AVS is seeking views on finally changing the rule banning cats in HDB flats. This has been such a long outdated rule (and a personal bugbear), that I cannot believe it's still on the books. In addition, as Louis Ng said, the rule is not actively enforced - so why is it still around?
First and most importantly, please go and fill out the survey here asking for your opinion. It's open till November 2nd and every opinion supporting allowing cats in flat helps!
Warning : the survey is long - and it's actually about far more than just cats in flats. It covers issues of TNRM (which are just as important).
Secondly, kudos to AVS and NParks for taking this on. It's really encouraging to see that they are looking at animal welfare in a more holistic fashion. However the survey covers so many issues that it's often quite confusing. In addition, the questions are not necessarily very nuanced - there are however boxes for you to type in additional comments. Please do so!
Here are a few issues I personally found with the survey.
One, while there is some mention of licensing and microchipping of cats, there are very few details. For example, how many cats will be allowed? How will this number be determined? Will this apply to all housing or just HDB housing? Will the size of the premises matter? What if people have more than the maximum number of cats (there was some mention of the new framework being gradually implemented so hopefully allowance will be made for that).
I am glad to see that they are asking whether people who are fostering should be given an exemption as those aren't pet cats. Given how limited land is, it helps to allow fosters to legally temporarily house cats.
Further, I still don't quite know how TNRM is different from SCSP. SCSP is itself an updated Stray Cat Rehabilitation Scheme which was unceremoniously stopped in 2003 when SARS (the last SARS for those too young to remember) hit Singapore and cats were implicated without evidence. Heres a nice writeup. One issue is the question about whether caregivers/volunteers and commercial trappers should undergo training and certification. This is an additional burden for caregivers and volunteers who are already doing this with on their own time and who are not getting paid to do it. There are of course some cat trappers who are more experienced and who help out with especially tricky cats. I believe they should also be treated differently - most charge for just transport and for time spent. In addition, they are usually known in the community and have a 'reputation'.
Commercial trappers on the other hand, will trap basically for profit. There have already been instances where there has been alleged to be mistreatment with some of these companies and so they should undergo some kind of training to ensure that they know how to humanely trap a cat. The survey states that AVS will work with AWGs, agencies, as well as community groups, to enhance its rehoming networks and programmes to rehome the sterilised cats where feasible. The remaining sterilised cats will be released back to the community to live out their lives.
I don't believe rehoming should be the default for community cats - they have a home, and it's in our neighbourhoods. Of course there are cats that cannot be returned - they may be injured or unable to return or the area may be unsafe. However, removing all the cats after sterilisation will lead to a vaccuum effect - new cats will just move in. Allowing cats to remain where they are (and being managed and cared for by responsible caregivers) allows for a stable, managed population in the area.
Most importantly, I hope that the two issues don't get conflated - cats in HDB flats should not be seen to be a way to remove cats from the street. The law should change because it has never made sense. In addition, people already live in private apartments and houses who keep cats - so only people in HDB estates cannot. Why should this be so? Our Muslim friends and neighbours also cannot keep dogs - which are allowed under HDB rules. Why should they not be allowed to keep the pet of their choice if they should want to?
Having said that, I do think that these are very positive developments. I am looking forward to the day when cats can legally live in HDB flats and their owners no longer have to fear that they will fall afoul of the law.