Cat Welfare Society says punishment for animal abusers too lenient

The current maximum pet disqualification period of 12 months is "blatantly insufficient".

Low Jia Ying | October 13, 2021, 04:21 PM

Follow us on Telegram for the latest updates:

The Cat Welfare Society (CWS) released a blog post on Oct. 8, recommending that the current penalties for convicted animal abusers to be much harsher.

Currently, the maximum disqualification period for owning a pet for convicted animal abusers is 12 months, CWS highlighted.

CWS is pushing for this to be increased to a minimum of 60 months at least, which comes up to five years, and a maximum of a lifetime disqualification.

The Animal Veterinary Service reported that it has investigated 1,200 cases of alleged cruelty and abuse cases each year since 2017.

Approximately 260 cases were related to animal cruelty, while the rest involved pet owners who failed in their duty of care.

Only 22 cases of animal abuse have been prosecuted in the last five years.

The group also noted that there has been no case yet in which the maximum sentences and fines have been imposed for animal abuse.

CWS wrote: "As the full length of these terms and quantum have not been tested, we do not know what in the Court’s view is so heinous as to warrant the maximum jail/ fine penalties."

The current maximum jail term for charges of cruelty are a jail term not exceeding 18 months or a fine not exceeding S$15,000 or both for a first offence.

This latest response from CWS came after two high-profile animal abuse cases were reported widely in the media.

12-month disqualification period "blatantly insufficient"

In their blog post, CWS cited the recent animal abuse cases of Clement Chia, who abused his pet poodle, and Leow Wei Liang, who slashed over 10 cats in Ang Mo Kio.

The man who abused his pet poodle was given a 12-month disqualification order, which CWS said is "blatantly insufficient and lacking as even a practical deterrent to any animal abuser".

They reasoned that Chia, who was given an eight-month jail sentence, could easily own another animal shortly after he is released from prison.

CWS added that Leow, who received a 12-week jail sentence, would still be able to own a pet, instead of targeting community cats, once a one-year disqualification period is over.

Such a short disqualification period is of limited use as a deterrent for animal abusers, CWS said.

At the very least, CWS said the disqualification order should be a "useful tool" to prevent the animal abusers from harming other animals after they have served their sentences.

Regular check-ins with freed animal abusers

CWS also proposes that regular check-ins should be conducted with freed animal abusers to assess their mental state, to decide whether their disqualification period should be increased or decreased, if appropriate.

Such check-ins should be conducted by an investigation officer together with a mental health practitioner.

CWS said the minimum five-year disqualification period gives the authorities "sufficient time and data to establish a pattern of behaviour" and make assessments of the abuser's mental state to determine whether they can own a pet.

They added that this proposal would not overly strain public service officers if they were to conduct routine check-ins as only 22 people have been convicted of animal abuse in the past five years, according to CNA.

CWS said they will be approaching the relevant authorities with this proposal "in due course".

Recent animal abuse cases

Clement Chia Tian Xiang

Clement Chia Tian Xing was seen abusing his pet poodle, Leslie, in a series of viral videos filmed between October 2016 and November 2017 by himself and his cousin.

The videos showed Chia, now 42, torturing his poodle in various ways, including holding the poodle by one of its legs and lifting it off the ground, suspending it in mid-air, and hitting it non-stop with a hanger while the poodle was struggling and whimpering.

The poodle also had its mouth bounded with a string.

Chia's cousin, Yong-Quan, was fined S$4,500 for filming the videos and not stopping the abuse.

Chia himself was jailed eight months and was given a disqualification order of 12 months.

District Judge Lorraine Ho said Chia had derived a "sadistic pleasure" from tormenting the dog, according to The Straits Times.

She added: "Had there been a victim impact statement (from the dog’s current owner), I might even be minded to impose a higher sentence."

In handing out Chia's sentence, District Judge Ho said a strong deterrence sentence was necessary to deter others from committing similar "abhorrent" offences, Today reported.

Leow Wei Liang

From April to May this year, a series of reports surfaced over Ang Mo Kio's community cats spotted with deep slash wounds.

The culprit was found to be Leow Wei Liang, a 37-year-old Singaporean man who was diagnosed with autism and antisocial personality disorder.

Leow admitted to using a penknife to injure seven cats, as he felt allergic to their fur.

He also said he "wanted to have fun since the cats were stray animals and not human".

Leow pleaded guilty to three of his seven charges of animal cruelty, and was sentenced to 12 weeks' jail.

In sentencing Leow, District Judge May Mesenas said his autism may have played a role in his offences, but she had to take into account the number of cats he had harmed, and the fact that he had purposely gone around looking for cats to harm, reported Today.

She added that there was a need for deterrence in this case, and a balance had to be struck.

The judge also arranged for a community court conference to ensure that Leow's mental condition would be kept in check and that he does not reoffend.

In an update on Oct. 14, CWS said that they have written to Member of the Parliament for Nee Soon GRC Louis Ng who has agreed to file a parliamentary question on this matter.

CWS shared that Ng will be asking the Minister for National Development if the ministry will consider raising the period a person is disqualified from owning any animal or any class of animals from the current maximum of 12 months under section 43B of the Animals and Birds Act.

Follow and listen to our podcast here

Top photos via Cat Welfare Society/FB, Brenda Tan/FB and ning_wong/IG