AN EARLY morning jog for a Punggol resident last month turned into a frightening experience when he was attacked by a pack of about nine dogs.
Mr Chow Cheok Kai, 35, a bank executive, was bitten on his legs on Dec 19, five days after a female jogger was similarly bitten at the Punggol Waterways area.
Since the two attacks, there have been four other reports of people being chased by stray dogs but "narrowly escaping injury", said a spokesman for the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA).
Mr Chow, who jogs three or four times a week, knew he was not supposed to run when he encountered the pack of dogs.
Although he tried walking away, a few of the dogs bit him. Afterwards, he needed a tetanus shot and antibiotics.
The 4.2km-long Punggol Waterway was opened last October.
Built by the Housing Board at a cost of $225 million, it serves as a park connector, giving access to the wetlands in the Punggol and Serangoon reservoirs.
Such dog attacks are the reason AVA has stepped up measures to round up strays in the area, angering some animal lovers, especially those who feed stray dogs.
Last month, a video was posted on YouTube about a night-time confrontation between two stray feeders and two dog catchers using a Malaysian-registered vehicle.
The feeders, one of whom was pregnant, wanted to follow the catchers as they went about setting traps. They said they wanted to see if a dog got caught so they could claim it from AVA and prevent it from being put down.
However, the dog catchers, who were engaged by AVA, called the police, complaining that the feeders were getting in the way of their work.
The video sparked a debate online, with people questioning why the dog catchers did not want to be tailed by the feeders.
An AVA spokesman told The New Paper that the public is advised to stay away from dog-catching operations for their own safety, as the behaviour of stray dogs can be unpredictable.
The debate also prompted Minister of State for National Development Tan Chuan Jin to post on Facebook that not all stray dogs are culled.
He added that AVA has been working with animal welfare groups such as Action for Singapore Dogs (ASD) on re-homing dogs that are not aggressive.
The number of complaints over stray dogs has been increasing over the past three years, from 1,272 in 2009 to 1,400 in 2011.
The majority of feedback is related to sightings or nuisance, such as excessive barking and uncleared food from feeding of strays, and occasional feedback on stray dogs chasing people.
The AVA spokesman said the possibility of stray dogs spreading rabies (a disease that can be fatal to humans and animals) is another reason why it has to manage the stray dog population.
"Although Singapore has been free from rabies for over 50 years, rabies remains a real threat as the disease exists in many parts of our region.
"Dogs are highly susceptible to rabies and a larger population of stray dogs can exacerbate the spread of rabies," she said.
Some animals lovers have complained online that the cost of adopting dogs from AVA could go up to as high as $500.
AVA said that the costs are what any owner will have to pay if they want to keep a dog. This includes licensing ($70), microchipping ($20) and the cost of putting up the dogs at the pound ($16.50 per day).
The spokesman added that the adopters must also sterilise the dogs and ensure that they are not released back into the environment because all dogs, whether sterilised or not, are susceptible to rabies.
ASD founder Ricky Yeo is fully in support of sterilisation.
He said: "Animal lovers, AWGs and the AVA should synergise efforts to capture, sterilise and if possible, to re-home these strays, not just feed them."