Friday, October 30, 2009

Birds shot at Changi Airport

Thanks to Chinky for sending me these two letters - Don't Gun them down and Heavy-handed about the sea eagles that are being shot by the gun club at Changi Airport. An earlier article about Changi Airport mentions that birds that arrive are scared off, or shot down.

I missed the original article and was horrified to read that the sea eagles (and presumably some other birds) are shot as a measure of 'last resort'. One wonders what qualifies as last resort. As Mr Owyong mentioned in his letter, if this is a 'last resort', then why is the gun club called in regularly?

Other airports have used computer modelling, mats that prevent worms from nesting on their grass so that the birds aren't attracted there (which I mentioned in an earlier blog post), working with biologists, and just about a dozen other different methods. Making the area inhospitable is probably the best first step to keeping the birds out.

I also fail to see how random shooting of the birds actually helps to improve safety. Shouldn't there be a better method in place than to get people in to shoot them once in a while? Also, it seems that there are better, more technologically advanced methods of keeping the birds out - why not employ these rather than low-tech point and shoot, which does nothing except kill birds? The gun club has mentioned that they cannot shoot some of the birds because they fly too high and fast for them - and tempted as I am to say good for the birds (which I will), it also clearly shows the limitations of the method being employed.

If Changi really wants to be a number one airport, then I certainly hope they come up with a better method of preventing bird strikes.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Banning circus animals

Banning the use of live animals in circuses is good news - but the fact that these animals in Bolivia have nowhere to go after, isn't. You know the old adage - be careful what you ask for, you might get it. It's a tough question - where do these animals go? On the other hand, it does mean no more animals will be put into circuses again. Is it better to have short term suffering and spare many more animals the harm of being put in a circus later on?

Friday, October 23, 2009

Killed Rabbits used to generate electricity

Any way you cut it, using killed bunny rabbits to generate electricity doesn't make the act of killing the rabbits any better. One wonders why a more humane solution isn't pursued.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Giving up colony caregiving

I was speaking with a caregiver a few days ago and she was telling me that people are telling her that they can't look after the cats anymore because of the economic downturn.

I can understand that there are people cash strapped in this crisis, and I do sympathise with them, but in this case, she doesn't believe that it's necessarily the case in her situation. She believes they are just 'offloading' the cats into her care. She has already been paying for the sterilisation of their cats and for other medical treatments as they had said they couldn't afford it. They are now telling her however that they want to give up feeding too. From what I understand, at least one of them told her that it was the fault of the cats that they lost their job though she's not sure how this came about.

If it comes between feeding your family, and feeding your cats, no one can blame you if you choose to feed your family. However, sometimes the situation is one where people for various reasons decide they don't want to do it anymore - and sometimes it's because there's someone else in the area whom they think they can palm it off to.

In this particular case, the caregiver started sterilising the cats as she saw the feeders there weren't doing so. She has often had to retrieve cats caught and sent to the AVA (only to be told that the feeders don't want the cats back), and that if there's a problem with the town council, she should deal with it. The fact that this caregiver is not a resident there and cannot for example see the MP, is something the feeders choose to overlook. When she explained it to them, one of them told her that she should do what she could because he wasn't going to do anything.

It's irresponsible to start caring for a colony and then palming the work off to someone else for no good reason. There may be very valid reasons for it obviously - relocation, ill health, etc - which anyone can sympathise with. Just because there's someone else there who IS responsible and is a good caregiver however, does not mean that he or she wants more cats to care for and therefore wants to take over your colony too. If it's a chore for you to go down and take care of your own cats, then why should someone else take over? Don't start feeding - or even more importantly, caregiving, which involves TNRM - unless you can see yourself seeing it through for the next several years.

Monday, October 19, 2009

World Animal Day photos

These are some amazing photos in honour of World Animal Day.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Happy Deepavali!

Happy Deepavali to everyone!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Animal and God's Kingdom seminar

Animal and God's Kingdom seminar, originally uploaded by dawnkua.

I realise that many of you have probably already seen this but I thought it might be of interest to those who hadn't. I also realise that the registration date just went by but you might still be able to register. It seems like a very interesting conference and would be useful to speaking with some Christians who think that treating animals humanely is not in God's plan . Hopefully every major religion will hold one!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Non-surgical sterilisation updates

There is a fascinating article in Science magazine this week with updates on the progress of finding a non-surgical method to sterilise dogs and cats. Among the interesting things, the article talks about is how there are many more people now doing research in this area because of the grant. It is extremely expensive to run trials like this - one researcher ended up having to pay out of her own pocket to house the cats for a year - and so this injects a much needed infusion of cash. What's also great to hear is that scientists whose research interests have not necessarily been in this area are now also looking into the area. The more the merrier! Link via Found Animals.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Cat in the MRT

More on the cat in the MRT station. It does seem that the SPCA has gotten similar calls in the past - so hopefully it was a lapse in this case, and that there really is a system in place.

