Monday, August 13, 2012

Stiffer penalties for abuser

Some recommendations by review committee to strengthen animal welfare legislation
by Woo Sian Boon

SINGAPORE - Stiffer penalties in the form of higher fines and jail terms for animal abusers, as well as community service with animal welfare groups are among the preliminary recommendations that the Animal Welfare Legislation Review Committee is considering to strengthen animal welfare legislation.

The committee also wants to fine-tune the current accreditation scheme to ensure that all pet-related businesses have their staff properly trained in animal care and handling. "It will enable us to set a standard for all the industry players so that when they are selling pets, they will have a standard procedure (to adhere to)," said the committee's chairman, Mr Yeo Guat Kwang, yesterday.

However, animal welfare groups TODAY spoke to noted that enforcement against animal cruelty should be beefed up.

Cat Welfare Society Vice-President Veron Lau said: "There needs to be more manpower to investigate and follow up on animal cruelty cases."

Urging the authorities to work with animal welfare groups to gather information on suspected cases of abuse, she pointed out that currently "the onus is on us to gather evidence on our own before the case is recognised".

Currently, the maximum penalty for animal cruelty is a fine of S$10,000 and 12 months' jail.

However, Mr Yeo highlighted that a large portion of wrong-doers are ignorant rather than deliberately cruel. In these cases, he suggested the offenders could "join the animal welfare groups to do community service".

Noting that the pet industry has a role to play in animal welfare, Mr Yeo, speaking at the sidelines of the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore's Responsible Pet Ownership Roadshow, added that the committee will call for industry players to do more. This includes pre-sale screening to ensure that pet buyers understand the responsibilities that come with being a pet owner.

The 11-member committee, formed in February by the Government Parliamentary Committee for National Development, intends to hand in the final set of recommendations to the Government by the end of the year.

It has so far held six consultation sessions involving more than 170 participants from the industry, grassroots leaders, veterinarians, activists and animal welfare groups. The public will be able to give feedback on the REACH website starting next month.

The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals' operations executive Kelvin Tang called for closer collaboration between the Government and the society to set higher standards in animal welfare.

"Some of our recommendations include responsible pet ownership on point of sale, traceability of animals by microchipping