Perceptions of stray dogs need to change

The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority's (AVA) nationwide Trap-Neuter-Release-Manage programme has greatly shifted the focus of stray dog management in Singapore from culling to sterilisation (5-year plan to curb number of stray dogs; Nov 11).

However, what is lacking is addressing poor pet ownership policies and current public perceptions of the strays.

To reinforce the suitability of these dogs as potential pets after sterilisation, HDB laws need to be more relaxed.

Improper size and weight guidelines for pet dogs render 80 per cent of the resident population unable to own stray dogs.

Under Project Adore, HDB has relaxed its policy on the adoption of retired sniffer dogs in HDB estates, which shows that there is room for possible immersion of such strays into society, given the chance.

Next, sterilisation alone does not address the issues of security and human-animal conflict in the short run.

As such, complaints from the public in areas such as Punggol and Yishun will continue to come in, further increasing pressure on AVA to address them, most often with not-so-palatable solutions.

Hence, ensuring that sterilised dogs are not euthanised compels a shift in perception by society.

In India, where stray dogs and humans co-exist peacefully, the local authorities of cities such as Pune urge their citizens to slow down their vehicles and throw biscuits at such dogs.

Singapore, too, could promote such acceptance by encouraging community feeding.

Popular stray complaints describe these dogs as chasing humans or vehicles, posing a security threat to them.

The authorities should paint an alternative picture where such an act is seen as the animals' attempt at securing food or self-defence, rather than an intention to harm.

Additionally, public outreach efforts through events such as pet roadshows or old folks' home rehabilitation therapy sessions can promote more public acceptance and assimilation into society, accelerating the success of current efforts.

Terrendip Kaur (Ms)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 16, 2018, with the headline 'Perceptions of stray dogs need to change'. Print Edition | Subscribe