Needless deaths

"I have thus far captured and neutered 12 cats," a friend said to me proudly.

I not only shared the happiness but also a bit of the pride. It was I who introduced the Cat Colony Care Programme (CCCP) to her and I am glad that the result has been so encouraging.

It is sad that there are so many stray cats and dogs out there, many of which were abandoned by mindless owners who did not think carefully before buying the pets. When they soon decided or realised that they could make a long-term commitment they just offloaded them to the street. One can imagine how tough or miserable such a homeless life is for the poor animals.

The more fortunate ones find themselves under the care of CCCP participants like my friend, who take care of the cat colonies in their neighbourhood by feeding them and neutering them in order to keep the population under control.

How about the less fortunate ones? Other than having to brave the natural elements and fend for themselves, they also risk being captured by the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD), especially if a complaint is made by some citizens about them. Three out of four cats and dogs captured by the AFCD are put to death. Figures of last year show that 74% of the about 17,000 cats and dogs handled by the AFCD were put down. The AFCD will give the captured animals four days to see whether any owners will come and claim them. After that they will select those healthy and friendly ones and send them to animal welfare organisations to arrange for adoption. The number of such fortunate animals is, however, negligible. The figure last year was a meagre 762.

One question that is worth asking is: Of the about 12,500 lives that were lost needlessly last year, how many were brought about by the whims of irresponsible owners?

Animal lovers like my friend find themselves having to mop up after these people. "There are still so many cats up the hill that I haven't captured," my friend added with remorse after telling me about the 12 cats she helped. She was not complacent at all.

"You've already done the best you can," I assured her. "At the end of the day, you need to accept that you cannot help them all."

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