An unemployed man who threw a cat from the 13th floor of the block of flats where he lives was convicted yesterday of causing unnecessary suffering to the cat.
Lee Wai Leong, 41, admitted to one charge of animal abuse at Block 115B, Yishun Ring Road, on Oct 30 last year.
He was diagnosed as suffering from epilepsy since the age of one and, later, having moderate intellectual disability.
Noting that he was a simple-minded person and had acted without any cruel intent when he committed the offence, the prosecution said the court could consider options other than jail to meet the needs of deterrence.
Deputy Public Prosecutor Lee Zu Zhao said one option was an extended period of supervision, monitoring and professional help, coupled with counselling for the man's parents to better manage him.
This could be more effective in deterring him from further offence, as well as in rehabilitating him.
Investigation showed that at 10.28am on Oct 30, Lee picked up an adult male mackerel tabby cat from a staircase landing on the ground floor and took the lift up to the 13th floor.
There, he threw the cat over the parapet, resulting in its death.
An Institute of Mental Health report said Lee had mild intellectual disability.
But he was not of unsound mind and knew that what he did was wrong.
"The accused also said during his account of the offence to the psychiatrist that he had killed the cat because it had been very noisy and had even entered his house once before," said DPP Lee.
Under normal circumstances, an act of killing an animal deliberately is egregious conduct and imprisonment is the norm, he said.
"Deterrence, both general and specific, is the dominant sentencing consideration for such deliberate acts of cruelty to an animal that attract public disquiet."
But, given Lee's unique circumstances, the DPP did not object to the calling of a probation report.
Lee's lawyer Josephus Tan, who was assigned under the Criminal Legal Aid Scheme, said Lee was a simple-minded person.
Since Lee's release from remand on Jan 19, there have been more than six reported cat deaths.
"The killing is unrelenting, but he is not the Yishun serial cat killer," said the lawyer.
He said Lee's parents took it upon themselves to care for him, padlocked him in the flat and made sure he slept with them in the master bedroom.
"They were afraid he might just wander out from home. In order to prevent any such possible incident, they would rather not take the chance."
The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore has received 39 reports of cat deaths in Yishun since September last year.
Mr Louis Ng, an MP for Nee Soon GRC, said it is "challenging" to find evidence to nab those who abuse cats.
More closed-circuit television cameras have been installed at various locations, such as lift lobbies and staircase landings, to deter potential offenders, he said.
Ms Pauline Leow of the Cat Welfare Society said this case has raised awareness in the community and made people more vigilant in reporting suspicious cat deaths.
Dr Jaipal Singh Gill, acting executive director of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, called for a "strong and effective response" from the authorities to bring offenders to justice.
"A greater reliance on forensic science will definitely help," he said.
Mr Ng said the cat that Lee threw down on Oct 30 had landed in front of a pre-school at the block.
The adult male tabby cat is the fourth cat thrown from Block 115B, said Ms Leow.
District Judge Mathew Joseph adjourned sentencing to June 7, pending a pre-sentence report.
The maximum penalty is a $15,000 fine and 18 months' jail.
• Additional reporting by Clarice Teo and Delphine Kao