said why the TCs will ask for removal of community cats, but not enforce against these other people who are breaking the 'rules'. That includes (in some of the TC bylaws I've seen) not removing soil from common property, no throwing of objects from the building, no use of the common property as a living or dining area.
Now this is not to say that I am in any way against plants in corridors (though in some areas I do think that when people start moving out what looks like half the contents of their flat,that it can be an obstruction). I think that in fact they give the area a nice feel - and remind me a little bit of a kampung environment in what is essentially a big concrete block. People like greenery and nature - and they will try and create little pockets of it where they live, which I think speaks of the resilience of people to adapt and to create a nice living environment.
What's interesting though is that some of these people who have plants turn around and complain to their town councils about cats defecating in what is arguably something they're not allowed to even have (ie the plants in the corridor). And the TC takes their side and has the cat removed. While I agree that cats should not be defecating in the neighbours' pots, it doesn't make sense to me that action against the cat is taken, but that something actually in the TC bylaws isn't enforced - ie telling the owner to remove the plants.
Does it mean that action is only taken when there is a complaint? And is that really the sort of community we want to become?
I just called the town council officer back to clarify some details with him. I wanted to know what the specific complaint or if he was just asking for future reference.
He complained he had a problem for the last nine months. He said that the woman had been complaining of urination and defecation outside her unit and the woman complained that it might be a hygiene issue, so he wants to give her my number. He wanted to know what the suggestion was. He said they normally just trap all the cats and solve the problem that way because new cats won't move in.
I tried to explain the vacuum effect and that it's important to find out which unit it is that has a cat because this is likely to be a home cat if the woman lived on a higher floor. He promptly pointed out that if they found the unit they would call the HDB.
I said that the owner would likely dump the cat and he said that they would then impound it. I asked how this was stopping the owner from then picking up another cat, which he had no response to.
I then asked which floor this woman lived on. He said he wasn't sure but it might be the ninth floor and he had to find out. I'm surprised that after dealing with this complaint for nine months, he doesn't know this piece of information.
He then brought up a case that he said he referred to me last year. In that case, the complainant claimed there were X number of cats in the block. The feeder there claimed it was much less. So I wrote to him and asked him how many cats the TC officer himself had seen. He never responded.
He then said that we had not 'solved' that problem. I pointed out he had not replied to my email asking for more information. I gave him the date and time of my last email and said we never got a reply to that. He still didn't seem to be able to say how many cats there were - though now he says he thinks it is more than what the complainant saw. He then said not to bring up old issues. I pointed out that HE was the one who had brought it up.
I told him that if he didn't give us the precise details then he could expect to just tell me in three months that the complaint was still on-going. He said he would go and have a look.
Is it any wonder there are so many cat complaints if there is persistent defecation and it seems as if the TC officer doesn't even know which floor this is happening on? Of course the complainant will keep complaining - and the problem isn't solved if they remove the wrong cats downstairs - at which point they'll just remove some more.
It surprises me that some officers seem to think that just the ability to say that they 'did' something will please the complainant. The complainant doesn't care - the complainant just wants their problem solved.
I'm surprised how many people call up, check if they have the right number and then launch into their story, without identifying themselves. These are people who have never spoken with me before and not people who might assume I recognise their number or their voice.
When I ask them what their names are, some of them sound reluctant to give me a name, others just sound surprised. Do people not identify themselves when calling a stranger anymore?
I just had an officer from one of the TCs call up and check if it was the right number because he wanted to give it to complainants, but who also did not give his name till I asked for it.
Here's a letter in Today's Online Straits Times about the whole Zero Stray policy :-
Let's hope town councils do not start a 'holocaust of cats'.
I just got back a while ago from the post office.
I spoke to a caregiver this afternoon and she was wondering whether it'd be able to get her TC to agree to the TNRM programme and working with caregivers in writing. I told her what had happened at the meeting yesterday. While I completely understand why caregivers would like the programme to be more formalised, I do worry that it's going to be very hard to get that assurance if the town councils are pursuing an official 'no stray' stance that their Chairman has set out. The TCs may feel they cannot go against what is official 'policy, while deciding to continue to work with caregivers unofficially. It makes things very tentative for the caregivers since they have no formal agreement, but at the same time, it may be difficult for the TC to come out and endorse the programme officially too. The caregiver also agreed that she could see this might be difficult in view of the meeting.
It's also very sad - here are residents willing to help out and TCs willing to work with the residents. This should be a prime example of the sort of co-operation and active citizenry that we have been trying to achieve. Instead there seems to be a sort of clandestine nature to the co-operation when it should be acknowledged and even held up as an example of citizens working hand in hand with their TCs.
Just booking a room for our next public TNRM workshop to be held on June 16th. We hope that you can attend. We've been told that the room is available at the National Library Board's Imagination Room (where the last workshop was held). I'll give details once it's definitely confirmed.
Bright Hill temple is having a fair from tomorrow evening till Thursday at 7 pm.
