Saturday, August 28, 2010

HDB and the cat rule

Some of you may have seen the article in MyPaper on August 25th "HDB ban on cats in flats should go". Dr Tan Chek Wee writes that he lives in an HDB flat and that he has four adopted cats - cats that were abandoned in his estate.

Dr Tan mentions that his flat is 'cat-proof' and that in addition to these cats, he manages the community cats in his area by carrying out TNRM in his estate. He adds that he believes the ban on cats is unfair to responsible cat owners like himself. He ends off by hoping that the HDB will listen and reconsider the ban.

Since the letter has been published, Dr Tan has been in contact with me. He mentioned that the HDB has contacted the newspaper and asked for his address.

I think it's a real shame that this continues to be an issue. Why is it still an issue when responsible people share their lives with cats within the limits of their own homes?

While we are told that Singapore has the highest percentage of home ownership, with rules like this, it goes to show that HDB flats really aren't owned by Singaporeans who live in them.

After all, how can these flats really be homes if there are rules and regulations about what can be done within the flat? I have been asked by several cat owners how the HDB can come into their home, which they have paid hard earned money for, to see if they own cats. The reason is that the home doesn't really belong to flat owners at all - it belongs to the HDB.

Now I am not aware of bylaws that restrict other activities within the home, as long as this activity doesn't bother others. Think about it - if I choose to live in a filthy home, hoard furniture and junk, and never clean the house, no one can do anything about it, unless arguably it becomes a nuisance/health concern to someone else. Even so, it would be extremely difficult to just bust into an HDB flat - I remember occasions when caregivers had thought someone in the apartment was dead - and even that took a lot of co-ordination and effort before the authorities could go in and check.

Yet if you own just ONE cat, the HDB can come in and ask you to remove your cat, and even throw you out and deprive you of your home. It doesn't matter how clean you are. It doesn't even matter that the cat has caused no trouble. All that matters is that you have a cat.

Worse - there seems to be no logical basis for this rule. The same tired arguments about cats being unsuitable for HDB flats, despite all evidence to the contrary, are trotted out again and again. Testimonials from vets, even support from the AVA on this matter, are all ignored. Yet the rule still stands.

What will it take to finally get this rule to be overturned so that responsible cat owners can live peacefully and unmolested by the HDB?


avalon said...

Dawn, I live in fear that HDB will come knocking on the door and find out my flat is a foster home for our cat rescue group Love Kuching Project. I think that CWS is doing a good job lobbying for this ban to be lifted and they will continue to do so year on year.

As we know, cats make much better flat pets than dogs because they need less space and are cleaner. The excuse that 'cats can fall out of flats' is invalid since babies and maids can fall out of flats too - should they also be banned?

SG laws are archaic when it comes to animal welfare and urban wildlife conservation. We can only strive to make the impossible, possible one day.

Meanwhile, I keep my HDB door closed at all times and I maintain good relations with my neighbours to minimise complaints. They are fully aware that our home is a rescue shelter.

Kaz Augustin said...

You're right. There is no logical basis for the rule. Dogs are allowed, but cats aren't? It beggars belief.

So my conclusion is that it's racism on the part of the Singapore government. After all, don't Chinese in general prefer dogs? And Malays in general prefer cats?

And since there's no logic to back up the ban, surely my view is as valid as any other?

(I have cats, dogs and fish at home. Fortunately, I don't live in Singapore.)

Lina said...

I have cats too at home. Recently, i lost one and cant find her anywhere for two weeks now. There was a complaint before this, saying that my cats were noisy (cats? noisy?). And the complaint was actually from a neighbour who has dog barking at us everytime we pass by. And now i really think, my cat had been placed somewhere by the same neighbour. Why this matter always arise and why dogs/hamsters/mice/birds are allowed in flats?

Satsugaicat said...

What is the difference from owning a dog in HDB flat? And owning part of a community cat?

The argument does not hold water, as all the problems about cats getting out of the home and defecating on neighbor's property can happen with a dog or neighborhood cat.

Its the few people that give cat owners a bad name causing the problem, and some people in HDB that definitely not like cats.

Mi wud rather see cats in homes (HDB) than living on the streets.

Anonymous said...

i've never seen a cat defecating at a hdb estate, but i've step on dog poop many which animal is cleaner?

