SPCA sees more cases of animal abuse, neglect

Alicia Wong

The beagle lay at the corner of a balcony, its snout and front legs bound with masking tape.

Abrasion sores on its legs after the tape was removed showed how the dog had struggled to get free.

The owners would bind the dog, Dimples, each time they left for work because they could not control it otherwise, officers from the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) investigating the case found.

How long Dimples had been living in such conditions could not be ascertained, but “based on the condition of the skin where the masking tape was used, it was for quite a while,” said the animal welfare group.

The Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore slapped a composite fine on the owners for their actions.

Dimples, described as being “happy go lucky” and very receptive to humans, recovered well from the ordeal and was adopted soon after.

This case of animal abuse through neglect was uncovered in 2009. The SPCA, however, is seeing more such cases in recent times.

Between 1 July 210 and 30 June 2011, it received 987 reports of cases of animal abuse and neglect, a 15 per cent increase from the same period a year ago.

While the rise in cases was attributed largely to increased awareness of animal welfare issues, the SPCA’s executive director Corinne Fong has termed this a “worrying trend”. The SPCA is calling for support against animal neglect during this year’s World Animal Day carnival on 25 September.

Neglect occurs when an owner fails to provide adequate care for the animal in terms of shelter or food and water, veterinary care and humane care and treatment, according to the SPCA. Severe animal neglect can be painful and even fatal to the pet, it cautioned.

While most people believe that animal abuse means causing intentional harm, neglect is a “passive form of abuse”, noted SPCA’s education executive Selina Sebastian.

Leaving your pet dog unattended in the car for hours, keeping a dog or cat leashed or caged for long periods of time, or cramming rabbits, hamsters or guinea pigs in too-small cages -- all constitute animal neglect.

The main cause of neglect is ignorance, believes Sebastian.

“People don’t think about the responsibilities before getting a pet. They just like the idea of a pet,” she said, “And when they have to take care of it, they realise it not as easy and (the pet) gets neglected.”

Other animal welfare groups have reported an increase in animal neglect cases as well.

The House Rabbit Society of Singapore (HRSS) has seen a 20 per cent rise in neglect cases over the past year, believed to be caused, partly, by impulse buying of the pet. With 2011 being the year of the rabbit, many were bought on impluse during the Chinese New Year period, said HRSS’ vice president Betty Tan.

Often unwanted pet rabbits are left inside cages along HDB common corridor, with many of them in poor condition, such as with matted fur, fur mites and without proper food or water.

“Many people fail to understand that animal neglect is as bad as animal abuse as the animal has to go through a long period of food-, love- and care-deprived days, causing damage both physically and mentally,” said Tan.

Veron Lau, vice president of the Cat Welfare Society, said a common form of neglect occurs when owners do not bring their cat to the vet when needed.

She said, “Our society receives requests on a regular basis from people who want others to pay for the vet treatment of their pets or to take their sick pets off their hands. We have also come across cases of pet cats that have been left in their sickly condition for months.”

She expects the number of animal neglect cases to increase because there is not enough education and owner screening when people buy a pet. “We are making it too easy for people to buy a pet,” she stated.

The SPCA will be launching a new campaign against animal neglect in 2012 to further highlight this message.

Under the Animals and Birds Act, anyone who is found guilty of such an offence including abandonment of any animal, can be imprisoned for up to 12 months, fined up to $10,000, or both.

The World Animal Day 2011 carnival, themed “Keep the love. End the Neglect”, will be held on 25 September from 10:30am to 6pm at East Coast Park, Area D1 (Dalbergia Green). For more information, click here.

Click here to view some pets, once neglected by their owners, and which are now seeking a second home.