Monday, 21 July 2014

AVA reviewing animal welfare codes

By Cheryl Faith Wee, The Sunday Times, 20 Jul 2014

Pet owners here should provide their pets with a balanced diet and fresh drinking water, monitor their health regularly and not leave them in vehicles in conditions that cause heat stress or distress.

These are just a few of the guidelines from the codes of animal welfare for pet owners and businesses, submitted to the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) for review by a group looking into the issue here.

"The codes were formulated because there was no clear, agreed definition of what is deemed as good welfare standards," said Mr Yeo Guat Kwang, an MP for Ang Mo Kio GRC and a member of the group called the Multi-Stakeholder Collaboration Committee for Animal Welfare (MSCC).

Animal abuse cases here have gone up 28.3 per cent from 377 in 2008 to 484 in 2012, according to AVA figures. Animal cruelty is now prosecuted under the Animals and Birds Act, but critics said its provisions are vague on how cruelty is defined.

The codes are guidelines for best practices and minimum standards for pets, but they can be used as a reference to support the investigation and prosecution of an offence. A summary of these was put up on the AVA's website yesterday.

Speaking to reporters at a Pet Enterprise and Traders Association of Singapore event at Asia Square yesterday, Mr Yeo said the codes were devised based on feedback from around 600 members of the public in a month-long e-consultation earlier this year.

The committee also looked at the welfare standards in countries like New Zealand and consulted different pet industry stakeholders.

In September, Mr Yeo will table a private Member's Bill in Parliament with a few other MPs to amend the Animals and Birds Act. One of the proposals will be to empower the AVA to issue or adopt the animal welfare codes. Law Minister K. Shanmugam had also said earlier that penalties for animal abusers would be stiffened.

The codes are divided into one for pet owners and another for pet businesses. Specific guidelines are also set out for different animals.

For example, one suggestion for owners of small animals like rabbits, guinea pigs and hamsters is that they should microchip and sterilise their pets, where feasible.

As for dog owners, the codes suggest they provide cold climate breeds with adequate shade, good fan ventilation or air conditioning.

The guidelines also say pet businesses should check on the health of the pets at least once a day and ensure that all animals are physically fit, healthy and free of diseases prior to mating.

Ms Veron Lau, vice-president of the Cat Welfare Society, said: "On the ground, we see the need for these codes because animal cruelty cases are often not able to move forward due to the lack of guidelines. This is an important first step in crystallising the framework for animal welfare."

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