MND to raise animal welfare standards

Channel NewsAsia 26 Apr 13;

SINGAPORE: The Ministry of National Development (MND) has accepted all 24 recommendations proposed by the Animal Welfare Legislation Review Committee (AWLRC).

The ministry said it would partner with the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) to work out detailed implementation plans and roll out the recommendations in phases.

MND added that it also welcomes chairman of AWLRC Yeo Guat Kwang’s plans to table a Private Member's Bill to amend the animal welfare legislation in the Animal and Birds Act as a follow-up to the committee's recommendations.

Mr Yeo said: "It marks a significant step for animal welfare in Singapore, as we will move on to more proactive and responsive legislation as well as instilling responsible and appropriate behaviour in all stakeholders who play a part in an animal's life cycle.”

Recommendations include the establishing of a minimum age for pet buyers – only those aged 16 or older will be allowed to buy a pet. This will also become a condition for the licensing of pet shops and pet farms selling pets.

Also among the recommendations is a tiered penalty structure that differentiates the intent of the offender and nature of the offence.

The committee has proposed different penalties for individuals and corporate bodies such as pet shops and farms.

The current penalty is a maximum fine of S$10,000 and/or a 1 year jail term.

The AWLRC has recommended that repeat malicious offenders of animal cruelty and abuse be given a maximum fine of S$50,000 and/or 3 years' jail. The offender would also be prohibited from keeping animals for up to one year.

The committee also proposed a new penalty for those with the deliberate or malicious intent of being cruel to an animal and for repeat offenders who fail to ensure adequate care; the recommendations call for a maximum fine of S$20,000 and/or 2 years' jail. The offender would also be prohibited from keeping animals for up to one year.

The proposed recommendations also call for first-time offenders who are reckless, ignorant or those who fail to provide care to the animals to be fined a maximum of S$10,000 and/or jailed for one year. The offender would also have to perform community service.

Corporate bodies will also face stiffer penalties depending on the nature of the offence.

Under the recommendations, repeat corporate offenders who commit wilful or cruelty cases can be fined up to S$100,000 and/or be prohibited from engaging in animal-related trade for up to one year.

Wilful offenders and repeat offenders will face a maximum S$40,000 fine and/or be prohibited from engaging in animal-related trade for up to one year.

Businesses that are deemed to be reckless, ignorant and that fail to provide care can also face a maximum S$20,000 fine.

The recommendations, both legislative and non-legislative, are grouped under four thrusts.

These include ensuring reasonable care and welfare of animals, increasing deterrence and stepping up action against wrongdoers, fostering greater responsibility in the industry to ensure animal welfare, as well as fostering greater responsibility amongst pet owners and greater community awareness of animal welfare.

MND said this is a significant step towards improving animal welfare in Singapore.

- CNA/jc

MND accepts recommendations to improve animal welfare
Walter Sim Straits Times 26 Apr 13;

The Ministry of National Development (MND) has accepted all 24 recommendations made by a Government-commissioned committee in a "significant step towards improving" animal welfare, MND said in a statement on Friday.

This follows a year-long study by the Animal Welfare Legislation Review Committee, which included representatives from members of parliament, community leaders and industry representatives. Public input was sought through an online feedback portal and focus group discussions.

The recommendations have been grouped into four areas: to ensure reasonable care and welfare of animals; to increase deterrence and stepping up action against wrongdoers; to foster greater responsibility in industry; and to foster greater responsibility among pet owners and greater community awareness.

MND said the recommendations are "timely and essential to achieving a harmonious living environment", especially with animal welfare being a "complex and emotive" subject that has "gained prominence in recent years". The full report can be found at www.mnd.gov.sg/AWLRCReport/.

MND added that it plans to work with the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority to work out implementation plans and roll out the recommendations in phases.

This is the second victory for animal welfare in a week. On Monday, the Education Ministry announced that it will be incorporating a new syllabus - Character and Citizenship Education - from next year, to educate primary and secondary students on the importance of animal welfare

Govt says 'yes' to all recommendations of animal welfare panel
It will work with AVA to roll out the proposals in phases
David Ee And Walter Sim Straits Times 27 Apr 13;

THE National Development Ministry yesterday accepted wholesale the recommendations made by an expert panel to better protect animals here, in what it called "a significant step towards improving animal welfare".

The last major review of animal welfare legislation was in 2002. In a statement, the ministry called the move "timely and essential", but also noted the need to balance diverse views in society.

The Animal Welfare Legislative Review Committee proposed 24 measures in a report last month after a year-long study, including heftier fines and longer jail terms for animal abusers and mandatory pre-sale screening of pet buyers, who must be aged 16 and above.

The pet industry has also committed to raising its own standards, a development which committee chairman Yeo Guat Kwang, an MP for Ang Mo Kio GRC, said was key. The Pet Enterprises and Traders Association of Singapore (Petas) will lead an accreditation scheme for pet farms, shops and groomers.

The ministry said it will work with the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority to roll out the recommendations in phases. Mr Yeo told The Straits Times that he aims to table a draft Bill in Parliament by November.

This comes against the backdrop of heightened animal welfare concerns. There were 1,426 reported cases of animal abuse in 2011, up from 1,162 in 2007.

Two ministers who have been vocal about animal rights weighed in on the developments.

Acting Manpower Minister Tan Chuan-Jin gave the efforts a "thumbs up" in a post on his Facebook page. Minister for Foreign Affairs and Law K. Shanmugam said: "I am personally very, very pleased that the recommendations have all been accepted and the law will be amended to better protect animals... This is a milestone, but it is not the end point. There is much more to do."

Committee members emphasised that their open approach of taking in views from all stakeholders helped "pave the way" forward. The committee comprised MPs and members from animal welfare groups, Petas, town councils and residents' committees. It held a month-long online consultation with the public, and also met with community groups.

"I'm pleased, not only with the outcome, but with the process. We agreed to disagree (on some issues), and yet came to a consensus," said Mr Yeo.

Committee member Louis Ng, executive director of the Animal Concerns Research and Education Society, added: "This signals quite a change in how policies can be drafted. It's really a bottom-up approach."

But they stressed that much work lies ahead. Mr Yeo acknowledged there will be challenges in enforcing the new measures.

Many welcomed the move. A spokesman for pet shop Pet Lovers Centre said the recommendations will "push pet businesses to be more ethical in their operations". Mr Marcus Khoo, 39, executive director of Petopia, which offers pet grooming and boarding services, said industry-wide standards are timely, but there may be "teething problems".

"Many pet businesses may not see the value in this, until it becomes more widely recognised. To be effective, the scheme should be made mandatory."

Dog owner Gail Sethi, 49, said it was a good step but was equally circumspect: "We can have all the laws in the world but how do we make sure they can be enforced?"

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