Man suffers abrasions on back, shoulders and elbows after getting startled by dogs in Punggol

Judith Tan and Kimberley Chiu
The New Paper
13 June 2016

Some residents of Punggol are concerned about a growing number of stray dogs and wild boars there.

They are worried about the possible dangers, especially after a boy was reportedly chased and injured by a wild boar earlier this month.

One such resident, Mr Job Chan, 50, has written several times to the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) since 2012.

"I sent a total of 21 e-mails. It seemed nothing was being done," he told The New Paper.

The vice-president of sales for an IT company contacted TNP after an incident last Monday, when, according to him, he became a "victim of a pack of stray dogs" near the Punggol Waterway.

"I was running beside Safra (Punggol) when I noticed a couple of the dogs on my right near a slope. There were three or four more on my left but they were in the shadowy part so I didn't notice them," he said.

Suddenly, the dogs on his left came from behind and barked. "I was startled, lost my footing and fell. They were big dogs and thank God there were other park users around to stop the attacks. I could not have imagined the outcome if the dogs were not chased off," Mr Chan said.

He suffered abrasions on his back, shoulders and elbows and was given three days of medical leave from work.

The father of two teenagers said it was the first time he was "attacked" by the strays in five years living in Punggol.

"I have been providing AVA with maps of the exact location of the dogs. They assured me that something will be done, but so far, the situation has got worse. I've also written to our MP Ng Chee Meng," he said.

When TNP checked with Safra Punggol staff, they said there had been no dog sightings there for a while.


TNP also spoke to other residents of Punggol last Wednesday, and received mixed reactions towards the strays in the area.

Circulation manager Kamal Nasir, 33, said the presence of stray dogs was "an inconvenience as I have to make detours" instead of going through the park.

"I'm not worried for myself, but I am worried for my wife and two kids," he said.

Housewife Haafiza Nasir, 29, has never been bothered by the dogs but has heard about attacks from a WhatsApp group she shares with her neighbours.

"Children in the estate have also been chased while they were rollerblading," she said.

Another housewife Celina Foo, 36, who was with two young children, said she was not afraid as the dogs "don't harm people".

She supports culling only if "the dogs truly pose a threat".

Mr Zach Sng, 40, a computer programmer, said he sees dogs, usually in packs of two or three, regularly around the waterway and other areas.

"I'm a cyclist so I'm often out at night. The dogs tend to come out more at night and the largest pack I've seen had six dogs. I wouldn't say they're dangerous. I think they're just hungry," he said.

Mr Chow Weng, 62, who is semi-retired and takes on part-time jobs, said the dogs are used to humans, "so they won't attack, unlike in the past".

"We from the older generation are used to having dogs everywhere but the younger generation are not used to dogs. I think it's a good thing if young people are more exposed to them," he said.

Many residents TNP spoke to saw culling as "unnecessary". (See report, right.)

"If they have been sterilised and are not breeding, then we should leave them alone," Mr Chow said.

AVA: Time needed to trap elusive dogs

This year alone, the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) received close to 70 pieces of feedback on stray dog sightings in Punggol.

"Seven were caught and subsequently euthanised, as they were unsuitable to be rehomed," its spokesman told The New Paper.

She said AVA manages stray animals for public safety and public health reasons.

"When in a pack, dogs can pose a public safety risk and have been known to chase after and attack people. In addition, dogs pose a great risk to humans if they are exposed to rabies, a fatal disease to humans and animals," she said.

She said that AVA supports rehoming and has been working with Animal Welfare Groups (AWGs) to rehome impounded cats and dogs assessed to be suitable.

In the past two years, the AWGs have helped to rehome about 550 dogs and 290 cats.

"We encourage individuals prepared to provide a permanent home for stray cats and dogs to adopt them from AVA's partner AWGs, such as ASD (Action for Singapore Dogs), CWS (Cat Welfare Society), SPCA (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) and SOSD," she said.

"Those that are not rehomed will be humanely euthanised as a last resort."

The spokesman said: "While feedback providers expect a quick or immediate resolution for animal issues, AVA does at times, require a longer period of time to trap the dogs due to the elusive nature of the stray dogs when approached.

"AVA also has to deal with conflicting expectations of those who love and are more tolerant of animals. For such cases, AVA takes action in the interest of public safety, health and nuisance."

SOSD president Siew Tuck Wah said that in the past four years, AVA has taken significant steps to improve policies regarding stray dogs, such as the AWG rehoming programme.


"We understand that AVA has the difficult task of balancing public safety concerns, and working with AWGs to seek a humane method of population control. However, steps can still be taken to improve the stray situation further," he said.

In a study published by SOSD and The Nielson Company last year on the stray dog situation in Punggol, almost eight in 10 residents surveyed felt that catching and neutering stray dogs is a good alternative to culling.

Only 2 per cent wish for stray dogs to be trapped and euthanised. About 300 residents were randomly selected to participate.

"This is a result of the fact that residents feel that the stray situation has not improved despite catching operations," Dr Siew said.

He said that more awareness about the stray dog situation and more education on dog behaviour needs to be done as many still do not know how to respond when they see stray dogs. (See report above.)

Also, in the SOSD survey, as many as eight in 10 residents preferred to have the strays rehomed.

"This, however, has proven to be impossible as there are laws limiting the size of dogs allowed in HDB flats to 10kg. Even with the new Project Adore, HDB owners can keep only dogs of up to 15kg or 50cm. This only allows 10 per cent of stray dogs to qualify," Dr Siew said.

Project Adore was first mooted by SPCA and ASD in 2011 and piloted by the Ministry of National Development (MND), AVA and Housing Board (HDB) in 2012.

Now permanent, Project Adore allows each HDB flat owner to adopt one medium-sized local mixed breed dog, which is up to 15 kg in weight and 50 cm in height.

"Until MND decides to respond to our pleas (to allow bigger dogs into flats), the stray dog situation will never improve and the public will continue to perceive that AVA is not doing its job, even though we know they are trying their best," Dr Siew said.

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