Singapore jails man for leaving 43 cats without food, water at faeces-strewn flat

Danial had caused “unnecessary pain and suffering” to the 43 cats by failing to provide adequate food and water and leaving them unattended between August and November 2021 in a flat in Ang Mo Kio, court documents stated.

NParks’ prosecutors Ron Goh and Farisha Asharaff informed the court that the case involved the largest number of abandoned pets so far in a prosecution under the section of the Animal and Birds Act pertaining to animal cruelty.

TODAY understands that it is the first jail sentence imposed for a conviction under Section 42(1)(d) of the Act, pertaining to neglect by pet owners.

Farisha, who noted that the 43 cats were kept in a small, confined space without adequate food and water, said: “It is a case that has set its own precedent.”

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The prosecution argued that a fine would be “far too lenient” and sought a jail term for Danial, given his “deliberate” conduct, since he knew that the cats were breeding “out of control” yet managed the living conditions of the cats poorly.

In mitigation, Danial, who did not have legal representation, told the court that he regretted his actions and is a sole breadwinner who would have to return to work as soon as he was released.

District Judge Lorraine Ho agreed with the prosecution that the health hazard from the neglected cats in the flat could have been spread to the other persons in the neighbourhood and Danial’s actions warranted a jail sentence.

On November 5, 2021, AVS, which is a cluster of NParks, was alerted by the police on public feedback regarding a foul smell coming from a public housing unit.

Police officers who attended to the scene saw that the main gate and door to the flat was locked and investigators found that the flat’s occupant had not returned home for about a month.

The authorities were unsuccessful in contacting the flat owner, and due to the strong stench and the cats’ caterwauling coming from the flat, the police engaged a locksmith to gain access to the flat and found more than 30 cats and skeletal remains inside.

That evening, NParks officers were able to contact Danial and made arrangements to inspect his flat three days later.

A man was jailed for abandoning 43 cats in a vacant flat in Singapore. Photo: court documents

On November 8 at around 11am, NParks conducted a joint inspection with a Housing and Development Board (HDB) officer together with Danial.

Danial admitted to owning the 41 live cats, two dead cats and skeletal remains that were found in the vacant flat and surrendered them to AVS.

Danial said that he and his wife moved into the flat to stay with his mother-in-law around January 2016. He claimed that they had only three cats initially, and he took over ownership of the cats when his mother-in-law died.

Since the cats were not sterilised, they started to breed uncontrollably until he “lost count” of the number of cats staying in his house, the prosecution said.

A veterinary surgeon who examined the 41 surviving cats found that all of them had experienced “pain and suffering”, because they did not have access to a regularly available source of clean water.

Farisha said: “The only source of water was from a tap dripping onto the toilet floor of the unit; the toilet floor was noted to be pooling with dirty brown water, likely from faecal contamination.”

Drinking from a contaminated water source facilitates the transmission of parasites and predisposes the cats to diseases.

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During the inspection, there was no food seen to be available for the cats. Investigations revealed that Danial fed the cats once a week from a big bag of dry kibble, which would have been “highly stressful” for the cats who would need to fight and compete for food at a single feeding point.

Six cats were found to have superficial wounds and healed scars during examination, which were “highly likely” to have been sustained in fights with other cats, the prosecution said.

The two deceased cats were found to be “exceedingly thin” and emaciated, and had liver lesions, indicating that they have been in “negative energy balance” for a while and had a recent decrease in food intake, the prosecution added.

Of the other cats, nine were noted to have been infested with fleas, one was found to have adult lice on its coat, and 19 cats were observed to have alopecia, three of which tested positive for ringworm. Alopecia for felines is a condition where there is hair loss on the cat’s body that occurs due to an underlying disease.

The cats were subject to “severely poor living conditions” in a “filthy and unsanitary” environment, with faecal material, decomposing carcasses and skeletal remains of cats noted throughout the flat.

With the windows in the flat being closed and the poor ventilation, the heavy soiling of the environment would have led to build-up of high concentrations of ammonia, posing health hazards both to cats and humans in the vicinity.

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In July 2021, Danial applied and got a new HDB flat in Yishun and was given six months to vacate his old one.

The family moved to the Yishun flat after receiving the keys in August that year, and Danial admitted to not making arrangements to rehome the cats, leaving them in the vacant apartment.

“He also did not visit the said flat regularly nor to provide the cats with food and water on a daily basis due to his long working hours and poor management of finances, [being] in heavy debt,” Farisha the prosecutor said.

She added that Danial had claimed to visit the cats to feed them once a week and had last visited the flat in early November 2021, a few days before being contacted by NParks.

He locked the gate and door and left the flat less than five minutes after pouring dried cat food on the floor, and further admitted to not checking on the cats or cleaning up the flat, being aware that the flat was unhygienic and filled with feline faecal matter.

For each charge of causing unnecessary pain or suffering to a pet, he could have been jailed for up to 18 months or faced a fine of up to S$15,000 (US$11,031), or both.

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