SINGAPORE: Animal welfare groups are calling for measures to prevent the overbreeding of small pets, after an increase in calls for help by pet owners unable to manage mice, hamsters and rabbits from breeding out of control.
Three animal rights groups - Bunny Wonderland Singapore (BWS), House Rabbit Society Singapore (HRSS) and the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) - noted in a joint letter to the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) on Apr 11 that private owners that overbreeding was a major source of abandoned rabbits.
They called for authorities to tighten regulations on the sterilisation, microchipping and registration of pet rabbits. Ensuring the traceability, management and minimum standards of care for pet shop rabbits will help reduce overpopulation and abandonment rates while improving their welfare, the groups said.
Another welfare group, Voices for Animals (VFA), also urged mouse and hamster owners to be responsible and separate male and female animals to prevent them from breeding, as these rodents are too small to be sterilised.
Last month, VFA, HRSS and BWS were approached by the Housing and Development Board (HDB) and Tampines Town Council to help remove and re-home some mice and rabbits from a Tampines flat.
Three fancy mice - domesticated house mice - had multiplied to over 300 over the years. The homeowner, believed to be in his 40s to 50s, also had more than 20 rabbits in the house.
The critters bred rapidly and found their way into the man's television, speakers, washing machine and other household appliances. Some escaped to his neighbours’ house, prompting other residents to lodge a complaint with HDB, which in turn called on pest control and the animal groups for help.
VFA founder Derrick Tan, who posted a video of the mice discovered, wrote on Facebook that the group was looking to re-home about 70 mice it had rescued from the residence.
Mr Tan told Channel NewsAsia such cases, involving hundreds of mice, were not common. However, VFA has noticed an increase in calls for help, he added.
BWS co-founder Jackie Fang said she herself had unintentionally overbred rabbits.
The 53-year-old had four rabbits – one of which, unbeknownst to her, was male. Within three months, the number of rabbits had multiplied to 30.
“For newbies like us, 30 babies are really, really a big disaster. From there I learnt that sterilisation is very important. Some people do not know where to get help,” she said.
Ms Fang said she hoped to be a good example for those who unintentionally breed their rabbits.
Today, her animal welfare group takes cares of about 60 to 70 rabbits which are waiting to be re-homed. These are either rabbits abandoned by the public or those rescued from breeders. She said her biggest rescue mission was two years ago, when she took over 82 rabbits from a former breeder.
Her co-founder Lynne Tan said Bunny Wonderland receives two to three calls per week asking for help with rabbit management cases.
"We can only do what we can provide, and so our capacity is very limited. So as many calls we receive we can't attend to all of them, and we have to limit (ourselves), Ms Tan said.
Baey Yam Keng, Member of Parliament for Tampines GRC, the constituency where the mice were found, said the pets were controllable if owners are responsible.
“I don’t think we need a knee-jerk reaction because it’s only one case, and I don’t believe it’s a trend or a prevalence of such incidents,” he said. “It may be cumbersome and also impractical for authorities to enforce ... how many mice one person can keep because they do breed quickly, yes, but if the owner is responsible enough, able to control, manage, find way to care for them, most of the time they shouldn’t cause a problem in the community."
Mr Tan, however, argued that it was not about how many pets one had. “Sometimes, just keeping one is also too much because the person cannot handle it. So it’s dependent on how you look after the animal and how you manage it.”