SINGAPORE: The Animal Welfare Legislative Review Committee is calling for heavier penalties for animal abuse and abandonment.
After a year—long review, the committee has submitted its recommendations to the National Development Ministry for consideration.
The current penalty for animal abuse is a fine of up to S$10,000, one year in jail, or both.
The committee calls for a more detailed penalty structure that differentiates the intent and severity of the offence, with the maximum penalty for repeat and malicious cases going up to S$50,000, three years’ jail and a one—year ban on keeping animals.
At the same time, the proposal calls for higher penalties for businesses — between S$20,000 and S$100,000, and a ban on animal—related business for up to a year.
The Animal Welfare Legislative Review Committee said the objective is to send a strong message to deter wrongdoers.
Ricky Yeo, president of Action for Singapore Dogs, said: "The higher penalties of course may pose a deterrent to would—be offenders. But I think what’s important really is enforcement.
"To move forward, there has to be some priority assigned to prosecution of this kind of cases — which means lots of investigations, and to do that I think logistically, the authorities need a lot more manpower. This is something the animal welfare groups can be empowered to help."
Most people Channel NewsAsia spoke to support the call for harsher penalties.
Another key proposal is to legally require all staff in all pet businesses to be appropriately trained in animal care and handling.
The committee is recommending regulation for all commercial pet breeding activities, and for all pet boarding facilities to be licensed.
It also wants to see pet shops screen potential buyers to ensure pets are sold to responsible and committed owners.
Mr Chua Ming Kok, who represents the Pet Enterprises and Traders Association of Singapore in the committee, said: "There will definitely be some resistance from the smaller players.
"But we’ll have in place schemes to train them, to try to help them come on board this scheme. The major players in the industry have already given their consensus to be on this scheme."
George Tan, who owns Joy Doggy, a small pet shop which sells puppies, said: "Overall, the recommendations are OK. The main concern is about staff training. The turnover rate for my staff is very high, it’s going to be very, very difficult for me financially to send them for training.
"If, let’s say, there is a free course ... conducted by the government for us, I’ll be most willing to send my staff in for training because it really will raise the standard of the industry."
Committee chairman Yeo Guat Kwang said their job is far from over.
"It’s not a job that’s been done. We definitely need to do more. But let’s take one step at a time, and with this big step forward, I’m confident many other suggestions which are practical and reasonable will definitely also be taken into consideration in future," he said.
The committee’s report details 24 recommendations in total, including a call to set a minimum age of 16 years for buying a pet. It is the result of a year—long review, including consultations with animal welfare activists, pet industry representatives, and the public.
Underpinning the recommendations is a call for interest groups on different sides of the animal welfare debate to work together.
National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan said his ministry will carefully study the recommendations.
In a blog post, he said his instinct is that the law may need to be updated.
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