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CNA Explains: Why cats are not allowed in HDB flats and how that could soon change

"HDB and NParks/Animal & Veterinary Service are exploring the possibility of allowing cats to be kept as pets in HDB flats," says HDB. 

SINGAPORE: Cats could be allowed in Housing and Development Board (HDB) flats if a proposed framework to manage felines is implemented.

The Animal & Veterinary Service (AVS) is currently seeking public feedback on its proposed measures to improve the management and welfare of cats, including possibly allowing pet cats in HDB flats.

The public consultation will run for six months, from September 2022 to March 2023.

CNA takes a look at the 30-year-old ban on the keeping of cats in HDB flats and how the latest public consultation on the proposed feline welfare framework comes on the back of growing calls to legalise cat ownership in HDBs.

WHY ARE CATS NOT ALLOWED IN FLATS?

According to HDB, cats are not allowed in flats as "they 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," said HDB.

A ban on cats as pets in HDB flats has been in place since 1989.

A person may be fined up to S$4,000 if found to have a pet cat in their flat under the Housing and Development (Animals) Rules.

In response to CNA's queries, HDB said that its "principal consideration is to preserve a pleasant and harmonious living environment in HDB estates, as well as maintain good neighbourly relations".  

"To this end, we strive to balance the interests of residents who are pet lovers and those who may be affected by disamenities as a result of irresponsible pet ownership."

HDB added that together with AVS, it is "exploring the possibility of allowing cats to be kept as pets in HDB flats, taking into consideration feedback from the public consultation".

More details will be shared when ready, it said.

PUBLIC CONSULTATION ON PROPOSED CAT MANAGEMENT FRAMEWORK

The public consultation will run for six months, from September 2022 to March 2023, said AVS in a press release on Saturday (Sep 3).

This includes a two-month online survey for the public, which is currently available on AVS’ website until Nov 2.

It proposed expanding the existing pet dog licensing and microchipping scheme to include pet cats. 

HDB told CNA this will allow cats to be traceable, and cat owners can be held accountable for their pets. 

"This will help mitigate potential concerns about disamenities in the community," it added.

The second proposal looks to extend the Trap-Neuter-Rehome/Release-Manage (TNRM) programme for free-roaming dogs to community cats as well.

Such cats will be sterilised after capture, and then rehomed where possible or released back into the community.

Thirdly, AVS proposed continued partnership with the community and animal welfare groups to explore ways to further promote responsible cat ownership, the adoption of cats, and responsible community cat caregiving.

"An example is sharing with new pet owners on caring for their pets. Such efforts will help to protect the health and welfare of our pets," said AVS.

The agency aims to share the findings of the public consultation exercise and its revised recommendations in 2023.

PROJECT LOVE CATS AND #SGCATSINFLATS

A pilot programme called Project Love Cats was launched in October 2012 in Chong Pang.

The project was supported by its Member of Parliament K Shanmugam. The programme was also supported by the Ministry of National Development (MND).

Project Love Cats was effected to test a community management framework on responsible cat ownership, said AVS at that time.

In response to queries from CNA, the Cat Welfare Society said that Project Love Cats is still ongoing, adding that 126 registered households were identified through door-to-door engagement.

It also found that 90 per cent of the identified owners were responsible cat owners, while the remainder were "irresponsible and recalcitrant and contributed to the majority of cat-related feedback in their area."

The Cat Welfare Society said its #sgcatsinflats surveys across five constituencies in 2022 showed continued support for its position, with approximately 91 per cent not objecting to the legalisation of cat ownership in HDBs.

"We are ready as a society to remove the cat ban and allow for responsible cat ownership in our HDBs," it said.

RALLYING CALLS

The Cat Welfare Society in a Facebook post on Sunday said that it needs HDB to legalise cat ownership in its flats as the vast majority of cat owners are "responsible".

"Why should we be lumped together with those who are irresponsible, who cause complaints," it said.

The society said it also supported the microchipping and TRNM programme that was proposed, and added that this "is the first real opportunity we have to make our voices heard and to help people understand what we are so passionate about".

MP Louis Ng (PAP-Nee Soon) brought up the issue of keeping cats in Housing Board flats in Parliament earlier this year. He referenced Law Society president Adrian Tan's LinkedIn post.

In the post, Mr Tan broke down HDB's reasons for banning cats, calling all of them "terrible".

Mr Ng said that "it is time that we progress on this issue and change our policy to accept what we already accept in reality – that HDB residents are allowed to keep cats, who can be removed if they are found to cause disamenities within the community".

Senior Minister of State for National Development Tan Kiat How said at the time that "we are considering this issue from various angles, including enhancing our strategies for the management of both pet cats and stray cats, to effectively manage the overall population of cats in Singapore".

Could cats be soon allowed in HDB flats?

Source: CNA/fh(rj)

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