IN FOCUS: Why are people cruel to pets and wildlife?


The Animal and Veterinary Service (AVS), which comes under the National Parks Board, has investigated an average of about 1,250 alleged cruelty cases a year since 2019.

About 5 per cent of these cases, which include neglect, abandonment and abuse cases, leading to enforcement actions such as composition fines, warning letters or prosecution in court.

The remainder of the cases consist mostly of neighborly disputes, animals involved in road traffic accidents or others involved in fights with stray animals, AVS’ director of investigations Joshua Teoh told CNA.

Upon receiving reports, AVS investigation officers interview witnesses and work with animal welfare groups, clinics, and other government agencies. They may also conduct raids, depending on the case.

Some people who see it are pet owners who neglect their pets by subjecting them to inadequate living conditions, Mr Teoh said.

“Based on what we have gathered and observed from past cases, I think what we can say is that most of the owners lack the knowledge and awareness of what they can do to properly take care of the animals,” he added.

“So for all of these, we go the educational route, we ensure that we teach them the correct thing and tell them how to be a responsible pet owner, what are the things you should and should not do. Most of them, they are receptive and then they become better owners.”

Among the challenges AVS faces during investigations include the lack of evidence or eye witnesses. Sometimes officers have to rely on circumstantial evidence, such as a weapon used to commit the act, or post-mortem reports of the animal.

The SPCA currently has four rescue officers and an inspector who handles its cases. Apart from rescues, the animal welfare charity also looks into reports of neglect, abuse and abandonment, with cases taking between a week and up to two years to resolve.

When SPCA officers intervened, people accused of abuse sometimes became “very defensive”.

Ms Aarthi brought up a case where two boys were walking their dog, and one of them was filmed pulling a small dog up by its leash, suspending it in mid-air.

“We reached out and asked the authorities to join us in counseling these children because this was a fine line between, ‘do you know how to care for your dog’, and ‘are you being cruel’.

“(The boys) came with the father and the father was very unhappy that his sons were in this situation.

“He was trying to justify (his sons’ actions) to us and we always end up in this very difficult spot where he will say ‘oh, there’s actually a harness, so what’s wrong with me lifting the dog up like this?’

“You realize they learn this from the parents.”

Some cases cannot proceed because of a lack of evidence, Ms Aarthi and Mr Lee told CNA.

There are also animal lovers who get emotional so they cremate the abused animals, removing the biggest evidence the SPCA needs to proceed with cases, Mr Lee said.

In some cases, cruelty is not detected until it is too late. Mr. Lee recalled a dog that had been starved for months and the dog’s carcass was “skin and bones” by the time it was handed over to the SPCA.

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