SINGAPORE, July 15 — A 37-year-old man, diagnosed with some mental health issues, has admitted to slashing seven cats in the Ang Mo Kio area with a penknife because he felt he was allergic to cat fur and wanted to have some fun.
Leow Wei Liang, a Singaporean, was sentenced to 12 weeks in jail after pleading guilty to three animal cruelty charges at the State Courts. Four other similar charges were taken into consideration during sentencing.
The court heard that Leow had been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder and an underlying antisocial personality.
Leow resorted to “cutting cats” as he believed they were “stray animals and not human”, according to court documents, which also cited his belief he was “allergic to cat fur”.
So in April, he bought a penknife that was easy to carry and conceal, and went about swinging his arm to slash at the bodies of the cats whenever he got close enough to them to do so.
Leow was arrested on June 8, but not before the slashings drew public ire when as many as 10 cats were found injured with deep linear cuts in an area bounded by Ang Mo Kio Avenue 8 and Ang Mo Kio Avenue 1.
These sightings had moved animal advocates to place some cats from the neighbourhood in boarding facilities in Lim Chu Kang and at The Animal Lodge, and sparked efforts to track down the culprit through flyer distribution and the putting up of posters.
The seven cats Leow admitted to having cut were named by the community: Miki, Dino, Boyboy, Kopi, Milo, Mummy and Daughter. Three other cats which TODAY reported in May to be injured as well were not accounted for in the court proceedings.
Not a ‘typical animal abuser’, his lawyer argues
Before Leow was sentenced today, the court considered his mental conditions and how they were linked to the acts of cruelty.
National Parks Board prosecutor Packer Mohammad noted that the Institute of Mental Health’s (IMH) had found that Leow’s acts were not borne out of any difficulty in comprehending the consequences of his actions.
Rather, he was motivated by a simple desire to “wantonly inflict pain and suffering on animals for his own perverse entertainment”.
He also noted that IMH psychiatrist Steven Phang had found that Leow’s offences were primarily driven by an antisocial personality, and not his autism spectrum disorder, and that he was not of an unsound mind at the time of the offences.
The prosecutor urged the court to impose a jail term of 12 to 16 weeks to reflect the seriousness of his offences.
However, defence lawyer Diana Ngiam, who represented Leow pro bono, sought a four-week jail term instead, stating that some weight had to be given to his mental background.
She noted that IMH’s report had also stated that a person with autism spectrum disorder can have difficulty understanding the social consequences of his actions and could be unaware of the harm inflicted on others.
As such, Leow could be unaware of the full extent of the pain and suffering caused to the cat, she said, adding that this differentiates him from a “typical animal abuser”.
“(Leow) lacked the ability to empathise While I am fully cognizant that (Dr Phang) said that autism spectrum disorder was not the primary contributory link to the accused’s actions, it is still consistent to say that (the disorder) did affect (him),” she said.
Ms Ngiam added that Leow is remorseful of his actions. “This is an unfortunate and regrettable aberration in terms of his behaviour, and he promises the court that such behaviour will not be repeated after his release from prison,” she told the court.
In sentencing him, District Judge May Mesenas said that while she recognised that autism spectrum disorder somewhat played a role, she had to take into account the number of cats that Leow had harmed, as well as the fact that he had gone around looking for cats to harm.
There is a need for deterrence in this case, and balance needs to be struck, she said.
She then arranged for a community court conference to address what Leow can do upon his release to keep his mental condition in check and not reoffend.
For each charge of causing unnecessary pain and suffering to an animal, Leow could have been jailed for up to one-and-a-half years or fined up to S$15,000, or be punished with both. — TODAY