They've kindly offered to help sell merchandise for us since it's essentially an overnight exhibition, and we'll also have brochures available at the stall there.
Here are some details for the
Act Now to Save The Earth
Here's a little map as well from the website.
There are two similarly named exhibitions so be sure you go to the right one if you're heading down.
I was speaking to committee member Liang Tong the other day before the meeting yesterday and we were discussing matters such as feeding cats upstairs. We were discussing how this seemed to be a pretty uniquely Singaporean complaint though perhaps it did happen overseas, and we didn't know about it, but then it occurred to me that it didn't even happen as far as we knew, in condominiums here. Now granted, some of the condominiums have very fancy security and the cats would not be able to get up, but in others, it is possible for the cats to get upstairs if they wanted to. So why is it that people in condos don't feed cats upstairs? These are condos obviously where there are feeders, but if they want to feed, they tend to do so downstairs.
Liang Tong came up with a very interesting theory - that some people living in HDB estates tend not to think of the corridor and public areas as really being 'theirs'. As such, these people have no qualms about bringing cats upstairs or littering for that matter. During the occasions I've visited, condos seem to have less litter in the void decks as well which could very well validate Liang Tong's theory. I don't think they necessarily have more cleaners - I tend to see more cleaners in HDB estates. And of course some condos are quite massive projects with thousands of people living in them as well so it doesn't necessarily mean that there are fewer people living in them. Condo residents - perhaps you can share your views on whether this is true.
If this is the case, perhaps it reflects the attitude some people take to their environment -that it really isn't their home. Their own units are their homes, but not the void deck, or the public areas - and that's sad, because without a sense of ownership, littering for example will never stop. Right now it seems as if the problem is being tackled by sending in more cleaners - but not stopping people from littering. It's kind of like the community cat problem - the cats are being trapped and killed, but nothing is being done to prevent abandonment.
Granted it IS difficult - how does one make people feel like this is indeed home? Maybe by letting them take a more active role in their estates - and community cat caregivers are really at the forefront of that. Pandering to complainants for example who don't like cats by removing them doesn't make them more community minded - it makes them less so. If they were actively involved in working towards a solution with caregivers, it would not only improve neighbourly relations but give them ownership of their own estates. It might also make them realise that trapping and killing is not a solution - right now, it's done so 'efficiently' by the TCs that many complainants don't even realise the cats were removed and killed so when new cats move in because of the vacuum effect, they don't even realise something was done, nor in most cases is their problem solved. And most people I still believe, do not want cats killed - they just want the problem solved. So getting neighbours to work with other neighbours is the best way to promote neighbourliness as well as to create a true community.
Some of you may remember that we wrote to the AVA to query their policy change last month. After our last email earlier this month was not responded to, we wrote to the AVA again last week asking if they had perhaps not received out email. They responded that they had and thanked us for our comments but did not explain why the policy had changed.
We just wrote to Minister of State Grace Fu and she wrote back very promptly (within half an hour) to say she would be looking into it. We're very glad to hear it.
Here's the front of the pillar - and a fact that we brought up at the meeting today, that every year 13000 cats are put to death in Singapore. This has been happening for more than 20 years so that works out to more than a quarter of a MILLION cats.
Labels: Harmony Pillar
Just came back from an adoption with Corbie and the adoption volunteer. The woman (who lives in private property) was surprised that the HDB does not allow cats in flats.
One positive thing came out of the meeting today. Dr Teo asked if any of the TCs had any comments - none of them did. However he asked one of the TCs about their programme which he termed a pilot project. He asked the GM what he thought about the programme.
The GM said that they had been undertaking this for a while and while there was no appreciable difference in the number of cats he believed that this could be attributed at least in part to the fact that they had not been trapping any cats in the estate at all during this period of time, whether sterilised or unsterilised. He also said that as for complaints, there were successes and failures, but that the TC was likely to continue working with caregivers.
Dr Teo said that perhaps more information was needed from this pilot project. We pointed out that a pilot had been done as was mentioned in the Bukit Merah study. Dr Teo felt however each estate would react differently especially with people moving.
We also wanted to clarify with him that the TCs were all on some level or other working with caregivers - all unofficially. There is no need for a pilot then as TNRM programmes have been going on in estates, some of which have been going on for years.
We are grateful that the TC GM spoke up about the caregivers and continuing with the programme.
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.
Rebecca mentioned the Harmony Pillar frame was drooping a little when she went by yesterday and asked me if I could drop by so I went down to Ngee Ann City (where the exhibition is, starting tomorrow) to touch it up. It turned out that the nice volunteers organising it had already done a bit of touching up and all I had to do with fill up the pillar with more brochures.
If you're in the area and looking for the pillar, it's away from the entrance of Ngee Ann City and facing the main road.
I also purchased some folders at Kinokuniya with part of the voucher that E_Cat and the rest of the caregivers in his area kindly gave me last week for the TNRM workshop. It will come in handy for meeting with the TCs and with Dr Teo on Monday.
CK also sent over a much nicer flowchart than mine!
Thanks E_Cat & CK!
