SINGAPORE: There is no surefire way to verify the ownership of animals being brought to be cremated, said industry players, but companies stress that they do their best to ensure that there is proper documentation and identification of clients and dead pets.
Pet boarding operators as well as pet cremation service providers have been in the spotlight after the authorities raided the premises of Platinium Dogs Club as part of an investigation, following several complaints that animals were ill-treated under its care.
AVA found 18 dogs and a rabbit during inspections of the pet boarding service, while a Shetland sheepdog named Prince was reported missing while he was boarded at the centre.
It was later revealed in a Facebook update by the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) that the dog had died while at the boarding centre and was later cremated by a pet cremation service provider.
Pet cremation providers do not require a licence from the AVA, it said in response to queries from Channel NewsAsia.
However, if AVA-licensed premises such as pet shops or veterinary clinics wish to conduct ancillary activities such as animal cremation in their premises, approval from the AVA is required.
Speaking to Channel NewsAsia, pet cremation service providers said they are not able to guarantee animals belong to the individuals who arrange for their cremation.
"It's impossible to really verify (who the animals belong to)," said Express Pet Cremation manager James Lim. "Normally, we try to get hold of the owner, and if not, then we would verify certain facts about the dog ownership ... We get the particulars of the person who hands over the animal, the animal's name, identification of the animal, the gender and the rough age of the animal. That's about it."
Most of the time, pet owners contact cremation service providers directly, said Mr Ryan Koh, owner of Rainbow Paradise.
"There are exceptional cases whereby pets have passed on at a vet clinic or boarding centre at times when the owners are out-of-town, and the first point of contact are employees from the clinic or boarding centre instead," he said.
"In these instances, our SOP (standard operating procedure) is to obtain the contacts of the owners and we will get in touch with them via Whatsapp/Wechat/message/email to confirm their identity, and to arrange a suitable cremation slot."
Based on current AVA guidelines, all dog owners in Singapore are required to apply for a license for their pet, and will have to comply with requirements such as the animal being implanted with a microchip. A registered microchip carries a unique identification number so that the dog can be traced back to its owner.
However, not all dogs sent for cremation have microchips, and this means that they may not necessarily be able to be traced back to their rightful owners.
There are several other difficulties in establishing ownership of the dead animal, say pet cremation service providers. For instance, asking too many questions for instance, could aggrieve a grieving pet owner.
"We try to avoid aggravating the situation, (which is) a really sad situation. From our experience it's not wise to do that," said Mr Lim. "You must be very sensitive, it's like how you would deal with a dead person. They are grieving...and may take it out on you that the animal is dead. There are limitations."
The registered owners of certain animals may not necessarily be the ones taking care of them, leaving the responsibility to others.
"Some owners they leave their pets with friends, or family to look after the dog because they are overseas," said Mr Lim. "This kind of thing happens ... We have to take it on a case-to-case basis.
"Normally when people bring their pets for cremation, they have to pay money, so in that sense, they are actually quite responsible to a certain extent."