SINGAPORE (The Straits Times/Asia News Network): The Animal and Veterinary Service (AVS) is investigating an alleged case of animal neglect after some 20 cats were rescued by animal welfare groups from a rental flat.
The animals spent eight days without food and water in the flat, which was covered with human waste.
In a Facebook post on Wednesday, the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) said it helped to rescue the cats – including a kitten – from the Bukit Merah flat on Aug 19. The rescue took 12 hours in total.
SPCA added in the post that the sewage pipe had burst in the flat, “leaking waste matter throughout the flat”. In an accompanying video, cats are seen freely roaming around the flat where the floor is either covered in brackish water or by rubbish, trash bags or various household items. A cat is also seen licking the water in the 31-second clip.
Stressing that AVS takes all animal welfare-related cases seriously, its group director Jessica Kwok said it would take enforcement action against those who fail to provide adequate care for their pets, or otherwise have committed animal cruelty.
She said: “Being a pet owner is a lifelong commitment, and owners must be responsible and provide appropriate care for the animals.
“Pet owners are reminded to fulfil the standard of care for their pets, ensuring the pet’s shelter is safe and providing suitable food and water regularly.”
The cats are currently under the care of AVS, she added.
Describing the cats’ condition upon rescue as “poor”, Cat Welfare Society (CWS) president Thenuga Vijakumar said there were no signs of any food or clean water in the house.
She said the animal welfare group was alerted to the situation on Aug 18 by an officer from the Tanjong Pagar Town Council, who requested to conduct a joint inspection the following week.
Upon reviewing the case, CWS’ community engagement manager realised that the cats’ owner had requested assistance on Aug 10, when the pipe burst.
ST has contacted the town council for more information.
“As CWS does not have a shelter or rescue function, we requested assistance from SPCA,” Thenuga added.
In its Facebook post on Wednesday, SPCA said its officers visited the unit on the evening of Aug 18, together with CWS representatives.
They were allowed to enter the flat only past midnight on Aug 19.
“The situation was so dire that we immediately alerted the authorities to seize the cats so that they could receive urgent medical care,” said the post.
“The cats could have faced life-threatening consequences if we had not attended to them in time.”
Expressing concern for the cats’ health, SPCA executive director Aarthi Sankar said: “Upon clearance of all health checks, we are committed to supporting the authorities with their rehoming.”
There have been at least three instances of neglected cats being rescued so far in 2023.
In June, two starved cats were rescued from a rental flat in Jalan Minyak, near Havelock Road, having been locked in a cage with the skeletal remains of three others.
A month earlier, the police found several abandoned cats in a two-room flat in Ang Mo Kio Avenue 3 after making a forced entry, following complaints by neighbours about a foul smell emanating from the unit.
And in March, 13 cats and two rabbits were rescued from a Sembawang Crescent rental flat by volunteers, with the tenant believed to have abandoned the flat and animals for at least a week, having been served an eviction notice.
Meanwhile, cat owners who find themselves with too many cats to care for are recommended to sterilise them, said Thenuga.
The CWS can arrange for the procedure to be done for free if cat owners are facing financial difficulties, she added.
They should then look into rehoming their pets, which CWS can advise on as well.
She said: “In combination, the owners will be able to reduce the population of cats in their homes and make it more manageable for them.”
Pet owners can approach SPCA as well, either by dialling 6287-5355 or through e-mail at email@example.com
Those who are found guilty of failing in their duty of care to their pets, which includes abandoning them, can be charged under the Animals and Birds Act.
First-time offenders can be fined up to S$10,000, jailed up to 12 months, or both.
If the public suspects a case of pet abandonment, they can contact AVS through its website at www.avs.gov.sg/feedback or call its Animal Response Centre on 1800-476-1600.