SINGAPORE: 2012 has been a milestone year for stray dogs and cats.
Pilot programmes were launched to gauge if they were suitable for HDB living.
Since the launch of a nationwide project in April to re—home medium—size stray dogs in HDB estates, animal activists are hopeful that such animals will find a loving home.
The project is spearheaded by the Action for Singapore Dogs (ASD) and the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA).
"This project has been quite a big breakthrough for us because now it allows some of these dogs to be taken off the streets, to at least find other avenues for homes," said Ricky Yeo, president at ASD.
In Chong Pang, steps have also been taken in October to let cats live in HDB flats.
But activists say it is important to emphasise responsible pet ownership if the projects are to succeed.
Debra Low, programme manager at Cat Welfare Society said: "We arrange sterilisation and micro—chipping as well. We actually send transport to and from the vet to their houses. Another thing we do is to follow up with a call and house visit, to check whether the house is properly meshed up, cat—proofed, and to see whether the cat is well."
For dog owners in the programme, they are encouraged to get feedback from their neighbours before the adoption takes place.
After getting the all—clear, they have to attend a basic obedience course with their dogs.
"It’s always that little effort you make that makes a big difference. For example, seeing a person that’s approaching that’s very afraid of dogs, and just taking a different direction or even just shielding your dog makes a world of difference. These are always the little things we emphasise to the families to try and pre—empt problems from happening," said ASD’s Mr Yeo.
He added that adoption counsellors usually call on a regular basis, or even visit, to make sure the dog is settling in well.
To date, the authorities say 15 medium—size mixed breed dogs have been rehomed, while the Cat Welfare Society said that more than 50 cats are now on their list.
Both projects are supported by the Ministry of National Development (MND), HDB, and the Agri—Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA).
Pet owners who joined the programmes say they did so for various reasons.
"Once the cats are in the programme with my name as their owner, it sort of safeguards them in the event any of my cats get into trouble outside," said Ho Qi Xian, an undergraduate.
"I think it’s going to curb the stray cat population definitely, and in the long run, I think this programme is only a stepping stone in cases where we need to fight for cat rights."
"We decided to do something, our bit for society. We believe in a cause so when we moved here, we decided: ’Why not? let’s open our homes, open our hearts, give a stray dog a second chance at life’," said Lester Teo, a commercial shipping executive.
Recommendations by a committee to strengthen current laws on animal welfare are expected to be finalised soon.
The committee is chaired by Mr Yeo Guat Kwang, a member of the Ministry of National Development’s Government Parliamentary Committee.
The committee comprises community grassroots leaders, and representatives from animal welfare groups, the pet industry, and the veterinary profession.
Acting Minister for Manpower and Senior Minister of State of National Development Tan Chuan—Jin said in November that the recommendations will be submitted to MND in the coming months.
There will be four key aspects: ensuring reasonable care and welfare of animals; stepping up action against wrong—doers; fostering greater responsibility in the industry to ensure animal welfare; fostering greater responsibility amongst pet owners, and encouraging greater community awareness of animal welfare.
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