Animal lovers turn to social media to report abuse

The otter pup that was spotted by otter watchers with a fishing hook near its eye, on April 2, 2016.
The otter pup that was spotted by otter watchers with a fishing hook near its eye, on April 2, 2016.PHOTO: YANE KANG

An otter with a fish hook caught near its eye, a man swinging a dog by its neck and several bloodied cat corpses are some of the jarring images of animal abuse that have gone viral on social media recently.

Animal welfare groups say such posts help not only to bring abuse cases to light, but also to identify perpetrators and raise awareness of animal welfare issues.

Animal cruelty complaints to the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) have doubled over the past five years, from about 410 in 2011 to about 840 last year.

The AVA said most complaints turn out not to be about welfare, but related to nuisance and disputes between neighbours.

Last year, only 104 complaints had enough evidence or credible information to substantiate a case of animal cruelty or failure in duty of care.

Acting executive director of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) Jaipal Singh Gill said that while it is hard to say if actual cruelty cases are on the rise, people have become more conscious and equipped to tackle them.

"Things like camera phones and social media make it very easy to share and report cases," he said.

The SPCA has received double the number complaints of abuse and negligence through social media from five years ago, and also uses it for investigations, said Dr Gill.

In February, a man was caught on video hitting and kicking a dog in Mei Ling Street in Queenstown. A day after posting the clip on its Facebook page, the SPCA was able to identify him, and provided its findings to the police and AVA.

Last November, the SPCA rehomed a Japanese Spitz after video surfaced online of its owner swinging the dog by its neck.

Earlier this month, pictures of an otter with a fish hook caught near its eye in an apparent case of illegal fishing at the Kallang River went viral.

Wildlife rescue group Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (Acres) appealed for information on the location of the pup, from the famous Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park pack known as the Bishan 10.

It was seen several days later with the hook gone, in photos posted on Facebook by otter-watcher Nick Soo, who goes by the moniker Fast Snail.

Ms Anbarasi Boopal, deputy chief executive of Acres, said that she received updates from Mr Soo.

"I think with the use of social media more people are aware and can report illegal animal activities, including abuse," she said.

Cat Welfare Society president Thenuga Vijakumar said that the group receives several e-mails a month about dead cats.

"With the increased spotlight on abuse, more people are reporting dead cats. The authorities have also been diverting more attention and resources into such cases," she said.

Cat interest group Yishun 326 Tabby Cat highlighted a recent string of cat killings in Yishun on its Facebook page. Two men have been arrested over the deaths.

Group founder Janet Sum said: "We believe (the authorities') involvement has shown that we are progressing as an animal caring society, and abuse is not tolerated."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 21, 2016, with the headline 'Animal lovers turn to social media to report abuse'. Print Edition | Subscribe