SINGAPORE: The Animal & Veterinary Service (AVS) opened Singapore’s first dedicated facility for animal behavioural rehabilitation on Friday (Mar 31).
The opening of the centre marks a key milestone in the agency's science-based efforts to manage the stray animal population in the country, said AVS.
Measuring 1,522 sqm, the Centre for Animal Rehabilitation "provides a calm and spacious environment for incoming stray animals as they undergo rehabilitation to integrate into life as a pet", said AVS.
The centre's visitor lounge is designed to mirror a home environment, with a fully furnished living room and dining area, complete with common household items such as a vacuum cleaner and television.
This setting helps to familiarise stray dogs with the sight, smell and sound of a typical home and reduces their fear and anxiety when they are adopted into a home.
The centre also features several activity rooms for obedience skills training, two dog runs and compartmentalised kennels.
To lower stress caused by noise, the kennels are built using special materials that reduce noise reverberation. The kennels also have privacy blinds and do not face one another, providing the dogs with privacy and a safe space as they adjust to their new environment.
CCTVs will be installed in all the kennels, to allow AVS to monitor the behaviour and progress of the dog without intruding on its personal space.
"As Singapore moves towards becoming a City in Nature – a key pillar of the Singapore Green Plan 2030, a national movement to chart our course for sustainable development – this initiative will help to promote harmonious living between the animals and the community," said AVS.
TNRM PROGAMME AND PROJECT REHAB
The centre will support the existing nationwide Trap-Neuter-Release-Manage (TNRM) programme, as well as build on the results of Project Rehab, a pilot canine rehabilitation programme.
Under the TNRM programme, AVS’ priority is to rehome as many trapped and sterilised stray dogs as possible. It describes the programme as a "humane, science-based approach" to managing the stray dog population. It was developed in consultation with animal welfare groups, the Singapore Veterinary Association and other stakeholders.
Participating animal welfare groups also receive funding from AVS for the trapping, sterilisation, vaccination and microchipping of dogs. The dogs can be brought to the clinic at the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) or preferred veterinary clinics. AVS aims to sterilise more than 70 per cent of the stray dog population by 2023.
Since November 2019, AVS has also rehabilitated more than 70 stray dogs following the start of Project Rehab, which it described as a "science-based canine rehabilitation programme".
"While previously fearful of people and/or showing aggressive behaviour, these dogs now demonstrate positive behaviour towards humans and are able to live comfortably in a home setting, which increases their chances of being rehomed," said AVS
RESEARCH AND REHABILITATION
To complement its rehabilitation programme, AVS will also conduct research that focuses on rehabilitation interventions, shelter management and animal welfare.
AVS said it aims to contribute to the science of stray animal management internationally by developing expertise in companion animal triage, health care and rehabilitation among the stray animal community.
Using insights gained from the pilot rehabilitation programme and in consultation with Dogs Trust, AVS developed the criteria for training and behaviour modification, and refined rehabilitation procedures to suit the needs of our local stray dog population. This new rehabilitation programme will be implemented in the Centre for Animal Rehabilitation.
AVS will then work with its rehoming partners to rehome the dogs. Under Project ADORE (ADOption and Rehoming of dogs), local mixed-breed dogs can be rehomed to HDB flats.
Those that are unable to be rehomed will be released at suitable locations to live out their lives naturally.
AVS is also partnering the SPCA in a pilot programme to improve the successful integration of stray dogs into homes and the wider community.
Through this pilot with SPCA, AVS will test and fine-tune the post-rehabilitation process, such as by reducing the number of transitions, which is often very stressful and may lead to behavioural regression for the dogs.