SINGAPORE: New licensing conditions for dog breeders and pet boarders in Singapore were opened for public consultation on Thursday (Jul 1), said the Animal and Veterinary Service (AVS).
The new standards aim to raise the standards of animal health and welfare in Singapore, and come after months of engagement with industry stakeholders.
“With the new licensing conditions, requirements will be specified in more detail and be more prescriptive, to provide for optimal husbandry and care of animals,” said Dr Chua Tze Hoong, group director for industry and biosecurity management at AVS.
After a month-long public consultation, the new conditions are expected to be finalised in the fourth quarter of this year. AVS is aiming for the full implementation of the new licensing conditions by the second quarter of next year.
PET SECTOR REVIEW
AVS first embarked on the pet sector review in August 2019, with pet breeding and boarding sectors identified for the first phase of the review. Three areas were identified in the first phase: traceability, pet boarding and dog breeding.
Following a four-month consultation exercise, more than 5,200 responses were received from an online survey. Five focus group sessions were conducted with stakeholders, including veterinarians, animal welfare groups, and dog trainers, breeders and boarders.
Nine group sessions were also held to "finetune" the revised conditions, said AVS.
“There was a very strong consensus that more needs to be done to raise the licensing standards for boarders and breeders to safeguard animal health and welfare, and strengthen our biosurveillance regime,” said Minister of State for National Development Tan Kiat How during a media briefing.
As a result of the first phase of the review, dog owners were able to apply for a one-time licence for sterilised dogs from September 2020. This licence is valid throughout the dog’s life.
This scheme aims to encourage more pet owners to license their dogs, enhancing traceability, said Dr Chua.
“Traceability is important to protect public animal health in the event that a pet dog is diagnosed with an infectious disease. Traceability is also important to reunite lost pets with their owners,” he added.
WHAT’S NEW: BREEDING INDUSTRY
Key changes to the dog breeding licence conditions span various areas, such as housing, environment, diet and healthcare.
AVS will mandate daily health checks to be conducted for breeding dogs and their litters. Any sign of pain, suffering, injury, disease or abnormal behaviour must be recorded, and advice from a veterinarian must be sought and followed.
All veterinary records have to be made available to AVS officers during inspections.
The revised conditions also stipulate stringent record-keeping for biosurveillance and to ensure traceability. All breeders must maintain records or proof of vaccinations, annual health checks, veterinary treatments and any form of surgical procedures for animals under their care.
For traceability purposes, AVS will require breeders to maintain a register for the movement of all breeding dogs and their litters.
In-breeding will be prohibited under the revised conditions.
"This means that a dog will not be allowed to be bred with its progeny, parent, or sibling. Breeders will also not be allowed to breed dogs with known harmful heritable conditions such as Brachycephalic syndrome, epilepsy, degenerative myelopathy, hip dysplasia and urinary bladder stones," said AVS.
All breeding dogs must be retired above six years old and be sterilised within six months after retirement. Each breeding dog is also not allowed to breed more than one litter per year.
"These revisions are aligned to overseas standards, such as those from UK and Australia," said AVS.
The revised conditions will also mandate that breeders provide opportunities for social interaction through specific conditions, such as providing secured areas for exercise and having interaction-based activities at least once a day.
WHAT’S NEW: BOARDING INDUSTRY
AVS will include a “boarder-specific” set of licensing conditions that will expand to cover boarding facilities on commercial properties. Only commercial boarders operating on farmlands are currently licensed under the breeding licensing conditions.
The new conditions will also include more animals, such as cats and other small mammals.
Some of the specifications under the new conditions include rules that the boarder can only accept vaccinated animals that are healthy with no transmissible diseases.
To prevent the spread of any disease, a designated isolation area would be required to care for sick and injured animals when immediate veterinary attention is not available. Boarding staff members must also conduct daily health checks on the animals.
To ensure sufficient space for the animals, dimensions for their living conditions are stipulated clearly.
"Appropriate space allocation of various animals is mandated to ensure that there is no negative interaction such as fights within the boarding space," said AVS.
"The conditions also specify the types of suitable housing for all animals such as dogs, cats, and small mammals."
AVS will also require all staff members responsible for the daily running of boarding premises and care of animals to undergo training.
The new conditions for boarders will not apply to a friend or family member who is helping to look after a pet while the pet's owners are away, as they are not considered commercial boarders.
“If a person ... helps his friends or family to board a small number of animals on a very personal and small scale and ad hoc basis, and they do not advertise, we will not consider it as a commercial operation,” said Dr Chua.
“We will only focus our efforts on commercial breeding and boarding activities," he added.
ENFORCEMENT AND PENALTIES
When asked how often checks will be conducted by AVS to ensure breeders and boarders are following rules, Dr Chua said inspections will take place “at least once a year”.
“The inspection … is an unannounced inspection. It will be carried out to check on the various compliances that the breeders and boarders have to undertake with respect to the new licensing conditions,” he said.
“If there is additional feedback, we will investigate and pay a visit to carry out our checks and enforcement," he added.
Failure to adhere to the conditions will see breeders and boarders be subjected to various penalties under the Animals and Birds Act.
These penalties include letters of warning, compensation fines and prosecution in court. In the most severe cases, AVS will also revoke or suspend their licences.
HOW TO SUBMIT YOUR FEEDBACK
AVS is seeking public feedback over the next month before finalising revised licensing conditions for dog breeders and pet boarders.
Members of the public can provide their feedback online on AVS' website. The public consultation will end on Jul 31.
Following the public consultation, breeding and boarding businesses will be given six months to make the necessary adjustments before the full conditions are implemented.
“With the rise of pet ownership in Singapore, we see many more residents having pets in their households. Many members of the public will be very keen ... to share their feedback on how their pets are bred and boarded,” said Mr Tan.
“Safeguarding animal health and welfare is a shared responsibility. The vets, pet breeders and boarders, animal welfare groups, trainers, all of us pet owners must continue to work together to raise overall standards in the pet sector to … improve the welfare and health of our animals," he added.