Two dog adoption policy, redefining what animal abuse really means, looking closely into the practice of tethering dogs for long hours, using of the AVA’s disused buildings for animal welfare activities, setting rules for licencing for dogs…. These were some of the issues raised by animal -welfare-at heart public at the Public Forum on Animal Protection Policies organised by ACRES.
ACRES was started by Louis Ng. And how and why he started the Society?
When a baby chimpanzee named Ramba ran towards Louis Ng and showed him her lips to check if they were bleeding after being punished for not sitting still whilst being trained for a photography session- the first seeds of ACRES were sown. When it dawned on him how baby chimpanzees were taken from their mothers permanently for photography sessions and were sometimes harshly punished for not ‘behaving’, Louis became determined to end this cruelty, stop the chimp photography sessions and to reunite Ramba and two other baby chimpanzees, Poko and Gombe, with their mothers.
Louis realised that there was no group in Singapore tackling such issues, so he decided the only way to help the chimps was to form a new animal protection group. Louis with nine other Singaporeans who cared to make a difference founded ACRES – the Animal Concerns Research and Education Society.
ACRES has been championing for animal welfare since 2001. It has been relentlessly campaigning for the release of the dolphins kept in captivity by Resorts World Sentosa, campaigned and aborted the attempt to display endangered huge whale sharks at the Marine Life Park at Resorts World Sentosa, got assurance from Singapore Zoo not to import any Arctic animals in the future and so on. It is now trying and succeeding to some extent in abolishing the delicacy Shark fin soup. Singapore Airlines joined with the 23 other airlines that have stopped transporting shark fins. In 2014, Hilton Worldwide, Starwood Hotels and Resorts, and Hyatt also joined a growing list of hotels that have stopped serving shark fins. Local companies; Fly Entertainment, Shaw Organisation and SingTel have also made similar pledges. ACRES stopped the culling of cats – and the list goes on.
ACRES does rescue missions and their volunteers have rescued, helped and also taken care of many animals which have been abandoned or are in distress.
From 2011, ACRES has been organising public forums on animal protection policies. On March 7th such a Forum was organised at Chong Pang Community Centre with Minister Mr. K Shanmugam, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Minister for Law and MP for Nee Soon GRC (Chong Pang). The previous sessions were also with the Minister.
In his introductory speech Louis explained some of the achievements of ACRES, outcomes of the previous forums. To cite a few: strengthening Animal Protection Legislation, preventing culling of stray dogs by launching Trap-Neuter-Return-Manage (TNRM) programme, tackling impulsive buying and the resulting abandoning of pets by restricting individuals under 16 from buying pets also requiring pet retailers to conduct pre-sale screening. Importantly, penalties for animal abusers being raised, from a fine of $10,000 to $30,000 and/or a 3 year jail term.
And in the pipe line for 2015, Louis mentioned – ACRES is launching a new dedicated Animal Crime Investigation Unit in Singapore. The Unit, operated by ACRES, will investigate animal cruelty and wildlife crime, collate the necessary evidence, and prepare the case brief for prosecution by Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) in Court. The Unit will also go undercover to detect animal crime and work with authorities on conducting sting operations to nab offenders.
Also, ACRES and Kembangan-Chai Chee Citizen Consultative Committee are exploring the idea of building an Animal Sanctuary at East Coast Park. This Sanctuary will be the first of its kind in Singapore consisting of larger adoption areas for dogs, cats and rabbits.
Some of the grievances voiced by the public at the Forum:
*If Singapore is quick to ban shisha smoking and alcohol consumption why does it take so long to implement laws pertaining to animal welfare?
* A request to provide and to enforce unbroken chain of ownership and greater accountability to pet / dog owners as they change hands during renewal of licensing.
* How to move fast and help stressed animals during trapping of animals by AVA?
Minister Mr. K Shanmugam was very reassuring to the various concerns raised, stating that their concerns and suggestions will be looked into.
The Forum ended on a plea from an animal lover, Ms Maggie who earnestly implored that if shisha smoking and alcoholic consumption were banned due to health reasons why not ban meat consumption too. To this, the Minister suggested that perhaps Singaporeans could consider adopting vegetarianism once a week like in some countries.
To my query to Louis.
How fruitful has ACRES journey been over the years and how satisfied are you?
Louis: "It has been an amazing journey making a difference for the animals and the community. There is no doubt that members of the public are being more aware and concerned about animal welfare and it is a very positive sign. This is also translating into more action towards ending animal cruelty and bringing about a more compassionate society. I look forward to empowering more and more people with the knowledge about animal protection issues!"
The Forum had booths of Agency for Animal Welfare Singapore, AVA, Cat Welfare Society, Causes for Animals Singapore, Humane Society Singapore, Nee Soon South Animal Affairs Committee, NParks, SPCA, Three Legs Good and Vegetarian Society Singapore.
To know more about ACRES and their working you can log on to their website acres.org.sg. And if you find any animal in distress you can always call on their hotline 9783 7782.