Thursday, April 30, 2009

Abandonment because of the economy

This is a really sad story about how people are losing their homes because of foreclosures in the US. As a result, many of their animals are becoming homeless as well. Some people working in animal welfare believe that at least some of these stories are false though - and that people are just justifying not wanting to keep their animals.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Library Cat

This is a sweet story about a library cat - hope it doesn't receive complaints and then get banned from the library!

I am sure all of you have been following the news about the swine flu. I hope it doesn't get worse - first of all, because none of us want to see people get sick or die (though I didn't realise that a quarter to half a million die EACH year from the common flu). Secondly, of course, I worry that the animals may get implicated again as with SARS, even if they have nothing to do with it at all.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Animal Welfare Symposium

It's been a year already and the next Singapore Animal Welfare Symposium is being organised by ACRES. Here are details on how to register.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Some perspectives from an ex-NGO employee

I was very taken aback to read that one of the reasons apparently that led to concerns leading to the takeover of the AWARE Exco was because of the screening of a movie, Spider Lilies. I haven't seen the film, and when I did a bit more reading up, it turned out that it was a charity gala.

Now in a charity gala, this is usually what happens. Someone approaches you (a group, the film company, etc) and suggests that they raise funds for you by screening a movie. They'll choose the movie, and put the tickets up for sale. Then the profits go to the charity. This seems to be the case for AWARE.

Having a charity gala held FOR you, and 'sponsoring' something are two entirely different things obviously. In one, you are the beneficiary. In the other, you are the active party.

It's the same as someone having a dinner for you (as a volunteer did for CWS), or even someone selling bookmarks or t-shirts and sending you the donations. It does not mean you vetted, supported or even knew what the contents were.

I bring this up because CWS had a charity gala held for us too - and the films were supposed to be about a romance between two women (I have to admit I didn't actually watch the movies). Most charities don't have the option of vetting or choosing films unless you are a huge charity - neither of which AWARE or CWS are.

Most charities are also just grateful if someone raises funds because that's how we keep charities afloat.

I would not even bring this up if the CWS Committee that was around then hadn't changed hands because goodness knows, CWS might be then accused of deviating from their original agenda leading to problems for the new committee. However with an almost completely new committee, I'm pretty sure they're safe :)

Incidentally, when I was in University, we held a charity gala then too and the movie happened to be about a hostage taker. I can assure you my classmates and I had no desire to promote hostage taking nor did we harbour a pro-hostage taker agenda.

Also one other issue I was surprised that was being raised was the fact that the AWARE AGMs are not well attended. From what I've heard and seen, MOST charity NGOs are not well attended. Try getting people to attend - people are often so busy and have so many other things to do. The issue isn't necessarily that people aren't happy with the existing comm - sometimes it's the exact opposite. People are happy with the state of affairs and see no reason to then attend.

Incidentally I was also on a panel with Alex Au about animal welfare and civil society. As far as I can recall, that is the single time I met him and he seemed like a perfectly nice man. Civil society in Singapore is still small enough that most active volunteers either are acquainted with each other or know someone who is. We also get invited to a lot of the same civil society events to speak on panels and the like.

One other thing I have to mention about AWARE - when the SARS crisis happened, some AWARE members came forward to offer us their moral support. They felt that active volunteers involved in civil society should help each other out. If you'd like find out what you can do, go to We Are Aware.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Most cat friendly cities

This was a very interesting article sent in via Yskat - these are cities in the US that were listed most cat friendly (albeit tongue in cheek).

Thanks also to tarsiergirl for sending this article in on quarantine procedures. I'm so happy to hear this!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Just One Pair

Just One Pair, originally uploaded by dawnkua.

This was a nice illustration of the importance of Spay Neuter.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Happy Earth Day!

Happy Earth Day everyone! Here's some information on how Earth Day started.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Working together

I am sure most of you (if not all of you) have read about the AWARE AGM.

So what do cats and AWARE have to do with each other? Quite a lot in terms of how causes are promoted.

Some commentators have noted that perhaps the old guard were out of touch, and that it's time for new people to take over. That may well be, but certainly there must be a better way of going about it? Coming in and ejecting the old committee, however 'legal' seems most underhanded.

It is however not a new tactic. A similar suggestion was put to several animal welfare groups a few years ago.

It is to the credit of the welfare groups that the idea was not picked up, and the individuals who came up with it realised it wasn't a good idea in the end. Sure it might have been 'easier' in the short run to take over another organisation, but by doing so, all moral authority would have been lost.

What this case illustrated to me again the perils of not acting together as a group. It's something we've discussed about in terms of animal welfare in the past - the need for a united front. If the new committee members had come on board and asked to work together with the old ones, I think it would have made AWARE much stronger. Instead this has now degenerated and made the whole issue into a farce, which is a shame for all women.

And here is why I think it's related to cats - when caregivers fight, and do it publicly, it makes it difficult to take the cause seriously. How does one effectively champion a cause if one cannot work with others working for the same cause?

