Authorities look towards tougher stance against animal abuse

SINGAPORE: The authorities are looking at toughening legislation against animal abuse and will deal with such cases strongly.

Minister of State for National Development Desmond Lee said this during a speech at a charity dog walk on Sunday morning.

138 people with their four-legged companions attended the charity dog walk at West Coast Park, organised by animal welfare group Save Our Street Dogs (SOSD).

The walk was entered into the Singapore Book of Records as the largest pack walk in Singapore.

Later, owners bonded with their pets at a carnival.

The money raised from the event will go towards funding rescue programmes by SOSD, as well as to the costs of housing these abandoned and rescued dogs.

On average, SOSD gets about 20 to 30 new dogs each month.

Mr Lee noted that SOSD and other similar groups have to deal with many cases of pet abandonment, neglect, and abuse.

He said: "We will be taking legal changes to make pet abuse and animal abuse a much tougher offence, and we will deal with it strongly.

“How you treat animals - like many other things that you deal with in life - is a reflection of how as a society we are maturing, (how) we're advancing, and so it's important for us to look at this aspect as well."

Activists suggest that harsher penalties - like jail terms - could prove more effective.

For example, the Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) proposed a jail term for a businessman who was recently sentenced to the maximum S$10,000 fine for animal cruelty.

Separately, in a Facebook post earlier this week, Law Minister K Shanmugam said he and Mr Lee have been discussing the issue of improving management of stray animals with the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) and animal welfare groups.

“We met up with several AWGs (animal welfare groups) such as SOSD, SPCA and ACRES to discuss their concerns and possible solutions," he wrote.

He added that last month, Mr Lee led a small group of officials, vets and representatives of animal welfare groups to Australia to get a better understanding of Australian practices, and visited their animal shelters.

Mr Shanmugam also said that the AVA recently engaged an international animal control expert to help with acceptable animal trapping practices.

Animal welfare groups were also invited to attend the training sessions with the expert, Brian Faulkner, an animal control consultant from the UK.

But finding space for these animals is not easy.

Dr Siew Tuck Wah, president of SOSD, said: “We wish to continue saving the dogs, but the big problem is finding homes for them. Finding homes is a big problem because of current legislation where HDB flats cannot keep larger dogs.

“If there are more homes for rescued dogs, it will solve a big part of our problem."

SOSD has applied to join Project Adore, a pilot programme that allows HDB flat owners to adopt mongrels under a specific set of requirements.

Currently, with authorisation from the HDB, Action for Singapore Dogs and SPCA, HDB flat owners can adopt mongrels if they are below 50cm tall and weigh less than 15kg.

The animal has to undergo a basic obedience training course with an approved trainer, and the owner must inform the director of his housing constituency of the adoption.  - CNA/xq