First Jail Sentence Pertaining To Neglect by Pet Owner

Singapore handed out its first instance of jail sentence for a conviction under Section 42(1)(d) of the Act, pertaining to neglect by pet owners. 31-year-old Muhammad Danial Sukirman, on Wednesday (Apr 24), pleaded guilty to 10 charges of causing unnecessary pain and suffering to animals as a pet owner. His sentencing took into account an additional 34 charges under the Animal and Birds Act, encompassing 33 other cats, along with one charge of failing to comply with a written notice from the Animal and Veterinary Service (AVS). This marks the largest animal cruelty prosecution in terms of pet numbers by the National Parks Board (NParks) in April.

Court documents revealed that between August and November 2021, Danial neglected 43 cats in a vacant flat in Ang Mo Kio, resulting in “unnecessary pain and suffering” due to inadequate food and water. NParks’ prosecutors Ron Goh and Farisha Asharaff emphasized the unprecedented scale of abandoned pets in this case, underlining it as the first instance of a jail sentence imposed for neglect by pet owners under Section 42(1)(d) of the Act. Ms. Farisha highlighted the dire conditions the cats endured in a cramped space without proper sustenance, underscoring the gravity of the situation.

The prosecution argued against a mere fine, advocating for a jail term considering Danial’s deliberate negligence despite knowing the cats were breeding uncontrollably. Despite Danial expressing remorse and citing his role as the sole breadwinner, District Judge Lorraine Ho concurred with the prosecution, emphasizing the potential health hazards posed by the neglected cats to the community and justifying the imposed jail sentence.

BACKGROUND

On November 5, 2021, AVS, a division of NParks, received notification from the police regarding public complaints about a foul odor emanating from a public housing unit. Upon arrival, police officers observed that both the main gate and the door to the flat were securely locked. Investigations revealed that the occupant had been absent for approximately a month.

Efforts to contact the flat owner proved futile, and due to the intense odor and the audible distress of cats within, the police enlisted the help of a locksmith to gain entry. Subsequently, over 30 cats and skeletal remains were discovered inside the premises. That same evening, NParks officials established contact with Danial and scheduled an inspection of his flat for three days later.

On November 8, at approximately 11 a.m., NParks, along with a Housing and Development Board (HDB) officer, conducted a thorough inspection of the premises in the company of Danial. Danial admitted to being the owner of the 41 live cats, two deceased cats, and the skeletal remains discovered within the vacant flat, all of which were surrendered to AVS. Danial recounted that he and his wife had initially moved into the flat to reside with his mother-in-law around January 2016. Following his mother-in-law’s passing, he claimed ownership of the cats, which had multiplied due to lack of sterilization, resulting in an unmanageable population.

During examination, a veterinarian determined that all 41 surviving cats had endured significant suffering due to lack of access to clean water. Ms. Farisha noted that the cats resorted to drinking from a contaminated source—a dripping tap over the toilet floor, which was observed to be tainted with fecal matter. Furthermore, investigations revealed that the cats were inadequately fed, receiving sustenance only once a week from a communal feeding point, leading to heightened stress and competition among them.

Several cats exhibited superficial wounds and healed scars, indicative of inter-cat aggression. Additionally, the deceased cats were found to be severely malnourished with liver lesions, further underscoring the neglect they suffered.

The cats were found dwelling in deplorable conditions, amidst filth and decay, which, coupled with poor ventilation, posed significant health risks to both the felines and any humans in proximity.

Photo: Court Documents

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