Owner of pet grooming school jailed, fined for abandoning 18 dogs

VALERIE KOH Today Online 23 Sep 16;

SINGAPORE — The owner of a dog grooming school was sentenced to six weeks’ jail and fined S$65,700 for dumping 18 dogs, mostly poodles, around the island, in the first prosecuted case of animal abandonment here.

Low Chong Kiat, 43, faced 49 charges under the Animals and Birds Act, ranging from abandoning the dogs to housing them without a licence.

District Judge Low Wee Ping chided him for committing these callous acts, despite being a professional in the industry.

“I hope this case will cause Singapore society to think about the welfare of the animals we have ... As the saying goes, an indication of how civilised a society is, is the way we treat our animals,” said the judge.

Low, who runs Prestige Grooming Academy, started out with a pet shop in Yishun in 2001, before expanding into a pet grooming school and a boarding-and-breeding business in 2009.

After a series of moves and closures, he ended up with a pet grooming school at Chun Tin Road and transferred the dogs from his breeding farm to the school’s premises.

In March this year, an inspection by an Urban Redevelopment Authority officer found 30 dogs housed illegally in the school building’s basement. Low, worried that his permit for the grooming business would be revoked, decided to abandon 18 dogs and re-home the remaining 12.

Between March 23 and 24, Low abandoned 12 poodles, four different pedigree dogs and two cross-breed dogs around Yishun, Tampines, Sengkang and Serangoon.

In one instance, he left a shih tzu and a maltese at the Boat House Condominium in Upper Serangoon, while returning a dog that he had groomed to its owner.

The matter came to light only after an informant told the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore that she saw Low abandoning three dogs at Yishun industrial estate.

The news spread over social media, and animal welfare groups rescued all the abandoned dogs.

Realising that his actions had been exposed, Low handed the remaining 12 dogs to animal welfare group Voices for Animals for re-homing.

Vet reports showed that two of the 30 dogs were in poor condition. A shih tzu was found with dental problems, skin conditions and corneal damage, while a maltese had a broken lower jaw and no teeth.

Appearing in court unrepresented, Low pleaded for leniency, claiming that he had to clear a large debt for his wife. “It’s not that I didn’t want to find a proper place. There was no space for us to rent.”

Deputy Public Prosecutor Bagchi Anamika pointed out that he could have taken the dogs to animal welfare groups. “... The accused travelled to various locations to disperse the dogs in small numbers; it can be inferred from this fact that he did so to avoid attracting attention to a large number of dogs being abandoned in a single location,” she said.

In response, Low claimed that he had done this so that the dogs would have a better chance of being adopted.

In his sentencing remarks, District Judge Low noted that the accused had abandoned a sizeable number of dogs and failed to ensure that two of them received medical care.

“One wonders how humans can subject animals to this kind of treatment,’ the judge said.

Low will start serving his jail sentence on Oct 21.

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