Now it appears that someone claims that it was their community cat - though I haven't seen the caregiver's name mentioned in any report till today. There are no other details - like for example, why there doesn't seem to be any mention of the caregiver being in the station looking for the cat when the writer of the letter was there - so perhaps there may be other circumstances we are not aware of. Otherwise, it is surprising because I wonder why the caregiver waited to come forward.

Again, please remember, time is of the essence if you lose a cat. Look for it right away. The longer you wait, the more likely it is you're not going to find your cat again.

Speak up - and in a timely fashion

There was some confusion about which rail operative was involved, and it seems that it was not SMRT identified, as the letter writer originally stated, but SBS Transit. Full disclosure : I have a relative who works for SBS Transit - but my opinion on the subject remains the same.

It's good to hear from this letter that SBS transit acknowledged that they made a mistake in the handling of this case, and that they will be meeting with the SPCA to work out a proper way of handling this situation. Apparently they mentioned having rescued some dogs from the station in the past. Even if there was already a protocol in place as the letter stated, it is certainly good to have a refresher, and to remind the staff (who clearly didn't know about it). It's also heartening to hear that they haven't found a dead cat on the tracks. I spoke to someone who told me that there are apparently a lot of ventilation holes in the tunnels - hopefully the cat was able to escape out of one of them.

On another thought, this brought into mind the story that I first read via calsifer's blog the other day.

I'm so sorry to hear about this case, and about the cat that wasn't saved but it does also bring to mind several issues. The writer in the MRT case wrote in and demanded accountability - and she did get it.

On the other hand, the aunties in the case mentioned above, didn't, for whatever reason. I can understand they might be frightened or scared but that doesn't help them or the cats. Neither does bringing the case up long after it happened.

The point is this - if a situation like this happens, someone has to ask for accountability, and it has to be the person whom it happened to. Imagine if the writer at the MRT station had told a friend about it, and asked that friend to write in, months or years after the fact. All of us responded especially to the situation because it had happened to the writer herself - and she was able to give specific details of what happened, and when. It also added an urgency to the case because obviously it mattered so much to her, that she wrote in right away, when the details were still fresh in her mind. It also adds credibility because she came forward herself and identified herself.

On the other hand, this case in AVA, sad as it is, made me wonder - why didn't the people involve come forward? Also, why didn't they do so sooner?

If the women were frightened for their own (and their cats') sakes, then their cat was already killed - honestly, what could be worse? The worst thing had already happened.

If the issue was that they felt that it didn't matter anymore - and it obviously does still matter to these aunties because they are still scarred by the event - then it could very well matter to the next cats which are caught. If the AVA staffer is still there, then it could well happen to the next person whose cats are caught. At the very least, what seems to be from the (admittedly second or third hand) account, a seemingly arbitrary decision could have been queried.

Right now, it's hard to see what can be done. It's like the many times we hear of people complain of animal abuse - but that they can't 'do anything' and so they tell their friends who then try to go to the police. Obviously this can't be done because the police need an actual eyewitness - and it's clear to see why. Any news passed down second or third hand will get distorted - ever played 'broken telephone'?

If someone's home is broken into, I doubt most people would not file a report, or go to the police. Then why the difference with cats? I can understand that this might be the case with the general public - but I'm sure to most of us, a cat's life is more important than any property. We have to put aside this fear or reluctance to speak up. We have already seen that there are many caregivers and people concerned about cats who are willing to back witnesses up and give them support in terms of letters and phone calls. There is a community that will support caregivers - and we've seen that time and again.

At the end of the day, if we don't speak up for the cats, then who will?

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

'You are being shagged by a rare parrot' - Last Chance To See - BBC Two

This is a funny video from a series about an important message - conservation.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Cat on MRT tracks

*Updated post as it seems that the wrong transport operator was identified in the initial letter*

There seems to be a lot of discussion on the cat that was at Dhoby Ghaut MRT station.

