Animal activists risk turning off pet lovers

Animal activists risk turning off pet lovers
Mr Derrick Tan set up "Voices for Animals" to find homes for former breeding dogs. He was among the first to work with dog breeders who sell pedigree puppies, choosing not to judge but to make friends with them instead.

When 40-year-old Lisa Soh was thinking of adopting a mongrel from an animal shelter, the housewife was grilled by representatives on where she lived and her past pet history. She was told she would have to let them visit her home and talk to family members "for screening and spot checks".

She would also have to pay an adoption and sterilisation fee and sign a contract agreeing to take good care of her new pet.

"I know they came from a good place but honestly, I felt they were too intense. Was I trying to give a needy dog a home or were they doing me a favour? Then when I saw how previous adopters had been flamed online, it really made me think twice," she said. In the end, she opted to adopt from the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) instead.

Tensions have really boiled over since expatriate Alison McElwee had her seven-month-old adopted puppy Tammy put down last month, claiming the mongrel had become too aggressive.

Tagged a "puppy murderer", she was vilified by animal lovers who put her photos and personal information such as where she lived and worked online. Some made racist and disparaging remarks about the British woman and her family, and she was hounded into removing her details on Facebook.

The vet who did the deed was not spared either, with many swearing off the clinic's services, and some going so far as threatening to picket at its front door.

I am an animal lover. And like most animal lovers, seeing Tammy's sweet "spectacle-ringed" face in media reports, and then reading of her fate, brought tears to my eyes.

"What a shame," was my instinctive reaction.

But with the adopter and the dog's initial rescuer up in arms and telling two completely different stories, and now lawyers being drawn into the fray, it is hard to be totally sure of whether Tammy was a hapless victim or a disturbed and untrainable dog.

Animal lovers may have every reason to be incensed over the senseless death of a young dog, but it seems that the knee-jerk reaction of some activists is to bark and bite immediately after any perceived wrong-doing.

What's worse, this often happens even before the full story emerges and facts are established - mirroring general online behaviour where mostly anonymous netizens post with impunity when they might be far more hesitant to confront face to face.

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