Khaw calls for AVA to review culling of cats

Fann Sim
Khaw Boon Wan keen on reviewing AVA's cat culling programme. (Yahoo! photo)
Khaw Boon Wan keen on reviewing AVA's cat culling programme. (Yahoo! photo)

National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan has called for the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority (AVA) 'to seriously consider reviewing its culling programme for cats'.

Writing in his blog, Minister Khaw said that an elderly resident had gone to him last week to ask for help after her pet cat was caught by the AVA and was concerned that it will be culled.

"I told her AVA came under my Ministry and I would intervene," he said.

Minister Khaw added that the following day, the AVA checked and said that her cat was not with them and they would look out for it and return it to her should it be sent to AVA subsequently.

"Stray cats are a source of complaints in Housing Development Board (HDB) estates but killing them is not the best way to go," Minister Khaw wrote.

"The right thing is for cat lovers to own the problem, eliminate the nuisance created by irresponsible behaviour, and sterilise the cats to control their population."

"Where there are enough cat-lovers out there willing to own this problem, we can avoid culling in those estates," he added.

When AVA terminated their sterilisation programme in May 2003, volunteers took it upon themselves to sterilise stray cats.

Veron Lau, vice-president of the Cat Welfare Society (CWS) said, "The sterilisation supported by volunteers have helped seen culling numbers go down."

AVA confirmed this and said that the number of cats culled have indeed gone down from 6,800 in 2008 to 5,100 in 2010. AVA also agreed with Khaw and said, "As mentioned by Minister Khaw, AVA will review our approach to the management of stray cats in consultation with the Animal Welfare Groups."

While CWS can continue to support the sterilisation of cats, Lau feels that more must be done to curb the stray cats problem.

"There is not enough done in terms of educating the public."

Other than looking into a review of the cats culling programme, many cat lovers have also asked Minister Khaw to review the domestication of cats in HDB flats. Currently, HDB does not allow cats to be domesticated at home.

Ronald Ng posted on MND's Facebook wall and said, "I hope Mr Khaw would be more compassionate to allow HDB residents to domesticate cats and have more humane way to remove stray cats from the streets of Singapore in a decade (that's 2 terms)."

Minister Khaw also wrote that he will seek Minister of State Tan Chuan-Jin's help to work out a compassionate and mature approach towards the stray cats problem.

Tan told Yahoo! Singapore that "I don't believe that the default setting should be the culling of cats. There are several steps before we need to get there and working with interested groups is key in not only addressing the issue with strays, but to also humanely deal with the animals concerned."

NGOs such as the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) welcomed his suggestion.

"AVA could work together with animal welfare associations to help bring down the number of stray cats population but it would be more effective if they had the authorisation to do so in the first place," said Deirdre Moss, executive director of SPCA.

She added, "When the minister endorses it in a positive manner, I think it's great and positive step for animal welfare that he's commenting on this issue."

Additional reporting by Faris Mokhtar

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