New Law Society president Adrian Tan calls HDB's ban on cats as pets 'irrational & unfair'

The topic sparked a debate between issues owning cats and dogs.

Alfie Kwa | January 06, 2022, 11:18 AM

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The Law Society of Singapore (LawSoc)'s Adrian Tan assumed his role as the organisation's newly appointed president just this year. He has wasted little time in making his voice heard about an issue close to Singaporeans' hearts - pet cats.

Tan is a partner at TSMP Law Corporationand also wrote the popular "Teenage Textbook" and "Teenage Workbook" novels.

Tan is also known for commenting on legal and social issues, many of which he posts on his LinkedIn page.

About six months ago, he made a stand against the Housing & Development Board's (HDB) ban of cats as pets.

This was reposted on the Facebook page, Sayang Our Singapore's Community Cats, on Jan. 3, opening up the discussion on whether cats should be allowed as pets in HDBs.

The post has gained traction with 1,300 shares and 131 comments so far.

HDB's reasons to ban cats is "terrible"

On HDB's website, it is stated that cats are not allowed in flats, while dogs (HDB approved breeds), and small animals like rabbits and guinea pigs are allowed.

HDB added:

"They (cats) 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."

However, Tan disagreed and called it an "irrational and unfair" rule that affects 80 per cent of the population – those living in HDB flats.

This was his response to the reasons given by HDB:

1. Cats are generally difficult to contain within the flat.

"So are dogs, birds, mice and even humans. All pets need some type of restraint, e.g. grilles. Cats are easier to contain than dogs since cats are smaller and are content to be solitary. I rate this a bad reason."

2. Cats tend to shed fur.

"So do dogs."

3. Cats tend to defecate or urinate in public areas.

"So do dogs. And, in fact, cats don’t tend to poo or pee in public areas because they are content to use the home litter box."

4. Cats make caterwauling sounds.

"Very rarely. And dogs bark, especially at strangers walking past a flat. Birds, especially parrots, make a lot of noise too."

Pets can make people happy

In addition, Tan said that pets can make people happy by helping to reduce stress and depression.

He added:

"In the age of lockdowns and remote working, pets ease the pain of loneliness and isolation by providing companionship. Caring for an animal helps kids learn empathy and responsibility."

While having dogs as pets are good, he pointed out that many Singaporeans are unable to do so due to religious and medical reasons.

"Cats are a wonderful option," Tan wrote, "they are easy to care for. They are content to stay at home, do not bark, and are small."

He also argued that while condominium units are no bigger than HDB units, residents are allowed to keep cats.

"Can it be that only those who live in private housing are entitled to have cats? Or are condo cats better-behaved and more polite? Are cats only for rich people?"

Should the ban be lifted?

The Facebook post led to a debate among users, many of them arguing against HDB's reason that cats defecate or urinate in public, as dogs do that too.

"Dog owners let their dog pee at the void deck and poo everywhere when they bring their dog out for a walk. I got to be very careful not to step on them when I go for my night run," said a Facebook user.

Support for Tan's position

Many who agreed with Tan commented that lifting the ban may better protect the welfare of cats.

A user said: "When we give cats the legal status in HDB, we can better protect and advocate for the welfare of cats."

SPCA also supports the removal of the ban. It said in a Facebook post in December 2019:

"We feel that lifting the ban, setting rules on responsible cat ownership, and implementing a microchipping and registration scheme, will improve cat management and welfare in Singapore."

Louis Ng, Nee Soon GRC Member of Parliament and the founder of animal rescue group Acres, also questioned the ban in a Facebook post in October 2020 and said that HDB's concerns with cats can be "easily addressed".

He added, "Many many many people keep cats in HDB flats. We have a rule that we do not actively enforce. Why then do we have this rule?"

Ng has been fighting for a review of the ban on having cats in HDB.

Another view

However, Facebook group Kittens RescueSG commented that the "main reason" behind the ban is the problem of cat "hoarders" where residents bred and house numerous cats in their HDB flats.

"The reason is the owner, not the animal," it said.

An animal rescuer, Fiona Loh, previously told Mothership that if the cats from cat "hoarders" don't get rehomed, they will eventually be abandoned.

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Top photos by TSMP website and Lily Banse on Unsplash.