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Guidelines drafted on animal welfare in Singapore

A 15-member committee comprising animal lovers, parliamentarians, and grassroots leader have come up with guidelines on what the basic standard of animal welfare in Singapore should be.

SINGAPORE: A 15-member committee comprising animal lovers, parliamentarians, and grassroots leader have come up with guidelines on what the basic standard of animal welfare in Singapore should be.

The guidelines, collected in two Codes of Animal Welfare which applies to pet owners and businesses, have been submitted to the authorities for review.

Animal welfare has never been clearly defined in Singapore, and it is the first time such guidelines are being drafted here.

For example, owners must give their pets a clean and safe living environment as well as a well-balanced diet. For businesses, there is a separate set of guidelines, such as ensuring animals are comfortable and safe during transport.

"We try not to be too prescriptive when we actually formulate the code. But it's important to set a clear definition of what are good welfare standards,” said Yeo Guat Kwang, patron of Pets Enterprises & Traders Association Singapore, who is also the MP for Ang Mo Kio GRC.

“Because we have already consulted quite widely, I think this will be something definitely not onerous. It'll be something that is quite easy for everyone to comply and more importantly, it's not so much to try to actually make it to be enforceable, it's important for everyone to be aware that this is the basic care standard that we should have for all the pets and animals in Singapore."

In drafting the Codes, the Multi-Stakeholder Collaboration Committee referred to existing ones in Australia, New Zealand and UK. But it adapted them to fit Singapore's climate and context.

"Singapore is a lot more urban environment. We're a lot smaller in terms of overall space, so we have to take those norms into consideration,” said Alex Yam, chairman of the Multi-Stakeholder Collaboration Committee.

“Of course some things like free-roaming areas so on and so forth. We're quite a built-up area, so those are some of the things that we're unable to include."

The committee also held a one-month consultation online and received some 2,000 comments from some 600 people. Mr Yam, who is also MP for Chua Chu Kang GRC, said 90 per cent of the respondents agreed with what the codes spell out.

Those in the pet industry say the codes are long-awaited and are a positive development for Singapore.

"A lot of pet owners, they buy without doing proper research. And I feel that with the pet industry being on board with this and also educating the staff how to provide point-of-sale education, this can really help in terms of letting the owners know what they're getting into before they actually own a pet," said Veron Lau, vice president of the Cat Welfare Society and member of the Multi-Stakeholder Collaboration Committee.

"Accreditation is necessary to increase the standard of grooming in Singapore. Definitely it will affect some of the business because currently not all of them undergo proper training. But for myself, I think it's quite good because I will know where my standard is, and I think everybody will know where my standard is as well," said Brana Choy, a pet groomer.

Mr Yeo is hoping to table a Private Member's Bill in Parliament in September to amend the Animals and Birds Act. If the law is amended, authorities enforcing the Animals and Birds Act will be able to refer to the Codes of Animal Welfare, if needed. 

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