Gruesome find: starved cats alongside skeletal remains in HDB rental flat

Cat rescuers estimate the cats have been abandoned for over a month; rising trend of animal neglect cases in rental flats

Two surviving cats found amidst remains of their companions.
Two surviving cats found amidst remains of their companions. (PHOTO: FB/WatsIn Sal)

SINGAPORE — Two emaciated cats and the skeletal remains of three other cats were recovered by authorities amid a gruesome discovery in a rental flat at Jalan Minyak, near Havelock Road.

The authorities were alerted after a neighbour posted a plea for help on the Facebook group Sayang Our Singapore's Community Cats on Monday (5 June). The neighbour had also informed the police, the Animal and Veterinary Service (AVS), and the Housing Development Board (HDB) about the situation.

The Straits Times reported that a rescue operation was launched on Tuesday afternoon (6 June) when an independent cat rescuer, who was identified as Wati, accompanied the police and HDB officers to the flat.

The tenant's daughter granted permission to enter the premises, and Wati confirmed that the cats belonged to the tenant. She found the two surviving cats in the kitchen, locked in a cage with no access to food or water.

AVS took custody of the two living cats.

Tragic fate of cats reveals disturbing trend in rental flats

In a video shared by Wati, a voice off-camera estimated that the cats had been abandoned for at least a month based on the condition of the skeletal remains.

The Strait Times reported Wati expressing her familiarity with such animal neglect cases, particularly in rental flats. Tenants often leave their pets behind when they move out, due to financial difficulties, attempts to avoid creditors or the law, or other reasons.

"Most of these cats starve, and by the time we find them, they are skin and bones," she told The Straits Times.

Two other cases of cats being abandoned in HDB flats have been reported in the past five months.

In one instance, 13 cats and two rabbits were removed from a rental flat in Sembawang Crescent in March. The tenant, who was to be evicted by the end of March, allegedly abandoned the animals for at least a week.

Wati, who has been rescuing cats for over a decade, expressed her concern over the increasing number of such cases. She recounted dealing with three separate cases in a single day, including one involving illegal cat breeding and another where 25 cats were cramped in a small rental flat in Chinatown.

She stressed the need for stricter laws against animal neglect and abandonment, asserting that the current legislation is too lenient. She also called for harsh penalties, stating that leaving animals locked in cages without access to food and water is a form of abuse.

Abandoned pets and the battle for justice

Under the Animals and Birds Act, individuals who abandon their pets can be charged.

First-time offenders can face a maximum fine of $10,000 and/or imprisonment for up to 12 months. However, despite numerous cases being reported to the AVS, about 95 per cent of them are not substantiated, reported The Straits Times.

The National Parks Board conducted investigations into alleged cases of pet abandonment. In 2017 there were 180 cases, which increased to 225 in 2018.

The numbers remained relatively stable, with 230 cases in 2019 and 215 cases in 2020. However, there was a slight rise again to 225 cases in 2021.

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