Labels: Harmony Pillar
Had a bit of a busy day rushing around. Dropped off the photocopying to get all the information ready before Monday. I also dropped in to see Kitten on a String.
He looked quite happy and healthy - no evidence of a third eye lid when I was there. It seems that the old man have been in court again when auntie P dropped by. He said that the case had been settled - he is convinced now that the person was not trying to steal his cat but was instead trying to help the cat so he is satisfied he says.
I spoke with him about sterilising the cat too. He says he is still trying to leave Singapore by June but said there were delays and says he'll give me the cat then. You can see though that the kitten is growing larger and larger!
Labels: kitten on string
Heading out now to do all the photocopying of the flowcharts and the like and then going to Ngee Ann City to do a bit of a touch up for the Harmony Pillar! Trust my printer to run out of ink today of all days!
Quite a few first timers called today to ask how to get community cats sterilised. Glad to hear it!
I'm still working on the flowcharts and documents for Monday's Meeting (and realised my print catridge is out of ink at the same time!).
While working on this, I was thinking about what Rebecca and I have been talking about of late. Instead of just working with the TCs, it's a good idea for caregivers to also get involved with the RCs and even the community centres.
More than one caregiver I know takes part in RC activities. This doesn't mean of course that she ONLY handles cat issues - but because she is there, the RC is aware of what TNRM is all about and is more than willing to listen. They also know her and know that she is very responsible so they have a cat programme which is 'run' by her. In another RC, a cat cafe was mooted because the residents there are willing to do cat management.
One of the community centres even had a cat club set up and this meant that the caregivers could use the centre for their activities.
This woman texted me again today to say that they usually started helping out in an area because they knew there were feeders there. I pointed out there's a big difference between feeders and caregivers. The former feed. The latter feed, sterilise, manage or take part in one or more of these activities within a wider TNRM programme. She asked how it was possible to tell that the feeders were going to be responsible, and that the environment wasn't conducive anyway.
I told her that generally I find the people who mention the environment isn't conducive aren't going to be the reliable ones. In the first place, many of them will say there's no use speaking to the TC - but if you ask, most of them have never tried and don't want to having to do with the TC. Then if there IS a problem and it needs to be solved, who is going to mediate and liaise with the TC? Certainly not these feeders. Then unless the person who undertook the sterilisation is prepared to go down and mediate and handle the situation, if there is a problem, then the cats will be removed (and this is provided the TC will deal with the person as a non-resident). It does look bad when you have people complaining about the cats but not a single resident there willing to speak up for them.
There are another group of people who may have tried speaking to the TC and found their TC to be unhelpful or unwilling to listen and that's of course different. In that case, it may be just speaking with the caregiver to put their message across in a different way - the vast majority of TC officers will accept that TNRM just means one thing, less complaints to deal with because there is a caregiver willing to handle them. That's something almost anyone can appreciate.
I told the woman that at the end of the day, it's entirely up to her. Getting the cats sterilised is good no matter what - but she cannot then expect that they will necessarily be safe if she feeds in areas without caregivers. It's too late to then come running and say that the cats are in trouble - because in the cases she's come to me about, the feeders there have been unwilling to help subsequently.
Someone wrote to say that her cat had gone missing today. Her neighbour told her that he had seen the cat enter the house early this morning but that he hadn't seen her since. He invited her to look around. She went in and searched the house but could not find the cat.
She came home and emailed me again as she was very worried. She was concerned and worried that the neighbour might have abused the cat.
I asked her if her cat was very timid and the type that would generally shy away from people. She confirmed that she is though the cat will meow when her owner is nearby - I told her that from what I learnt at the CHAMP conference a few years ago that timid cats may keep quiet even if they hear people familiar to them. This is because they're so shy and frightened that they're just interested in hiding (you can find out more from the Lost a Pet website also on my link menu bar).
What I also learnt is that most lost cats don't wander far if they are timid - in fact some cats were found dead close to the house. One cat apparently stayed in the roof of a vet clinic for more than three weeks without a sound. She was caught eventually in a cat trap placed up the roof.
After getting my email, the woman went back and looked again - and she found her cat hiding under a bed! I'm so glad they were reunited.
Just got back from the post office a while ago.
This lovely drawing by Jacin would be what I imagine a really nice estate would be like with well managed community cats, dedicated caregivers and residents who realise the cats are being managed (though I don't know what the car owner whose blue car the cats are happily sitting on would have to say about it ;))
Labels: community cats
The new Alley Cat Allies Feral Cat newsletter is out and it talks about the conference I attended. It was really exciting to meet so many people who are interested and passionate about TNRM - I wish you guys could have been there :)
You guys might recognise some of the photos ;)
As I mentioned briefly in my entry yesterday, Dr Teo responded in the afternoon. His concern was that the community cats and dogs are causing a lot of nuisance in the town councils and hence they are aiming towards having 'no strays' for a better living environment so the residents can enjoy their lives.
He said that he felt that the source must be tackled - where are all the cats coming from and that without a comprehensive proposal, the TCs cannot support this programme. They feel that they are constrained by the HDB rules as well.
