Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals



The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) is Singapore’s first registered animal welfare organisation.1 The SPCA promotes civil society with the help of volunteer-members by preventing cruelty to animals and speaking up for better treatment of animals, and acting as an animal rights advocate.2 It is a registered animal welfare charity and not a government agency; it does not receive any grants but depends on donations and fundraising activities to maintain its operations.3

Early beginnings
The idea of a society for animal welfare in Singapore was first proposed by a Mr D. F. A. Hervey in March 1876. In a letter to the editor of the Daily Times, Hervey asked those in favour of the idea to submit their names so as to arrange a meeting to discuss “the preliminary steps for the formation of the society”.4 A public meeting was subsequently held on 27 March that same year during which the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals was established. Hervey was appointed as the society’s first honorary secretary.5

 The first 23 cases of animal abuse prosecuted by the society were reported in The Straits Times newspaper as having taken place in May 1878.6 Out of the first 23 reported cases, one case involved “cruelty to [a] bullock”, while the rest were cases of “cruelty to hack ponies”. The fines ranged from $1 to $5, amounting to a total sum of $39.75.7 Four months later, on 5 October, 84 other cases were brought under the notice of the society. Among the cases reported in The Straits Times were three for cruelty to omnibus horses, 17 for ill-treatment of oxen and four for causing suffering to birds by shooting them with sumpitans, a kind of blowgun for discharging arrows.8

Although there are almost no records of the society’s activities, there are scattered reports expressing concern for animal welfare. These could be linked to the SPCA or individuals who espoused aims similar to the SPCA.9 In 1947, Englishwoman Lucia Bach founded the Singapore branch of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA).10 Bach, who ran a boarding house at Tomlinson Road, tried to garner public interest and revive the animal rights society. On the grounds of a large colonial bungalow, Bach started a few makeshift kennels to provide shelter for stray animals.11 In 1954, the RSPCA set up its office along Orchard Road. Leslie Higgins, an organiser from the London headquarters of the RSPCA, arrived in Singapore to organise the local branch activities and train its staff.12

Singapore attained self-government in 1959, necessitating a name change for the RSPCA to the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA).13 The society also lost its $5,000 financial grant that came from the colonial government. However, the Singapore government allowed the SPCA to remain at its Orchard Road premises for “$1 token rent per year from the Orchard road premises it occupied on a temporary license from government”.14 In 1984, the SPCA vacated the Orchard Road premises for its present accommodation on Mount Vernon Road where full time veterinary services for the animals under its care began in July 1988.15

Over the years, the SPCA has widened its scope of animal welfare services to include a 24-hour emergency service for sick, injured and very young animals; a sterilisation voucher programme for strays; and a clinic for basic treatment of stray animals.16

In July 2011, long-time executive director of the SPCA, Deirde Moss, left the post after 27 years of service.17 As the public face of the society, her name had become synonymous with championing animal causes, in particular, her “characteristically cool and dispassionate” letters to the The Straits Times Forum pages.18 The SPCA is currently preparing to move from its current premises at Mount Vernon to Sungei Tengah by December 2014. The new site will be more than three times the size of its current location.19

Legislative reform and animal welfare
In December 1996, the SPCA appealed for a harsher sentence for a man who had savagely beaten a 12-year-old mongrel with a metal rod, resulting in serious injuries from which it eventually succumbed to. Although the man was fined S$500, the society appealed for a stiffer sentence.20 The man was subsequently jailed for one month in a landmark ruling, a decision the SPCA welcomed as deterrent measure.21 In September 1997, the SPCA also appealed for a stiffer sentence against four Thai construction workers who were each jailed two months for burning a dog alive because they wanted to eat it. The dog was eventually put to sleep due to the severity of its injuries.22

In December 2011, the SPCA submitted a paper reviewing the Animal and Birds Act, proposing increased penalties for existing offences based on cruelty and negligence of pet welfare. These recommendations, along with others, were accepted by the Ministry of National Development in April 2013 as part of a proposal by the Animal Welfare Legislation Review Committee, which the SPCA had played a role in.23

In 2002, the Agri-food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) banned travelling circuses with wild animals from performing in Singapore, citing public safety and animal welfare concerns, an issue which the SPCA had previously lodged appeals to the government against.24

In September 2013, a precedent judgement was passed when a pet owner was found guilty and fined S$5,000 for subjecting his pet dog to unnecessary suffering by keeping it in his apartment balcony and neglecting it’s welfare. This constituted a milestone decision as it was made without relying on evidence of physical hurt suffered by the animal, thereby expanding the legal definition of what constitutes abuse towards animals.25

Most recently in June 2014, the SPCA called for the release of 23 dolphins kept in captivity at the Resorts World Sentosa’s (RWS) Marine Life Park following the  death of a fourth bottlenose dolphin in 18 months. In a media statement, the SPCA expressed disappointment that wild-caught dolphins are kept for the “purpose of forcing them to adapt to an unnatural lifestyle in RWS' Marine Life Park attraction”.26

Euthanasia controversy
The SPCA has long faced criticism over its euthanasia policy, with accusations levelled at the society of being a “stray animal elimination service”.27 The society has expressed reluctance over this policy and clarified that it does not “condone the mass destruction of dogs and cats as a population control measure”. However, such a predicament arises from limited physical resources. Only a small percentage of the approximately 400 animals that the SPCA receives monthly are eventually adopted, necessitating euthanasia to ensure that the SPCA can continue to accept unwanted or abandoned pets.28




