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HDB retracts notice asking residents to consider 'debarking' noisy dogs

HDB says it agrees the issue should have been handled more sensitively.

SINGAPORE: The Housing and Development Board (HDB) said a notice put up in Ang Mo Kio, advising residents to possibly 'debark' their dogs if they make too much noise, does not accurately reflect its position. 

The notice had listed debarking as one option, alongside obedience training sessions and training collars, to manage the problem of excessive barking by dogs, which HDB says, could become a nuisance to neighbours. It went viral on social media, with some animal lovers labelling the suggestion "barking mad".

In a statement issued in response to Channel NewsAsia's enquiries on Thursday (Aug 28), HDB said the notice has been taken down and apologised for the anxiety caused to dog owners.

"The notice had meant to seek the assistance of dog owners to help manage the issue of excessive dog barking at an Ang Mo Kio block, arising from complaints received. We agree it should have been handled more sensitively," the statement read.

HDB said when residents complain about excessive dog barking, they have always advised and counselled dog owners to manage their pets' barking and behaviour through obedience training. 

"Debarking should only be considered by pet owners as a last resort when all other measures, especially training, are ineffective and only if the dog owner considers it an option," HDB stated.

An advisory on the website of the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority also says debarking surgery is a "solution of last resort". 

Prior to HDB's confirmation that the notice was withdrawn, non-profit organisation Agency for Animal Welfare wrote on its Facebook page that it had written to the Ministry of National Development at 5am on Thursday regarding the issue. Hours later, it posted: "The AMK HDB notice has been removed. We thank MND Ministers of State, Mr Desmond Lee and Dr Maliki Osman for their swift and responsive wisdom and kindness".

Ms Corrine Fong, Executive Director of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) said the initial recommendation to debark dogs was "disappointing". In a statement released to the media, she called the debarking procedure "outdated and inhumane", noting that many veterinarians refuse to do the surgery on ethical grounds. 

Ms Fong said the SPCA urges HDB and the public to always put animal welfare first in resolving communal problems.