He felt that the AVA should be the right body to tackle the issue and they should be the ones deciding how to house and remove the community cats.
I agree with him in that the problem of how cats are being added into the environment has to be tackled at the root cause. Sterilised cats obviously do not breed and do not increase the population, so in a managed area, this isn't an issue. What IS an issue is abandonment - and I am very glad that the TCs feel the same way that the HDB rule is a hindrance. We have been bringing this up to the HDB many times but they have consistently said that they do not have this feedback from the town councils.
I feel that we all agree on the aims - not having cats on the streets. If one day every single cat had a loving home and there were no cats on the streets, who would be happier than the caregivers? I am sure that if we can work together we can also agree on the means to solve this situation and ensure the community cat population is managed.
The question is how to go about it. We KNOW killing doesn't work - it never has brought the population down, it costs a lot of money, it's short term and it's inhumane. Sterilisation does work - but only if the other factors are plugged.
Instead of the TCs seeing that this is an issue they deal with in isolation, what really needs to be done is get everyone involved - the AVA, the TC, the HDB, NEA and the caregivers to work out a solution. As it is, many caregivers are already working with their TCs to handle this problem. The different departments don't cannot view this as being not their problem - everyone has to chip in and do their part.
How? Change the HDB rule, promote sterilisation, stop selling pets in pet shops. That would be a good start.
One thing that I think Dr Teo may perhaps have overlooked is that cats and dogs in the estates bring a lot of joy to some people. While a minority dislike having them there, another group (also a minority) really like them being there. The rest don't care either way - but if it came down to it, wouldn't want them killed.
Just as I write this, another email came in from Dr Teo. He is arranging for us to meet the TC General Managers at their next meeting, which is great news. He says that he would like to get the other authorities involved as well. I am glad he reacted so quickly as well.
We received a long type written letter a while ago forwarded from the town council and when I spoke to the person who wrote it, she sounded quite young (though the letter seemed typed by someone possibly older). This person called me again to say there were more cats in the area. I asked what the problem was exactly and how they were bothering her. She said they weren't but they were annoying her and that they might be a health problem. I explained the vacuum effect to her. I do hope she isn't a child or young person - it would be distressing to think that young people are starting early with complaints on cats to the TC. It is possible she just sounds very young. She did agree to keep an eye out for any feeders in the area.
Going down to deliver some brochures to Bright Hill Temple for the Harmony Pillar exhibition today. Rebecca and Michelle are going down to put the finishing touches on the pillar.
Today we wrote to Dr Teo Ho Pin, whom a Straits Times article mentioned a while ago was the co-ordinating Chairperson of the Town Councils (or co-chairperson). Unfortunately, I can't seem to find the actual title anywhere on the Internet. It's not on the Singapore Government Directory website (which is odd) nor did Googling the title help (though apparently he has a blog). However, whatever it is, we are writing to ask for his help with the matter of the town councils and asking for his assistance with regards to bringing back the cat sterilisation programme.
We would like to find out why the town councils didn't seem very keen on the subsidised sterilisation and on community cats remaining in the estates. There may be considerations we are not aware of and we're not actually sure what AVA is proposing either to the TCs.
We just hope that Dr Teo may give us a chance to explain TNRM to him and meet up with us. I'm sure he has a very busy schedule, but hopefully he'll have a better idea of how the programme is supposed to work if he meets us.
We honestly do believe that TNRM is the best way to handle the situation for everyone involved - if all parties are on board, the programme will work.
I was just texting the woman from this morning (she can't use the phone at work). It appears that she helped get some of the cats there sterilised but she knows that there are people coming into the area and leaving a mess. She saw it when she was trapping in the area.
So it isn't a surprise when there was a complaint today that she heard - apparently food is left out and water too.
I spoke to a feeder I know who is nearby. She said that a few cats had already been going missing but she didn't want to talk to the TC. She had given up a while ago because she said she was disheartened but she agreed to try again.
I told the woman that while her intentions were good, I would suggest she might want to help out in areas where there are at least people who are responsible and will feed responsibly and handle complaints. They may need some help with the trapping or sterilisation but will look out for the cats. She said that she had found that out too and stopped trapping in new areas. She said there was just no point.
I suggested she concentrate on helping to do proper TNRM in one or two areas - that will yield better results.
I received an SMS from someone this morning about hearing about an area complained of on the radio this morning. She mentioned that the cats there had been sterilised, but that there was a very messy feeder there. She herself did not reside there but helped to get the cats sterilised. She wanted me to help. She said she did not know anyone there looking after the cats.
Now I know this woman means well and that she's been sterilising cats all over. However, that in itself can be a problem. Sterilising the cats alone isn't enough if you want to guarantee their safety - a management programme IS needed. This isn't the first time that I've been asked to help by her and they usually involve the management getting upset because there is no one to help with complaints. The last time she asked for help was in another case where the cats were sterilised and she and another woman got involved with a misunderstanding with the management that involved them being banned from the premises. I just heard from another source that this other colony she had previously asked for help with, is again facing potential danger - because again there is no caregiver in the area.
