Sunday, 28 April 2013

Govt says 'yes' to all recommendations of animal welfare panel

It will work with AVA to roll out the proposals in phases
By David Ee And Walter Sim, The Straits Times, 27 Apr 2013

THE National Development Ministry yesterday accepted wholesale the recommendations made by an expert panel to better protect animals here, in what it called "a significant step towards improving animal welfare".

The last major review of animal welfare legislation was in 2002. In a statement, the ministry called the move "timely and essential", but also noted the need to balance diverse views in society.

The Animal Welfare Legislative Review Committee proposed 24 measures in a report last month after a year-long study, including heftier fines and longer jail terms for animal abusers and mandatory pre-sale screening of pet buyers, who must be aged 16 and above.

The pet industry has also committed to raising its own standards, a development which committee chairman Yeo Guat Kwang, an MP for Ang Mo Kio GRC, said was key. The Pet Enterprises and Traders Association of Singapore (Petas) will lead an accreditation scheme for pet farms, shops and groomers.

The ministry said it will work with the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority to roll out the recommendations in phases. Mr Yeo told The Straits Times that he aims to table a draft Bill in Parliament by November.

This comes against the backdrop of heightened animal welfare concerns. There were 1,426 reported cases of animal abuse in 2011, up from 1,162 in 2007.

Two ministers who have been vocal about animal rights weighed in on the developments.

Acting Manpower Minister Tan Chuan-Jin gave the efforts a "thumbs up" in a post on his Facebook page. Minister for Foreign Affairs and Law K. Shanmugam said: "I am personally very, very pleased that the recommendations have all been accepted and the law will be amended to better protect animals... This is a milestone, but it is not the end point. There is much more to do."

Committee members emphasised that their open approach of taking in views from all stakeholders helped "pave the way" forward. The committee comprised MPs and members from animal welfare groups, Petas, town councils and residents' committees. It held a month-long online consultation with the public, and also met with community groups.

"I'm pleased, not only with the outcome, but with the process. We agreed to disagree (on some issues), and yet came to a consensus," said Mr Yeo.

Committee member Louis Ng, executive director of the Animal Concerns Research and Education Society, added: "This signals quite a change in how policies can be drafted. It's really a bottom-up approach."

But they stressed that much work lies ahead. Mr Yeo acknowledged there will be challenges in enforcing the new measures.

Many welcomed the move. A spokesman for pet shop Pet Lovers Centre said the recommendations will "push pet businesses to be more ethical in their operations". Mr Marcus Khoo, 39, executive director of Petopia, which offers pet grooming and boarding services, said industry-wide standards are timely, but there may be "teething problems".

"Many pet businesses may not see the value in this, until it becomes more widely recognised. To be effective, the scheme should be made mandatory."

Dog owner Gail Sethi, 49, said it was a good step but was equally circumspect: "We can have all the laws in the world but how do we make sure they can be enforced?"

No comments:

Post a Comment