The strongest caregiver groups I see are the ones where people support each other. Do they think identically on every topic? Of course not. But what they DO have is respect for each other, and they keep an eye on the ultimate goal, which is animal welfare. I am always impressed by one particular group where if one person has a problem, the rest will immediately support him or her with the TC. It makes the TC more careful as a result.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Mandatory spay-neuter law - a bad idea

This is an interesting article on Spay-Neuter. Apparently, Florida tried to pass a mandatory Spay-Neuter bill. As most of you know, this would be a bad idea because it would just mean more money is wasted trying to enforce the bill. The money could of course instead be used to sterilise more cats.

People who cannot afford to sterilise will not be able to pay the fine should they be caught for having unsterilised cats of course. It would be better to allow people more resources to get their cats done.

It's interesting that in the US, they estimate that 82% of pet cats are sterilised. I strongly believe that if resources are made available to people cheaply, that more people will sterilise their pet cats. On the other hand, an estimated 3% of community cats are done. It's interesting to note that most kittens born are believed to be born to community cats - so that's where the problem lies.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Cat Blogging

Thanks to Suntaneye for this post on cat blogging :)

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

First Dog - a rescue?

The new US first dog is a Portuguese Water dog and already embroiled in controversy. The chances of getting one from a shelter were almost nil - one of the caregivers had one and I know they're pretty rare.

Friday, April 10, 2009

ST (10-4-09)

Thanks to Chinky for sending this in. This is actually the reason I am so reluctant to take my cats over to the US considering that I might be heading back to Singapore! Some of my cats are elderly and I really don't want to subject them to a long quarantine - plus of course they would be indoor only cats here.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Dogs on subways

Just imagine a dog trying this in Singapore - it's very interesting to hear that some of the dogs don't even miss stops.

Monday, April 6, 2009

ST (6-4-09)

Thanks to Chinky for sending this in. The writer complains about the parrots next door. I can sympathise with noise nuisance - but wonder, what constitutes 'noise' and how much should one have to put up with?

My family lives next to a construction site and the noise can and has gone on till 2am. Instead of 12 to 15 parrots, we have heard (and seen) piling go on in the middle of the night. I'm pretty sure the piling is louder :)

When my mother brought this up to the authorities (after having spoken first to the company building the place), we were told that there was nothing that could be done.

I'll be curious to see what the response is to the parrots.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

The importance of good Volunteers

There have been some emails about starting a TNRM programme flying back and forth. It's a really admirable idea and would be fantastic if it worked out - the only problem is the lack of volunteers.

For various reasons, no one can helm the project. The feeder there is only able/willing to feed and doesn't seem very committed. As a result, I was telling one of the people involved, I think it's better to scrap the project.

Of course the cats can and should be sterilised if at all possible, but to start an actual programme, get the management in on it, and then to have no volunteers means it'll fall apart. What that also means is that you're likely to confirm that TNRM doesn't work - and when there MAY actually be good volunteers in the future, they're going to have a really hard time convincing the management to let them restart. Sometimes a good project should be shelved because there just isn't anyone to run it.

It makes me think about the importance of responsible volunteers again. First of all, chances are your pool of volunteers is going to shrink as time goes on, whether it be due to circumstances, or that people realise this isn't what they want to do/is more work than they envisioned. So to hope your volunteer pool will grow, is hopeful, but idealistic.

Secondly, it isn't an excuse to say that someone is 'just a volunteer' and hence shouldn't be expected to do what they have promised to do. I was reading some guidelines about a food bank and they are very strict. You have to commit a certain number of hours, you have to turn up on time, and be dressed a certain way. If not, they 'fire' you. I remember Otterman also being similarly strict with volunteers - and when he asked some volunteers to help out at a Spay Day, they were some of the best volunteers who ever helped out.

Yes of course, volunteers have jobs and other commitments. Sometimes they really may have an extenuating circumstance that prevents them from doing what they were supposed to. That's just life and is understandable. However if someone is consistently not performing, it may be better to drop the project, or ask the person to leave. There are a couple of reasons why I think this is so.

One of the reasons is that you may be volunteering but other people are relying on you. If you fail to do what you have promised to do, it means someone else has to do the job in addition to their own work and these people are volunteers too. It isn't fair to the rest of the group and is actually pretty inconsiderate. Other people also have their own obligations to manage as well and they aren't any less important. I remember one adoption drive, the volunteer in charge of bringing the cats and litter pans down decided she didn't feel like turning up the next day. So several people had to scramble around, contact other potential fosters, and get the various cages together. We never did hear any apology from this person.

Another reason is that it inevitably happens that if one person continues repeatedly not to do what he or she is supposed to do, that it affects group morale. Say you have X number of people, and one person is constantly not fulfilling the work they are to do. The ones who are working will wonder why they are working so hard if others are coasting by doing little or no work. It eventually leads to a lot of resentment as well as most people uniformly doing less work.

On the other hand, when you do find good volunteers, treasure each other. Good volunteers are the ones who put in the time and effort despite the fact that it's often a thankless job. They don't ask 'why should I do it?' but do it because it needs to be done. If you have one or two of these volunteers, your project can work - better to have one good volunteer than twenty lackluster ones. If you are in a volunteer group, support each other and work together because it is always about the welfare of the cats after all, and not personal glory.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Can lobsters feel pain?

Here's one of the age old debates. As a child, I always remember being horrified by drunken prawns. It seemed to me that they must feel pain. It also made me wonder about lobsters and crabs being boiled as I grew older - and it seems that they can feel pain.