Tuesday 28 February 2012

Govt to tackle pet welfare

Task force to be set up to push for more responsible ownership of dogs and cats
By Judith Tan, The Sunday Times, 26 Feb 2012

A task force will be set up to look into the matter of responsible pet ownership, and how the well-being of cats and dogs can be further improved.

The team will come under the Government Parliamentary Committee (GPC) for National Development.

Speaking to The Sunday Times yesterday, GPC member Yeo Guat Kwang said the task force will study the situation and come up with 'concrete recommendations, hopefully to change policies and regulations on the issues by the end of this year'.

He was speaking on the sidelines of the Singapore Animal Welfare Symposium and Public Forum on Animal Welfare Policies, held at Chong Pang Community Club.

The event, attended by more than 400 people, is the second such public forum on animal welfare. The first was held in June last year.

Giving a report card on what the outcomes of the inaugural meeting were, Mr Louis Ng, founder and executive director of Animal Concerns Research & Education Society (Acres), announced the setting up of a national adoption centre, where people can adopt strays and rescued animals.

The Ministry for National Development is currently reviewing the setting up of this centre, to be managed by ASD (Action for Singapore Dogs) and ALL (Animal Lovers' League), he said.

Suggestions made at the first conference also threw up long-term solutions such as the licensing of individual dog breeders instead of the current blanket licence to the main pet farm owners.

'This will guarantee responsibility and more humane treatment of breeding dogs,' Mr Ng said.

He said the Agri-food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) will be making it mandatory for pet shops to license dogs at the point of sale.

'That is, at the puppy's second vaccination and microchipping... the licence is transferred to the owner when the dog is sold,' he said.

A national microchip database will be established, where pets are registered in an integrated database to enable tracking and easy identification of owners of abandoned pets, he said, adding that the details will need to be worked out.

Mr Yeo said one key concern to be looked at by the GPC task force will be the HDB ruling on allowing only small breeds of dogs in its flats.

But Mr Yeo, who is also an MP for Ang Mo Kio GRC, pointed out that small breeds like the Jack Russell terrier are unsuitable for small homes.

He said it is important that some of the regulations and legislation are reviewed from time to time to see how they can be updated and made more relevant.

Law and Foreign Minister K. Shanmugam, who was at the forum in his capacity as the MP for the area, said: 'Any responsible society, any civilised society, should be judged by how it treats its animals.'

But he also felt a balance had to be struck between pet lovers and those who may not be keen on animals.

He said the number of people who asked him why he spent time and energy on animal issues 'is not insignificant'. Citing the example of the cat welfare programme in Chong Pang, he said he had to overcome much resistance.

'Even today, I would not say that the majority of the people openly support the programme. They may not be opposed to it but it does not mean they fully support it. As an elected representative, I have to balance these competing interests,' he said.

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