[The witnesses later admitted that they did not see the alleged act and assumed that it happened.]

Source: By Mr Tan Chuan Jin
http://www.facebook.com/#!/notes/tan-chuan-jin/managing-strays/271526056223510

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The picture below is heart-wrenching.

The mistreatment of animals is an emotive issue. It tugs at your heart when you see or hear about living creatures, people and animals alike, being abused. Yet, it is easy to misinterpret actions when the context is not viewed in full.

The picture at the side was widely circulated. Many claimed that the man seen dragging the dog was an AVA dog catcher. We did our checks. The picture is actually an image that is used in an online article on dogs in China.

There has been a concerted round of postings in the recent weeks. For example, there was an incident shared on AVA’s Facebook that AVA officers were rounding up two stray dogs and managed to capture the black dog, while the brown dog escaped. Some witnesses accused AVA officers of repeatedly beating the captured dog on its head using batons.

AVA has clarified that this allegation was untrue, and this was corroborated by a Noah’s Ark CARES volunteer who had spoken to the witnesses. The witnesses later admitted that they did not see the alleged act and assumed that it happened. In fact, I just came back from AVA’s Responsible Pet Ownership Roadshow at Singapore Expo. I discussed this with our friends from the various Animal Welfare Groups. Many of them put in time to follow up and investigate and also do feel frustrated when it turns out that the picture isn’t always what it was painted out to be.

We need to ensure the well-being of Singaporeans. When we receive complaints of stray dogs, it would not be responsible to allow them to remain where they can pose a threat. AVA has received many reports of stray dogs attacking and chasing members of public. AVA has to perform its public duty to remove these stray dogs. And to do so as humanely as possible.

(I am fully aware of the complaints against a particular dog catcher. Except for one incident where a dog died, the dogs that have come to AVA have been in good condition. We are tracking this carefully. We are inviting the media and any member of the Animal Welfare Groups to follow him/ AVA when we have to gather stray dogs.)

AVA also manages the stray dog population for the purpose of rabies control. I know that while we are free of rabies, the problem is real as rabies still plagues many parts of our region. We need to be careful. All dogs, whether sterilised or not, are susceptible to rabies. They must therefore be properly homed and licensed.

Many people prefer that animals are not put down. Nor do I. It is not our default position nor desired solution either. We are thus working with the animal welfare groups as part of the pet ownership and stray management review on alternative options for these dogs. We are working closely with SPCA, ASD, ACRES etc. and we deeply appreciate their support and collaboration. We have come up with some initiatives. I just announced them at the Roadshow held on 12 Nov. Will post the link when it is ready.

However, there are more strays than homes and where we are unable to home the strays, they would be put down humanely.

In the meantime, I do ask that we understand AVA’s position as well – if they don’t remove the strays, the public questions them; if they do, they also face the ire of animal lovers.

In fact, there are many veterinarians and staff working in AVA, who are ardent animal lovers and feel strongly against animal cruelty. Many joined service with a personal mission to contribute meaningfully in creating a better living environment for our community, which includes both people and animals.

Ms Chew Gek Hiang, President of Noah’s Ark CARES shared this with us: “Noah’s Ark has always believed that in order to reduce the incidences of animal cruelty it is important that all animal welfare groups cooperate for the interests of the animals. Education and constant dialogue are areas that we should strive to improve. If we view ourselves as animal guardians as opposed to owners, the level of care and responsibility will rise in tandem and hopefully reduce the incidences of animal cruelty.”

I totally agree. But this is not just the responsibility of a few. The community has a part to play as well. For its part, the online community has highlighted issues in the treatment of strays that are certainly important for us to look into. And we will look into them and investigate.

We are trying our best at our end to improve animal welfare along with our partners amongs the animal welfare groups, and I am very grateful to them for their friendship and support. I hope that you will play a part together with us as well.

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