First of all, the writer should be commended for what she did. Noticing how frightened the cat was and clearly being familiar with cats, I am sure she would have realised it would have been near impossible to catch the cat without the proper equipment, so she tried to get help for the cat. In addition, as she undoubtedly considered, if the cat was scared, it might well have made a dash for the tracks.

What has upset everyone, is the subsequent behaviour of the staff at the station. What this episode DOES show is that the staff involved did not know how to handle a cat. This isn't unexpected - many people don't have a clue what to do when faced with a cat. Some of the people involved may have actually believed that putting the cat into a plastic bag was a good idea, and that it was the best way of removing the cat safely. They may (and this is based obviously on conjecture) have actually thought this was the better way of handling the situation as waiting for pest control would take too long.

Unfortunately, they chose not to listen to the writer, who advised them against this, and instead pursued the cat. She felt it was obvious that it would distress the cat further.

Most of us would realised this - but what is obvious to us, isn't obvious to many people. Some people have had no interaction with cats - to them, removing the cat might be as simple as scooping the cat up and putting it in a plastic bag.

Then again, I know of feeders who have carried their cats places without carriers, or in flimsy boxes which aren't even covered properly. I've seen cats carried in pillow cases, over the shoulders and untethered in any way. I know of a cat at a vet that disappeared because the owner did not contain it properly (I believe there wasn't even a carrier). Even at Spay day, we had people come in with cats in carriers that clearly would not contain the cat. Somehow people think that a cat will just stay put if you just plonk them in some kind of restraint. Or maybe they believe that if they give the cat a dirty look, the cat will just stay put. Surprise! That doesn't work. If even people who care for cats don't know better, than perhaps ignorance by the general public can be better understood.

Of course what I fail to understand from reading the writer's account is why the security door that led to the tracks was opened subsequently by a staff member. Perhaps we'll hear from the staff member involved at some point.

Why did the staff member not attempt to stop the train? It's possible the train could not have been halted at the point if it was already approaching the station (think of your car brakes and how much stopping distance you need after you depress them).

There is also this to consider : the staff member may not have felt empowered to do this - or to face the consequences especially when the management may not already be very cat-friendly to begin with. I remember at least one case where I wrote in to offer our help to one of the transport operators because we were told that the unsterilised cats were usually rounded up and sent to the AVA if there were complaints or if they were found to be a 'problem'.

So what needs to be done? Clearly what this episode shows is that there should be some manner of procedure or protocol devised so that staff members DO know what do in future. This would ensure that we don't have to cross our fingers and hope that if this happens again, the staff member knows something about cats.

It also clearly isn't just an animal welfare issue. Birds striking into plane engines have been the cause of many engine failures. Airports take safety measures to try and keep birds away from the airport strips to try and minimise this from happening.

A cat that runs onto a track could conceivably cause damage to the train - and to the passengers onboard, not to speak of the cat being crushed or badly injured. Surely there must be protocol for what happens if a person should run onto the track - and similarly there should be steps in place for what happens if a cat should run on. If there are staff trained to spot people eating and drinking on the train, there can be staff members in place to help in a situation such as this.

It might well have happened that even if all the right steps were followed, the cat might still have dashed onto the tracks but it does limit the chances of that happening.

As for the writer's comments about her disappointment that no one came forward to offer to help, one only has to look at the recent furor over no one helping a woman who had been apparently manhandled by her male companion. We've often heard the justification that it's 'only a cat', but it seems that this isn't true. Many Singaporeans, it seems, just do not like getting involved.

We need to stop being afraid of looking foolish, or being told off, and just do what's right. This may very well mean not 'minding our own business' - because at the end of the day, the community we live in IS our business.

World Animal Day news

Pet Smart Adoption Center, originally uploaded by dawnkua.

A number of animal related stories in the papers in view of World Animal day. According to this article in mypaper, the number of cats taken to the SPCA has dropped by half in the last 5 years. This is great news. It also mentions CWS' Spay Days, though they were actually started four years ago, not three as the newspaper stated.

There is also apparently a new foundation being set up by Pet Lovers Centre to encourage adoption. Perhaps the foundation might consider setting up adoption centres in the pet shops? Here's a photo of a similar initiative that Petsmart charities has in the US. Every Petsmart has an adoption centre run by welfare groups in the area - and as you can see, quite a large number of animals has been adopted through them.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

World Animal Day

World Animal Day, originally uploaded by dawnkua.

Happy World Animal Day everyone. As we reach another World Animal Day, it reminds me of how much animals enrich our lives and bring us so much joy. I hope that everyone will learn to at least tolerate, if not love, the animals around us.