Saturday, June 4, 2011

Thoughts on the HDB rule

Finally after all these years, there's a chance that the HDB rule banning cats in flats may be overturned. That and the fact that the SCRS may be brought back is certainly cause for celebration.

I've heard from some people that they are concerned that a change in the rule might not help community cats - that in fact, people might run out and buy more pedigree cats and that more breeders will come in and fill that demand. I don't believe that this will happen. Will some people go and buy cats? Undoubtedly. Will some breeders and pet shop owners try and sell more cats? Again, this will certainly happen. However I don't believe this is going to be a big issue.

The thing is - most people aren't really aware of the ruling at all. I still hear from many people that they are shocked to learn that living with a cat (or cats) in HDB flats is illegal. They were never aware of this to begin with. I doubt that a change in the rule will therefore lead to an exodus of people rushing out to buy pedigrees.

What does a change in the ruling actually mean then? Two very important things. One, that if you are a responsible pet owner that you no longer have to live in fear. You will not need to worry that you could be fined or worse, to lose your flat.

Two, that the Town Councils will now have a real weapon in their arsenal to deal with irresponsible cat owners. We all know that irresponsible owners exist - it's just that for years there has been no way to effectively deal with them. A change in the rule will allow for this. As we all know, an irresponsible pet owner has LESS chance of being caught under the rule because they can always allow the cat to wander and claim it is not their cat. Responsible cats owners on the other hand, who keep their cats indoors at all times, are more likely to fall afoul of the rule. A change in the rule will mean that caregivers, TCs and the HDB can work together and focus their attention on those people who are irresponsible instead of penalising anyone who owns a cat, no matter how responsible they are.

After all these years and after all the work of SPCA and CWS (and having met four different Ministers and writing three different proposals on this issue), one has to wonder if all it took was the right person in the right position. It makes me a little sad to think that this possible change in the rules may have had nothing to do with the merit of the arguments. If so, this discriminatory rule would have been overturned years ago.

On the other hand, it's quite possible that the recent general elections have played a huge part in this change. It seems that the authorities are really listening to what people are saying.

So if this rule does change (and I am really hopeful that it will), the people who deserve a huge pat on the backs are all of you. All the caregivers who went out and sterilised, managed and mediated tirelessly are the ones who made a huge difference. I notice that more and more cats now are already sterilised and without dedicated caregivers, this would never have happened. I am sure that it has not gone unnoticed how caregivers are giving back to their estates.

There are another group of people who have been instrumental in bringing about change - all of you, who wrote to your MPs, who went to Meet the Peoples Sessions, who called, turned up and made the point that you are responsible Singaporeans whose cats are part of your lives. You let your MPs know that you are prepared to stand up and be counted and to give back to the community. It is YOUR voices that have been heard - or how else would the Ministers have realised that this was something that many Singaporeans care about? No society or welfare group can bring about a sea change without the support and voices of people - and you deserve a huge round of applause for getting all of us to this stage.

Now let's work together to make sure that this rule is changed. Please write to your MPs and the Ministers in charge at and (or post on their facebook pages here and here) and let them know that it's important to change this rule and relegate it to the history books!

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