What we've been stressing to everyone (and to this woman as well) is that it's really important to run a management programme after the sterilisation. The TC or management committee does not care if the cats are sterilised - what they want to know is whom is going to help them solve their problems.
So here's the thing - sterilisation is great in itself. Don't however expect the cats to still be there the next time you go down if you don't run a programme or know residents there who will at least speak up for the cats. If you're fine with this (or as fine as can be), then at least you know what you're getting into. I know of a woman who does this in an estate she helps out with. She knows that at least this cuts down the number of cats born and that she is helping to control the population. To her, the cats may inevitably get caught - but at least there will be fewer of them caught. She would like to do more but the feeders in the area she helps out with aren't interested in even calling her when there is a problem and she doesn't live there.
If however, you want to protect the cats and try and make sure they don't get caught (and who doesn't?), then you need to run a programme that involves caring for the cats and more importantly to the management, running a programme and letting them know about it. It is best if you are connected to the area somehow - as a resident or if you're working there. Otherwise, if there is a competing claim by someone who is a resident for example, chances are the management will need to tend to side with the other person. After all, it's not your estate or your community.
It's also important to get this done early - and not wait till there is a problem.
Here are the students at the school talk today watching the Alley Cat Allies video. They asked several questions afterward which was great to see. Some classes are very quiet and it's always good to get a curious class that asks a lot of questions.
One of the girls asked me what sterilisation was and I just told Rebecca that it occurred to me that it seems so natural to me sometimes that people would know what it is, that we often assume they do, when that isn't always the case.
Students asked me lots of questions about what would happen if all the cats were sterilised and there were no more cats, what spraying was, and why pest control didn't just trap cats and get them sterilised instead of sending them to be killed. I told her that was a very good question!
The teacher in charge said they're planning to set up a stall in the school and raise funds for CWS as well.
Heading out for a school talk now.
I just spoke to the proprietor of this establishment which I went down to see yesterday.
She said that she had sterilised more than 10 cats after I spoke with her and that her friend had been helping her to book the slots. However the friend was not always easily contactable and she went by herself to the vet where they charged her the full rate. She said that it was too much of a hassle to get hold of her friend and she decided not to go back again.
In addition, she said that people were always dumping cats outside the backlane where she keeps the cats. She also says that she picks cats up from the street - she had seen many killed on the roads near by - and brings them back. She also said several of her neighbours have complained about the cats and are annoyed with them.
I gave her the sterilisation mailbox number and also told her about the reimbursement programme. I told her that in addition, she really has to do something about screening off the backdoor. I said that otherwise there's a good chance she will keep finding kittens dumped for her to find.
I was asked yesterday to give a school talk today to a class of students and so am preparing for the talk now.
Vegancat's friend contacted him this morning. She saw cages of cats and dogs and got quite worried about what was happening so she contacted him. I spoke with her and she gave me the location of the place though she wasn't sure of the exact address.
I found the place and remembered I had gone down before. The woman who owns a shop in this area picked up a lot of the community cats and moved them into the shop and put them into cages. The cages aren't terrible - not that cramped, and they look clean. She is also feeding community cats in the area. I had spoken with her about not caging the cats up but she said the neighbours weren't very fond of them.
However I did notice new kittens. The last time I had spoken with the woman, had said she would sterilise all the cats. I noticed however that not all the cats were done yet. She wasn't in today and I was asked to give her a call tomorrow morning.
Here's one of the cats outside her shop.
Here's Rebecca demonstrating how to use a cat trap at the TNRM workshop on Saturday. The group very kindly presented both of us with Kinokuniya book vouchers too as a thank you present. It was appreciated but they really shouldn't have ! :)
In one of those strange twists of fate, it turns out that a lovely couple who are TNRM newbies had been reading my blog and that this complainant turned out to be related to them! They only found out from the complainant while visiting the complainant a while after reading my blog and were quite shocked that their relative had complained.
Speaking of abuse, a feeder from another area called me. Apparently a case of abuse happened in her area last week. She was told a woman had stabbed a cat with a screwdriver.
She was concerned because a week had gone by and nothing had happened. She wanted to know why the police said that they were waiting for more information. They also said they weren't able to trace the suspect as she had long left the scene of the crime.
I explained that a necropsy typically takes a few weeks. While it may seem to everyone as if it is a clear cut case, for a case to really stand up in court, the necropsy results are still needed. As some of you may remember, in the Old Airport Road cases, while some of the cats looked like they had been abused, the results were inconclusive and hence there was no case.
I asked if she was concerned that the police were not taking the case seriously, and she said that she was satisfied that they were. Four policemen came down, and one took photos as well.
She mentioned she was at work when the abuse happened and she could not file the report as she had not seen anything. Apparently a lot of people saw the cat being abused however, and some of them came up afterwards to tell her how horrible it was as they knew she feeds the cats there. However, she said none of these people wanted to testify. She also asked why none of them had stopped the abuse since they said it was so gruesome. One woman said that she was afraid and did not think to call the police.