Dawn said...

avalon - good luck! You are doing the smart thing by maintaining good relations with your neighbours and keeping a close eye on things. I wish I could say you don't have to live in fear - but as long as the bylaw stands, you will.

Kaz Augustin - no logical basis indeed.

Lina - are your cats allowed to roam outside? Do check with your TC and the AVA if they have your cat. Also, it's for your cats' safety to keep them indoors at all times.

Satsugai - I'm not even sure if defecation is the main complaint. It's that cats are somehow incapable of being kept indoors - which is ridiculous. As you said, it's more a question of the owner being responsible.

Anonymous - yes, cats generally bury. Of course, I don't have an issue with dogs in HDB flats either - I just think the rule is without basis and shouldn't penalise either animal!

Anonymous said...

Hi Dawn

I hope Chek Wee is fine. Can you keep us updated how its going? Not surprised that the HDB wants to find out about his address but I wonder why dr chek wee wrote the letter in. He must know that they're going to check up on it.

Perhaps he thinks that its time we all take a stand on this matter and I hope more people write in to support this.

Can you suggest where else we can write in to? And what other points can be raised?

Anonymous said...

i agreed what Avalon abd others had wrtiten here. what actually HDB fear? i lived in singapore for 40 years and never heard such rules like this.. its stupid and unfair...and yeah like racism. doesnt allow cats and dogs not..? dogs barking and cats meows...noisy? ok its still belongs to HDB WE KNOW THAT !..came with this stupid about cats not allow ... who the hell come out with this? what the hell happen to HDB ?? i support 101% on what this guys saying abt HDB cat rules... singapore HDB doing this? its aSHAME !!

Anonymous said...

AVA...SPCA.. i got no worries what u doing like putting those cats/kittens to sleep.
is the same thing like u killing them for no reason. fear this ... u WILL get the PAYBACK from God. coz i know it WILL happen to u.

jaqjaq said...

Hi Guys, I'm a catlover too, I'm just wondering if we should organise a petition hopefully to get HDB to reconsider the No-Cat Ruling. It's very unfair, since Dogs too can fall out of windows, get lost & worst of all, Dogs make more noise then cats. (Unless the cat is on heat)

yskat said...

Its interesting that HDB asked mypaper for Dr Tan's address. One would have thought that HDB already has that information in their database.

Dawn said...

Anonymous @6:29 - I think that is why he wrote in. For one thing, HDB keeps saying that people living in flats don't want to keep cats. Then when someone in a flat asks, they either say no, or ask for their address. It may be time to write in again to the HDB.

Anonymous @ 8:13 - I don't know what they fear either. Fear of more work for them?

jaqjaq - when I was in CWS, we actually sent in a petition asking that cats be allowed in flats, subject to their being sterilised, that they be kept indoors at ALL times, and that there be a limit (subject to the existing cats passing away). We also managed to get thousands of signatures in just three weeks, but HDB was unmoved. We sent in more proposals countering their objections, but when I left, they had just rejected our last request for a meeting. I am not sure whether the current CWS committee has asked to meet with them again since then.

However, I think another petition would be a good idea - but I think it's best to write in. Online petitions don't have an effect.

yskat - that was what struck me too.

Shermaine said...

I hope Newpaper didn't reveal Dr Tan's address and the cats will not be removed because he wrote his opinion.

The ban on cats in HDB flats is ridiculous when most of the population stay in HDB flats. Are they going to remove everybody from their homes as long as they own cat/cats?

There seems to be little awareness in the government that cats make excellent pets in HDB flats (just like dogs). They are not as vocal/loud as dog's barks. It loves to groom itself and keeps itself clean. It covers its own poop after they are done. How can they be considered dirty and a nuisance?

I hope that this ban will be lifted up eventually.

( I used to live in Singapore with my cat in HDB flat. We are now living in the Netherlands. I'm so happy that I brought her along with me!)

Anonymous said...

A cat owner told me that she was scared of her neighbour bec of her cats in her cat-proof hdb flat. The neighbour knew she had cats & threatened to report her to hdb each time neighbour was displeased about any (non-feline) issues. This is intimidation & harassment.

Dawn said...

Shermaine - I'm glad you did too. I also am unsure if it's because they are unaware that cats make good apartment animals or if it's something else. If more than 30 vets testified to how they make good apartment animals, why would the authorities second guess that?