Author
Nurhidayahti Miharja and Aloysius Ho




References
1. Yamamoto, T. (Ed.). (1995). Emerging civil society in the Asia Pacific community: Nongovernmental underpinnings of the emerging Asia Pacific regional community. Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, p. 235. (Call no.: RSING 361.76091823 EME); Singapore Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. (2011, March 17). Animal welfare symposium aims to raise awareness on animal welfare issues. Retrieved from Singapore Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals website: http://www.acres.org.sg/events/SAWS.html

2. Yamamoto, T. (Ed.). (1995). Emerging civil society in the Asia Pacific community: Nongovernmental underpinnings of the emerging Asia Pacific regional community. Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, p. 235. (Call no.: RSING 361.76091823 EME)
3. Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Singapore. (2013). Objectives & mission. Retrieved from Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Singapore website: http://www.spca.org.sg/about_objectives.asp
4. Cruelty to animals. (1876, March 4). The Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
5. The S.P.C.A. (1878, July 13). The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
6. Untitled. (1878, June 1). The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
7. Untitled. (1878, June 1). The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
8. Untitled. (1878, October 5). The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
9. A centenary and a revival. (1936, April 9). The Straits Times, p. 10. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
10. Koh, T. T. B, et al. (Eds.). (2006). Singapore: The encyclopedia. Singapore: Editions Didier Millet in association with the National Heritage Board, p. 509. (Call no.: RSING 959.57003 SIN-[HIS]); Singapore R.S.P.C.A. (1947, June 2). The Straits Times, p. 5. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
11. Koh, T. T. B, et al. (Eds.). (2006). Singapore: The encyclopedia. Singapore: Editions Didier Millet in association with the National Heritage Board, p. 509. (Call no.: RSING 959.57003 SIN-[HIS]); Krishnan, S. B. (1984, February/March). Flashback – S.P.C.A beginnings in Singapore. In D. Moss, C. Lye, & D. Yong, (Eds.), SPCA bulletin. Singapore: SPCA Committee, p. 7. (Call no.: RSING 179.3095957 SPCAB); Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Singapore. (2013). Our history. Retrieved from Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Singapore website: http://www.spca.org.sg/about.asp
12. He plans hospital for pets. (1954, January 3). The Straits Times, p. 9. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
13. Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Singapore. (2013). Our history. Retrieved from Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Singapore website: http://www.spca.org.sg/about.asp
14. Singapore Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. (1967). Annual reports & accounts. Singapore, SPCA, p. 4. (Call no.: RCLOS 179.305 SPCASA)
15. SPCA's spacious new home opens. (1984, April 15). The Straits Times, p. 14. Retrieved from NewspaperSG
16. Moss, D. (1990, April/May). Editorial. In D. Moss, & C. Lye, (Eds.), SPCA bulletin. Singapore: SPCA Committee, p. 5. (Call no.: RSING 179.3095957 SPCAB); Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Singapore. (2013). Objectives & mission. Retrieved from Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Singapore website: http://www.spca.org.sg/about_objectives.asp
17. Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Singapore. (n.d.) Annual report: For the year 1 July 2010 to 30 June 2011, p. 6. Retrieved from Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Singapore website: http://www.spca.org.sg/pdf/AnnualReport-2011.pdf
18. Lui, J. (2009, July 6). Animals’ best friend. The Straits Times, p. 44. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
19. Woo, J. (2013, September 11). All-purpose new home for SPCA. MyPaper. Retrieved from Factiva.
20. Kee, J. (!996, December 11). Dog abuser’s action criticised. The Straits Times, p. 30. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
21. Kee, J. (1997, March 12). Cases like these are on the rise... The Straits Times, p. 27. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Lim, L. H. (1997, March 12). Dog-beater jailed in landmark cruelty case. The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
22. Lim, S. J. (1997, September 12). Four workers jailed for burning dog alive. The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from Newspaper SG.
23. Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Singapore. (2013). SPCA Singapore: Relevant Acts (Law). Retrieved from Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Singapore website: http://www.spca.org.sg/services_inspectorate_law.asp; Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Singapore. (n.d.) Annual report July 2012 to June 2013, p. 5. Retrieved from Society of Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Singapore website: http://www.spca.org.sg/pdf/SPCA%20Annual%20Report%202012_13.pdf
24. Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Singapore. (n.d.). Annual report: For the year 1 July 2010 to 30 June 2011, p. 10. Retrieved from Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Singapore website: http://www.spca.org.sg/pdf/AnnualReport-2011.pdf; Perry, M. (2000, December 30). S’pore ban on wild circus animals from 2002. The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
25. Ee, D., & Poh, I. (2013, September 4). Dog kept exposed to sun and rain with little sustenance. The Straits Times. Retrieved from Factiva; Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Singapore. (n.d.). Annual report July 2012 to June 2013 , p. 5 Retrieved from Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Singapore website: http://www.spca.org.sg/pdf/SPCA%20Annual%20Report%202012_13.pdf
26.
Feng, Z. (2014, June 4). SPCA calls for release of Resorts World Sentosa dolphins after fourth death. The Straits Times. Retrieved from Factiva; SPCA calls on RWS to release remaining 23 dolphins. (2014, June 4). Channel NewsAsia. Retrieved from Channel NewsAsia website: http://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/singapore/spca-calls-on-rws-to/1135892.html

27. Lui, J. (2009, July 6). Animals’ best friend. The Straits Times, p. 44. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
28. Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Singapore. (2013). Surrendering an animal. retrieved from Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Singapore website: http://www.spca.org.sg/services_animal_shelter.asp



The information in this article is valid as at 11 July 2014 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

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