The feeder was also able to track down the suspect's home yesterday and gave the address to the police. She said she would follow up next week and that if she needed my help to speak with the police, she would call me.
These kitten toys sit in the office in memory of the little kitten that the partners in this firm rescued from a storm drain. Unfortunately it got sick and passed away.
The lady I met with said that she knew quite a few friends who had cats in the office as well.
Heading out for a meeting now on a potential fundraising event that someone wants to help organise for us.
I realise there still seems to be some confusion on how to file a police report and whom can file a police report in the case of abuse. We have a fact sheet which I can email anyone who would like it, but I thought it would be good to do a recap.
Labels: police report
There's a TNRM workshop tomorrow for one of the groups so I'm packing the TNRM packs now.
Thanks to everyone who offered to help with the flowchart and send me tips! You guys are great :)
The TC in this case asked if we can come up with a flow chart so that the correct protocol can be used when dealing with complaints. In addition to our Complaint sheet, I think they want to bind it in a book and issue it to the the officers so each officer will know what to do, which is good. I do think if there was a set way of dealing with complaints it would help caregivers to get the right information in a timely manner.
It will also ensure every officer knows what to do and new officers will not then be confused or not ask for the right information. It will also prevent officers from claiming that they weren't informed. It would also of course save time because as much relevant information as possible will be in one place. I'm working on it now and JaQ is helping to pretty them up for me!
The officer from this estate called a while ago and said that the town council has spoken with the officer. The officer in question has apparently said he would like to apologise in person to the caregivers. According to the officer I spoke with, the officer in question is a feeder himself.
The TC would also meet with the residents to deal with their concerns. I'm glad that they've seen that it makes sense to talk to their residents instead of through CWS. Now it's up to the caregivers to decide if this is acceptable to them.
I just had a very upset caregiver on the phone, crying. It turns out her property officer called her up and said they were being harassed by a resident who had called three times in the last three days to complain there were too many cats. He told her if she didn't do something, he would have them trapped.
I asked the caregiver if the cats were all sterilised. They all were. She said that she had been feeding the same colony of around 5 cats for more than a year without new additions. She also fed at 11 pm and sometimes did not get home till 1 am to ensure that it didn't attract attention to the cats. She also fed in the corner of the void deck.
The caregiver was very upset, and actually had a hospital appointment which she missed because she was so distraught.
I spoke with the officer and asked him what was happening. He said that there were complaints about 'strays'. I pointed out that these cats had all been sterilised, which he didn't seem to be aware of, and had been there for more than a year. He said that the complainant is calling repeatedly. I told him I can speak with the complainant if he likes. The officer said that the complainant would not listen. He says he will discuss this with his Property Manager
The caregiver also told me that she suspected it might be a complainant famous to everyone in the estate for complaining about everything. He had complained about her feeding once (she went to the MP and he told her to go right ahead). She said the TC always bows to his demands because he is so persistent.
Some of you may remember this case. I wrote to the resident subsequently. Since then I've had strange emails from the resident in this flat, purporting to be from some 'department'.
I wrote back to say that we just didn't want the cats to be killed and could they please stop feeding upstairs. More strange emails followed, including a statement from the person (or people) on releasing cats in the corridor.
Now it seems the cats were caught. An angry email came asking whom had been catching the cats (though I had told him repeatedly what would happen if the complaints did not stop). The person is now writing to demand compensation from the town council. He is asking that they be paid $8000 for each kitten and $100000 for each cat killed. I suggested they go and speak with the town council themselves.
He knew the neighbours were unhappy. We had gone down twice. So it's not as if he didn't know what would happen to the cats. It's a bit late to be upset now.
Some days are just more disappointing and difficult then the rest, and this is one of those days.
I sent an email to the town council in question about the residents' requests yesterday and one of the officers called me today. He explained that the town council felt they could not comply with some of the requests as the TC needs to protect their employees. He was also concerned that if there was a written apology, the residents might use it and file a police report with it. I pointed out that if that was the concern, the residents at the meeting had told us that they did not want to go down that route, and something could be put in the letter to that affect (which in fact one of the residents had suggested earlier too as a gesture of goodwill on their part).
I also said this was not about protecting an officer in the course of their normal job scope. Of course any company tries to protect their employees, but not if their employees are doing something wrong or illegal. I asked the officer what would happen if a hypothetical TC officer was found stealing during the course of his job. The officer said that he would file a police report - and I pointed out that this was the same thing. He said he would speak with his General Manager about it again.
In addition, they did not want to have the employee apologise as they felt the town council had already done so,. I said that the caregivers were satisfied that the town council was not involved - but that this particular officer was, and there was no point having the TC apologise.
The officer said they also felt a letter was unnecessary saying that the GM would warn all the officers because he had already told Michelle and I when they met with us. While we had conveyed the message, I think the residents would like to hear it from TC directly - speaking with some residents, I don't think they are insisting it even has to be in a written form as long as they hear it directly from the TC.