Anonymous @ 12:06 - I think it certainly is.

Anonymous said...

If you are denied the right to enjoy reasonable activities (like having a cat as a pet) in your flat, then ... you fill in the blanks.

eslina said...

I really hope that the ban will be lifted too. It's really not a nice feeling to know that my cat is an illegal alien. If we can afford to live in a private apartment which do not have any ban on cats, we would not even consider buying from HDB.

We have to put up with inconsiderate neighbors, loud noise from weddings/wakes/random celebrations at the void decks and we still have to live in fear of being found out living with a cat is really sad.

My cat is a strictly indoor cat and I don't my neighbors even know he existed but even how responsible we are, the fact remains that the ban is:

"Flat owners are not allowed to keep cats in HDB flats, as it is generally difficult to confine cats within the flat premises. Nuisance caused by cats such as shedding of their fur, defecating/urinating in public areas or even the caterwauling sounds that they make can cause a lot of disturbance, which affects the environment and disrupts neighbourliness in our housing estates."

Dawn said...

What is disturbing neighbourliness are the things you mentioned - yet there are no rules against many of them. If your neighbours sing karaoke loudly, they don't ban Karaoke machines for example. Yet cats are banned.

Anonymous said...

I'm Malaysian and often sighed what a better country Singapore is in terms of race equality. Now that I've learned the distress of cat owners living in HDB in Singapore, I am grateful that I live in Malaysia.

Similar to Singapore, in Malaysia we have bylaws which states the types of pets that are allowed high rise residential (cats and dogs not included). However, I find authorities here are much more flexible and neighbours more tolerant of cats (not too sure about dogs, I noticed many Muslims in Malaysia has some degree of cynophobia). For once, the infamous "tidak apa attitude" of Malaysians is not such a bad thing for us cat lovers.

I feel sorry for cat owners living in fear in Singapore for their cats' lives. Still hoping that both our governments would stop taking away the people's rights. I just hate this whole guilty until proven innocent with cats.

Dawn said...

I hope that the rules are also relaxed Anonymous.

Anonymous said...

haish.. so stubborn . most people live in hdb and the no cat rule is just .. haish.. think about the cats in spca , wanting a loving home . but cant because of stupid hdb cat rule . ALL CATS FROM SPCA ARE NEUTERED/SPAYED after that they are like angels u know ?? remove the rule alr !

Anonymous said...

Pfftt pony. Dumb law

Anonymous said...

We pay 400-500k for a flat.. And we get this kind of treatment? It's like we're renting the flat.. And not buying it at all..

Anonymous said...

My neighbours do keep some cats and I still can tolerant.
However I really can't stand those irresponsible cat feeders: they left food/water below at the ground floor, which attract stray cat to wondering below and fight at nights.

Also in certain area in AMK and YCK. You will notice there are cat foods and pails of water left over nights. which attract insect (mosquito, cockroaches, etc), birds (Pigeon, crows, Myna) and rats (yes, it is rat, those stray cats feed too well that the are not interested in rats).

Anonymous said...

It's been 6 years and there's still a ban, honestly this is just ridiculous. the reasons are just so dumb 'Cats are not allowed in flats. They are generally difficult to contain within the flat. When allowed to roam indiscriminately, they tend to shed fur and defecate or urinate in public areas, and also make caterwauling sounds, which can inconvenience your neighbours.' yes they are hard to contain but why the hell should it be contained in the house while dogs can roam around as long as they have a leash, OK fine, containing them is hard but not impossible. Do you mean dogs don't urinate or shed when they go for walks? Are you kidding me, they pee on almost everything, have you seen those pee stained lamp posts and HDB walls? So what if they make sounds? Don't dogs bark as much??? Dogs are far more likely to bark as much as a cat would freaking meow. dog's bark can travel so far I can't even count the number of reports one might get if 2 dogs howl or bark at the same time so what's so wrong when a cat meows and it's barely audible?? I think it'll take more than their caterwauling sounds to annoy the hell out of anyone.

Unknown said...

Outdated regulations have to be revised. Though I'm a dog owner, I completely agree that it makes absolute no sense! Wake up PAP!!!!

Unknown said...

The reason given is obviously weak or can even be claim as BS. So what are the actual reasons? And why the law only started in 1989?