Being a veteran, Madam Lee must have seen her fair share of abuse. Was there any particular case she found hard to swallow?
Once, she received a tipoff about a senior man who was sexually abusing a stray out in the open. This was in the nineties, before the proliferation of smartphones, so we had to rely on eyewitness statements to track the abuser down. When she went on site, the perpetuator wielded a bludgeon and threatened to hit her if she took the dog from him. But with the help of a hired trapper, they managed to free the dog from his clutches. Surprisingly, the dog was very friendly, and allowed himself to be leashed by the trapper. The vet found that he had severe anal tearing: he would bleed all over. He could not control his bowel movements and would soil himself. His stools would leak. He needed bathing every day. We considered getting reconstructive surgery for him, but we could not afford the medical fees. Despite his harrowing experience, he lived a long life: he passed away at the age of thirteen.
How did this case affect her?
It only increased her motivation. It strengthened her resolve to help even more animals. She wanted to prevent this from happening to other animals. But realistically, we would never be able to thwart any form of abuse, only be there to save or heal the animals.
And what about you? Were there any cases over the years that stumped you?
About six years ago, we received a distress call from Anna, who is a rescuer. There were a few blocks of old flats on the selective en bloc redevelopment scheme. The residents had already moved out. There were many cats that were abandoned; some were even locked in the flats. Rescuers worked for hours to free the cats; stray feeders also went daily to bring them sustenance. Over a period of a month, the independent trappers all came together and saved about thirty cats. Things were looking up, until one day, Anna discovered a corpse that had been brutally mutilated and torn apart. She was crying hysterically over the phone.
Many people speculated that it was the work of a wild dog. But I conjectured that it would have to be the work of a pack of wild dogs, because a single dog wouldn’t have the brute strength to rip apart a living cat. It seemed to have been a tug of war between two dogs. The thing is, wild dogs are not that ferocious; they are more likely to chase after the cats. And even so, they would not have expended this much energy for nothing: they would have eaten it and not leave the carcass behind. All this pointed to mutilation for sport. At my mom’s behest, a few of the volunteers camped overnight at the block. It was around dawn when two ladies appeared, with two large, muscular attack dogs, in tow. They had come with the intention of letting loose the dogs and getting them to kill the cats. The volunteers took videos of them and got into a confrontation with the two ladies. The latter said it was none of their business. The videos were sent to the authorities. But sadly, nothing came out of it, no arrest, investigation and no news reports.
Now, Anna is a very kind soul. For people like her, I always hate that they have to witness such acts of senseless brutality. It affects their mind and spirit; they cannot eat or sleep. The image haunts them. There’s not much that we can do to help them process what they have seen: with time, they will recover on their own.
I can only hope that the good that all of you do outshines the bad that you guys have to see. As for the abused animals, how long do they take to warm up to human contact?
Some take a few months, some a few years. We have a cat that is still resistant to human touch after spending four years at our shelter.