While I appreciate that the TC does not want to feel as if they are being held hostage in any way, I also believe that the residents feel that they are compromising on their part, because they are trying to spare the TC unnecessary embarrassment by not pursuing a police report or going to the press (which some people were suggesting earlier). However they do want to be reassured that the matter will not be dropped and that some action will be taken and they want to hear it from the horse's mouth. I believe they are hoping the TC will meet them half way and I said as much to the officer.
I really hope that an amicable method can be found. It is not our position to tell either side what to do - but we really hope to mediate so that a middle ground can be found. However it looks less and less likely we can do anything, and I suggested to the TC that they go back to what we suggested right from the beginning - meet with the residents directly. Right now, we're just passing messages to and fro because we're not in a position to make any of these decisions. If both parties sit down and talk, the situation can be resolved much easier.
Eslina sent me this and mentioned how she thought this was a good community project that showed a collaboration between residents and the community, was a good means of getting students to do their community service credit on this project and had signs that discouraged feeding unless you were a registered caregiver and discouraged abandonment.
Also all the different groups are coming together to work on this project, including the Audubon Society. This seems like a really great project for all involved.
Project Bay Cat
Labels: welfare groups
Couldn't seem to log into Blogger earlier.
I met with a lovely lady from Forgotten Felines this afternoon who was sharing information about her organisation. They are a group around since 1990 and have been doing a lot of TNR and she said they now sterilise 1700 cats a year which is a great number! They are now looking to getting a clinic going in their area.
Labels: welfare groups
It's difficult some days to mediate between town councils and residents. This is one of those days. I'll write more later when I get home. The good news is that after this, being a UN mediator will be easy ;)
I'm off to meet a woman who wrote to us from America and works with a rescue group there. She would like to find out more about CWS.
I received a phone call from a caregiver just now saying that her Town Council officer (who the caregiver says is a nice woman) was getting emails from a complainant about how she was afraid of cats. The complainant wanted the cats removed from the area as a result. The complainant suggested having the cats put in a compound and that since it was an HDB estate, there should not be cats 'allowed'.
I think there's a misconception that cats are 'allowed' into the estate, as if caregivers were bringing them in and the TC is letting them do so. The fact of the matter is this - cats are part of the community and the environment. By working together, caregivers and TCs are in fact controlling the population and making sure there is less inconvenience for others.
While it is true that some people have a phobia of cats, and while I am also certain that the caregiver in this case will try and minimise the complainant's fear (by for example, feeding at a different time perhaps), town councils cannot be catering to every single phobia. There are so many different kinds of phobias for one thing. What if I'm scared of water? Or heights? Or spiders?
At the end of the day, it's about being reasonable. If you as a caregiver went to your town council and said you wanted to bring 50 cats into your block, the town council would probably laugh at you and tell you there was no way they would facilitate you doing that. Then why is it that a request that there be NO cats at all have to be entertained? Both could be argued to be equally excessive. So why it is that one is dealt with while the other one would be very likely to be dismissed out of hand?
Just got back from Singapore National Printers a while ago. If there's an official document, statute, etc that needs to be published SNP are probably the people who will do it. The woman at the counter was more knowledgeable and said she would send me more information via email.In this photo, you can see the rows and rows of statutes sold.
After calling several people, and the Attorney-General's Chambers who assured me that it is published, I found the town council bylaws are indeed sold by Singapore National Printers. I am going to go down and buy copies now.
The residents yesterday wanted to know if the Town Council could fine recalcitrant people littering in their estate and leaving food around. I don't think so but it's good to double check.
Some town councils like East Coast Town Council do put it online - look under bylaws. Nice work East Coast! :)
Also some like Marine Parade TC have their posters online too. I didn't go to every single TC website, but some had a wealth of information. The message here was clearly about 'leftover' food and not feeding cats which was great to see.
Do check out your town council website. I think most people log onto find out whom their MPs are but there does seem to be much more information than that.
I saw this last night on the way to the caregivers' meeting and was told it had been there since morning. While in no way do I think that people should put up with urination or defecation outside their homes, I do wonder why it is that projectile vomit seems to attract less attention? Are there less 'germs'? Or is this just a more tolerant block?
One of the caregivers called me up to check with me why the unhappy feeder was sending her an SMS about whether CWS should be helping out in Tampines anymore and whether the group would like CWS to withdraw. She also said that the unhappy feeder wanted an answer by today. The unhappy feeder texted her to say she wants to handle her own complaints from now on which is great.
This caregiver who called was unable to make the meeting last night. She was quite concerned about what she felt was a lot of anger in the group and this may have clouded some rationality. She said that the most important thing was to consider the ultimate welfare of the cats.
She said on her part, she'd like us to keep helping.
