SINGAPORE: The festive season is well over, but animal welfare volunteers are still dealing with the aftermath of "pet spring—cleaning".
The number of abandoned pets saw its usual spike over the year—end period. Activists say the yearly numbers are not coming down.
150 cats were abandoned in three months, from November 2012 to January 2013. These were just cases that were reported to the Cat Welfare Society, so the real numbers are likely to be higher.
Volunteer and caregiver Penny Tan said: "They can be bullied, attacked by the other older cats in the community. Once they’re attacked, no one takes care of their wounds, they can get maggots on the body, and if no one takes care of them still, they will die, they will quietly go into the drain and die."
Apart from the 20 or so cats she fosters in her home, Ms Tan feeds and cares for about 40 other community cats in her Yishun neighbourhood using her own savings.
Volunteers say abandonment happens throughout the year, but there is a noticeable surge during the festive season.
Veron Lau, president of Cat Welfare Society, said: "That’s when we start getting reports that whole families have been abandoned, one or two cats have been abandoned, and it just keeps coming, because volunteers and fosterers are overloaded."
In addition, 487 rabbits were abandoned or surrendered to the SPCA in 2012 and most of them were under three years old.
SPCA Executive Director Corinne Fong said this suggests the rabbits were bought at a young age from pet stores or breeders two years ago, when it was the Year of the Rabbit.
"At some point in time, the rabbit became more of a chore than a joy," she said. "I can only guess the owner wished to be free from the chore, and left it to its fate."
The penalty for pet abandonment or abuse is up to S$10,000, a year in jail, or both, and activists are pushing for this to be doubled.
However, without a micro—chipping system in place for cats, rabbits and hamsters, tracing irresponsible pet owners is a big challenge.
Minister for Law and Foreign Affairs K Shanmugam said: "I certainly am one of those who believe the penalties for abuse should be enhanced. I also believe that we need to put in a framework for more responsible pet ownership. A number of suggestions came up in the Chong Pang animal welfare forum, which is to make sure the pet shops’ licensing framework is enhanced, and micro—chipping is done up front so that you know exactly which pet goes to whom, and the traceability is there."
Ms Lau said: "You need someone who has seen the situation happen to come forward and testify in court, and sometimes people do not want to take that step.
"They will grouse about what’s happening, why there are so many abandonment cases, but when they’re called to be the one to come forward to make a testimony, they will say ’it’s not my problem’."
Change is on the horizon for animal welfare law in Singapore, with a review underway for the past one year.
Channel NewsAsia understands the Animal Welfare Legislation Review Committee (AWLRC) is currently finalising its recommendations to the government.
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