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  Today Online 25 Mar 06
Shame on you, animal bullies
Time to mete out harsher penalties to those who abuse small, defenceless animals?
Neil Humphreys news@newstoday.com.sg

I USED to sleep with animals. Not farmyard animals, just regular household pets. On rainy nights in England, I once shared my bed with a brown Doberman called Duke and two cats named Jo Jo and Ozzie. The dog joined me on the pillow and the two cats slept by my feet. That way, they could rip bloody strips of flesh from my feet every time I fidgeted. We spent many happy nights together, sharing each other's problems and concerns.

I couldn't get a girlfriend; they peed on the kitchen floor and licked their genitals in public. They were good listeners and rarely argued. If Duke wished to express his disagreement, he'd stretch his legs and gas the bedroom. The cats at his rear end often had to be resuscitated. As a rule, avoid sleeping with any dog who eats tripe twice a day. But the sleeping arrangement was an unqualified success. I kept the pets indoors when it rained and they listened to the growing pains of my adolescence. It was kind of Dr Doolittle meets Dr Phil.

Although it might explain why I never had a regular girlfriend until I was 18. And when I did, she was never allowed to stay over. There was no room on the bed. But I stopped sleeping with animals when I left home and went to university. Pets weren't allowed in the halls of residence, largely because we were so poor, there was the fear that we might return from the pub and eat them.

Then I moved to Singapore. Living with a dog the size of Duke was out of the question because the HDB only tolerates cuddly canines in their apartments. That's why you often step into lifts and come across those small, monkey-faced Pug dogs. I don't wish to denigrate their physical appearance, but they've clearly spent too much time chasing parked cars. I respect all animals, but those Pug dogs do have the body of a piglet and the face of a punch drunk boxer.

Knowing that a Doberman or an Alsatian didn't fall within the HDB's guidelines, my wife and I compromised. We got a hamster. He was a cute, four-legged mammal and listened to all my problems, but it wasn't the same. And on the two or three occasions that we slept together, it was just downright awkward. Apart from the size discrepancy, hamsters like to nibble nuts.

I mention all of this to explain the immeasurable value of pets to not only non-animal lovers, but also to those who've never kept one in their home. There is a sense of loyal, devoted companionship that is rarely found in most people. When a pet reciprocates one's love, there are never any strings attached.

Living with animals as a child taught me the basic responsibilities that come with caring for others. My children, when they eventually come, will also share a house with animals so they can learn to selflessly protect and provide for those around them from an early age: No matter how many times the pets poop under their beds.

These are basic values that the reprehensible David Hooi clearly never picked up in childhood. He was imprisoned this week for a paltry three months for systematically torturing and killing stray cats. In the same week, three slingshot-wielding cowards allegedly shot and killed a flying lemur in the MacRitchie Nature Reserve.

These crimes are the most despicable and akin to child abuse because they are carried out against innocent, weaker beings. Notice how these random acts of violence are committed against smaller creatures such as kittens and lemurs, rather than larger feral dogs or long-tailed macaques. Those animals have a slim chance of defending themselves and parasites like Hooi never take such risks.

Bullies dish out abuse. They can never take it. But the gahmen must take these crimes far more seriously, not only because they reflect negatively upon society but also because of the potential repercussions.

It is no coincidence that in Britain, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals now works closely with the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children because there is an obvious link there. Kittens and kids are both easy, defenceless targets for disturbed cowards.

Fortunately, Today readers have lambasted Hooi's lenient sentence and rightly so.

A cigarette smuggler recently received the maximum jail term of three years for bringing in 1,200 cartons of Marlboro cigarettes. Hooi killed kittens and got away with three months when the maximum sentence is a year's jail under the Animals & Birds Act.

Something doesn't quite add up here.

Today Online 25 Mar 06
Police will tackle abuse seriously
Letter from AUDREY ANG
Assistant Director (Media relations)
Singapore Police Force

WE REFER to the letters, "Animal rights vs music copyright?" by Celia Chua (March 21) and "Cat love starts in the cradle" by Deirdre Moss (March 24), as well as the earlier commentary by Goh Boon Choo "Catch the human rats" (March 20).

Our police officers have been reminded of the appropriate laws that provide for investigations into acts of cruelty to animals. We will investigate reports of alleged animal abuse seriously and with a view to prosecute.

We also work with the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority (AVA) as well as the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals on the safe custody or care for abused animals. Arrangements are also made with the AVA for the animal to be sent for veterinary attention and examination.

Offenders will be prosecuted in court when there is sufficient evidence. An offender may be punished under the Animals & Birds Act. When convicted, he faces a maximum fine of $10,000 or a maximum jail term of 12 months, or both.

Depending on the circumstances of the case, the offender may alternatively face a charge of mischief by killing or maiming an animal under the Penal Code which carries an imprisonment term of up to five years, or with a fine, or both.

More about the poaching incident
Flying lemur and baby shot down at MacRitchie by Radha Basu The Straits Times 22 Mar 05
Photos and details on Aaron's post on the Nature Photographic Society forum
Update on how the baby lemur is doing on the Central Nature Reserve Volunteers blog

Learn more about our colugos

"Flying Lemur thriving in Singapore's Nature Reserves" By Chang Ai-Lien The Straits Times on the Molluscan Trails forum
About Norman Lim and his study of our wild colugos
Fact sheet and photos of colugos on Kwok Wai's WildLife Singapore website

Visit our forests to see our colugos
Join guided walks by volunteers at Bukit Timah Nature Reserve and MacRitchie Prunus Trail. Colugos are quite often spotted, but you need and experienced guide to show you where they are.

Act for our colugos
Be alert to people who are out to hurt our native wildlife. If you come across suspicious people in the forest, please call NParks at 64685736.

Related articles on Singapore's biodiversity
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