Media Release – 1 July 2014
Every Cat will have its Day
From volunteer-run activist group to a partner agency with government agencies for humane cat management in Singapore
July 1st 2014 will mark an important milestone for the Cat Welfare Society in its 15 years of operation. Granted the status of an Institute of Public Character (IPC) by the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth in May 2013, the Cat Welfare Society will appoint its first Chief Executive Officer to head its operations.
Ms Joanne Ng, 40, has more than 15 years of work experience in the banking industry. She last held the position of Head of Institutional FX Sales in HSBC Singapore from 2010 to 2014. Prior to that, she was an Executive Director of the fixed income, currency and commodities division at Goldman Sachs (Asia) L.L.C. in Hong Kong. “I have been most impressed with the contributions made by the society despite very limited resources. I started engaging CWS in 2008 on an ad hoc basis initially, and subsequently became more actively involved as a volunteer. It was a humbling experience for me when I spearheaded their recent fundraising efforts. I wish to contribute to CWS’ cause and I believe my experience stands me in good stead in driving the society forward, particularly in terms of reaching out to corporate donors and foundations.”
Ms Ng will be taking over the reins from Ms Veron Lau, 43, and Ms Fareena Omar, 35, the immediate past President and Treasurer of the Cat Welfare Society. Ms Lau recalls the challenges of the last 5 years when she became part of the society’s management team, “The committee ran the organisation as volunteers. Many of us also subsidised much of the operations to meet its immediate demands as the organisation was in deficit of more than $30,000 in 2009.”
Challenges in 2009
The Society was at a crossroads back then and its future uncertain after a series of setbacks in negotiations with government agencies on adopting humane practices for the management of community cats. The previous Stray Cat Sterilisation Programme funded by AVA was abruptly terminated in the midst of SARS fear. Caregivers who had placed much efforts in the programme did not want to see their efforts go to waste and looked to the Society to help them continue. They also looked to the Society to restart a dialogue with authorities to stop the culling of cats that they had painstakingly sterilised, which reverted to the high of over 10,000 cats in a year. The pressure brought on to keep up with this effort independently took a toll on the past management team who mostly left.
As caregivers and fosterers themselves, Ms Lau, Ms Omar and other volunteers knew what the Society meant to others like them who needed a voice and platform to continue to advocate for humane cat management. They also saw first hand in the areas they were managing how sterilisation efforts had made a difference despite funding setbacks. In estates that were consistently managed by caregivers, a 60% reduction of stray cat population was recorded within a period of 5 years. They could not see this effort go to waste.
Rebuilding a Community
The success of the Cat Welfare Society today is owed to the single minded efforts of its community that persevered in their efforts even when they had to carry on without support from the government or the Society. They continued to sterilise the cats with their own resources when funding was uncertain and they proactively volunteered themselves to assist their Town Councils and AVA handle cat-related issues in the capacity of an active, involved resident of their estate.
“The Society had to prove ourselves all over again that we were able to provide the community with the support they needed to grow their efforts. Back then, we honestly didn’t know whether we could take the Society anywhere but began to focus our efforts with reconnecting with volunteers and caregivers, stepping up our outreach efforts to government agencies with new statistics, increase our public appearances wherever would have us and making full use of social media and technology to stretch our publicity dollar,” said Ms Lau. “We also invested time and resources to follow through with a chain of difficult abuse, hoarding and rescue cases that led to high profile coverages in the media and the building of trust in critical government-community partnerships. These included the the hoarding case of 40 emaciated cats in Tampines, the Tanjong Pagar Railway Station rescue, Farmart rescue and the dismembered kitten case in Yishun.”
Building strong relationships in the community, with government agencies and our veterinary partners and the media contributed to the Society’s success and attracted growing support over the years from cat loving individuals as well as from unexpected sources such as corporations such as The Silent Foundation, Kuvera Asset Management, Pet Lovers Foundation, Credit Suisse and Deutsche Bank even before the organisation gained its IPC status. The Society was also surprised that a cat lover had left it her estate in her will in 2013.
Ms Omar added, “We were asked in the beginning if we had any socialites, high society or high profile members on our committee or knew of any people like that and we looked at each other and said no. We were just caregivers. But look what a bunch of caregivers can do!”
Besides its continued focus on providing support for the sterilisation of community cats, the Society is now an official partner of AVA and Town Councils in the handling of cat-related issues. It also works with condos and other private entities on humane cat management. Last year, the Society handled over 2000 cat-related feedbacks and requests for assistance. These efforts have contributed to the lowest record of impoundment of cats by AVA which fell to below 1500. This is in contrast to over 3500 in 2009 and over 13,000 every year before the year 2000.
Ms Joanne Ng will be supported by a committee headed by Ms Thenuga Vijakumar, 28, an Associate Lawyer. She was elected as the President of the Cat Welfare Society in June 2014. Ms Lau and Ms Omar remain on the committee.
Ms Vijakumar began volunteering with CWS in 2011 and became personally involved in a rescue case involving a cat hoarder. “It was apparent to me that we were trying to salvage a situation that could have been entirely averted by education and sterilisation. As a student, time outweighed my financial resources so I started volunteering to handle cat-related feedbacks, sterilisation projects and at outreach events. I could see the impact the Society was making to various aspects of animal welfare.”
Ms Ng and Ms Vijakumar have plans to establish new partnerships with the community to expand the Society’s education and outreach programme in 2014. They will also look to step up adoption rates for rescued cats by creating new adoption platforms.
Their foremost focus will remain to fulfil the wishes of caregivers and volunteers for more support for the the challenging work of mediation, sterilisation, rescue, fostering and rehoming. Following on the relaunch of the Stray Cat Sterilisation Programme, the next breakthrough would be policy and structural changes in pet ownership that according to Ms Ng, “is long overdue.”
Ms Joanne Ng
Chief Executive Officer
Email: [email protected]
Ms Thenuga Vijakumar
Email: [email protected]
Ms Veron Lau
Outgoing President/Current Vice-President
Email: [email protected]
Ms Fareena Omar
Outgoing Treasurer/Current Secretary
Email: [email protected]
- In 2009, the Cat Welfare Society, a registered charity, recorded an annual income of $53,000. In 2013, its annual income was $584,000 as an IPC organisation with support from MND and a local foundation.
- In 2009, the Cat Welfare Society sterilised 1000 cats through its partial reimbursement scheme. In 2013, it sterilised 4479 cats, around 70% of which was fully funded.
- Since 2011, we have raised funds and administered $255,000 to assist caregivers with medical expenses through our Special Appeals platform.
- In 2012, the Love Cats Cat Ownership Pilot Programme was launched in Chong Pang with the support of MP Mr. K. Shanmugam, MND, HDB, AVA and Nee Soon Town Council.
- In 2014, AVA relaunched its Stray Cat Sterilisation across all estates in Singapore, co-funding stray cat sterilisation and microchipping together with the Cat Welfare Society.