One question we were asked yesterday was about whether town councils can fine people for littering. In most of the town councils we've dealt with, I don't believe they have such fines. However each town council has their own specific bylaws. We were asked how to look up the bylaws. Under the Town Councils Act, bylaws are published annually in book form and must be made available to the public at a reasonable price. Some residents asked how to get hold of these bylaws. I do believe it's available at the Singapore National Printers (and was told it was available there the last time) but when I called today, the woman at the counter didn't seem sure about that. I'll keep checking. Some town councils do put them on their websites. You should also check with your town council if they have them for sale.
While looking up information on town councils, I came across this :-
HDB Resident Handbook
take a look at page 57 (it also has some useful tips on how to fix things in your house).
There was a meeting of the caregivers in the estate where this case occurred. Michelle and I were invited to attend as well - we wanted to be sure that the residents wanted us to be there and so we asked the resident organising it to ensure that the caregivers be asked if they wished us to attend. They did and so we were happy to turn up.
I was surprised at how many people turned up even though the meeting was only called at the last minute, which goes to show how strongly people feel about this. Still 9 or 10 people (including the witness who was very quiet and left early) turned up and some others sent SMSes and emails stating what they wanted to convey. The unhappy feeder did not turn up.
When I arrived one of the residents was arguing strongly for going to the police. Her point, which is understandable, was that no one is above the law, and that the officer should not be excused just because he is a town council officer.
We pointed out that CWS were only there as facilitators and mediators. The residents were to decide themselves what they wanted to do because this was their estate and their cats. However we did urge them to work together and not break up the group because it's important to work together and not have separate camps doing as they please. I was very happy to hear that there was agreement on this from the people present (and the other people who took the time to SMS and email).
In the end the group decided that they would request for an apology from the officer in charge because while the TC had apologised (and they appreciated this), none of them thought the TC was behind this or was to blame. As such, they wanted an apology from the person who they felt had acted on his own. They also asked that a warning letter be issued to the officer and that the town council write a letter to say that the TC would warn all officers that this behaviour is unacceptable and would not be allowed to happen again, and that only licensed pest control be used in the future.
I'm glad that the group was able to talk it out and settle their differences. I do hope that the others who did not make it however (and did not respond to the emails and SMSes sent out amongst themselves) will also abide by what was agreed upon.
I just had a call from a feeder. She was calling about the trapping in her area that another caregiver had called about this afternoon. She said that she heard from someone who said they were from CWS.
I told her the best thing to do is to call her town council and ask them directly. She told me the rumour is that her MP ordered the trapping. According to her, she said that they know that their MP hates cats.
I pointed out that firstly, the MP may not hate cats but may be dealing with a lot of complaints and hence feel he or she has to deal with it. I said from what I understand the few feeders in the estate didn't want to contact the TC. I said it was important to explain to the MP and the TC what they plan on doing, and why. For one thing, if the MP only hears complaints, and nothing else, it may be that he or she feels he or she has to do something about it since the residents want the cats removed.
Secondly, I said the MP and the TC may not know WHY the residents are doing what they do. It's important to explain why they are sterilising and what they are prepared to do. The MP may feel that is a group of 'cat-lovers' versus 'cat-haters' instead of one group of residents managing the cats to minimise inconvenience to the other group of residents. She agreed it's important to work with the TC.
She said she would talk about it with her friends and then decide what to do. Most importantly, I told her to call her TC and find out from the horse's mouth what is going on.
The feeder texted me back to say okay when I told her that if the group was unhappy we'd step out of the situation. Since then I had two nice people from the group email me to say that they were grateful to CWS for our help. I am glad to hear that.
When I texted the feeder this morning to clarify, she wanted me to explain why the witness didn't make a report after talking to me last night. Now I didn't talk to the witness last night - I rarely talk to caregivers after working hours unless it's an emergency, because I do need a break once in a while. I pointed this out to her and she changed her questions.
At the end of the day, the witness has to decide for herself if she wants to make the report. Now everyone can have their opinion of what should or should not be done, but it's up to the witness. So the people who are insisting a report be filed have to remember that only the witness can do it. The people against it also have to remember that.
What I hope is that the group can work together as a group. Of course everyone is upset - something terrible did happen. However the group should pull together at a time like this and work together and come to a decision as a group. If everyone decides that they want to do their own thing, then maybe it's time to decide if there is a place for the group in the estate - and if there isn't, I personally do think that's a sad thing for the cats.
I also think it's a shame that when there is a miscommunication, people don't come to the source. There are so many SMSes going around with half-truths or misleading information. It's a good idea to always verify the information first.
I wrote to the group (for those on email) and said that CWS' role has always been to faciliate - not to tell residents what to do. We made it clear to those who came for the TNRM workshop. It's their estate, and their cats and we always think it's best that they work directly with the TC.
Rebecca is also getting bombarded by SMSes and emails - and the poor girl who is on no-pay (of her miniscule part time pay) leave for her exams - is having a hard time studying (and sleeping) at night.
Just as I type this, another caregiver called up to say there was a rumour that there would be trapping in her area and that someone from CWS was the one who had spread the news. Fortunately she called me up. I told her that as far as I knew there wasn't and she said she'd get more details. I appreciate that.