Pet farm owner fined S$180,000 for neglecting dogs’ health

Vanessa Paige Chelvan Channel NewsAsia 7 Jun 17;

SINGAPORE: The owner of Top Breed Pet Farm at Pasir Ris was fined S$180,000 and disqualified from running any animal-related businesses for six months on Wednesday (Jun 7), after he was found guilty of failing to treat eight dogs found in poor health.

Edwin Tan Guowei, 29, was convicted of six of 11 charges for failure in duty of care, breach of farm licensing conditions and operating an unlicensed pet shop. Five other charges were taken into consideration in sentencing.

The dogs were discovered during a surprise inspection by the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) on Mar 9 last year. AVA officers found six dogs, including three Shih Tzus, in poor condition. They told Tan to take the dogs to the veterinarian immediately.

According to the vet’s report, five of the dogs suffered from eye problems, including ulcers and swelling. One of the dogs, a husky, had open wounds, and a pomeranian was found to be completely blind.

After a follow-up examination about four months later, the vet noted the conditions of four of the dogs had improved, but not significantly. The other two dogs had died by this time.

The prosecutor said although Tan was aware the six dogs had been in poor health, and tried to treat them, “he did not bring the dogs to the vet … and failed to take reasonable steps to ensure the dogs were protected from, and rapidly diagnosed of any injury or disease”.

AVA also found that the farm did not comply with its pet farm licensing conditions related to housing and animal health, and production records were also found to be inaccurate.

In addition, AVA investigations subsequently found that Tan operated a pet shop at Bukit Merah Central without an AVA licence. Tan was ordered to stop selling animals immediately, it said.

The disqualification order, which will prevent Tan from running any animal-related businesses for six months, will take effect on Aug 7, to give him time to rehome more than 180 dogs still on the farm.

HIGHEST FINE FOR ANIMAL CRUELTY OFFENCES

AVA said in a press release on Wednesday that the fine imposed on Tan was the highest imposed on anyone for committing animal cruelty and welfare-related offences.

The authority pressed for a deterrent sentence and a disqualification in view of the severity of Tan's offences, it said.

This is also the first time a disqualification order has been issued for animal-related businesses, after a 2015 amendment to the Animals and Birds Act to include provisions for disqualification orders and higher penalties for offences committed by those involved in animal related businesses.

For failing to provide proper care of the dogs while conducting an animal-related business, Tan could have been jailed for up to two years, fined up to S$40,000, or both, on each charge.

The maximum sentence for non-compliance with pet farm licensing conditions is a fine of S$10,000 and a one-year jail term for the first conviction, and that for selling pets without a license is a fine of S$5,000.



Pet farm owner fined S$180,000, disqualified from running animal-related business
SIAU MING EN Today Online 7 Jun 17;

SINGAPORE — Questions loom over the fate of some 180 dogs that remain on a Pasir Ris pet farm after the owner was disqualified by a district judge on Wednesday (June 7) from running any animal-related business for six months. He had failed to care for the animals properly.

The disqualification of Edwin Tan Guowei, 29, will kick in two months’ time, but some animal welfare groups TODAY contacted said they have not been approached to render help. It was not known if Tan had sold the pet farm, Top Breed Pet Farm.

Tan was also fined S$180,000 for six counts of failing to take reasonable steps to ensure the animals were protected from and quickly diagnosed of significant injuries or diseases. Another five charges were taken into consideration for sentencing.

This is the highest fine imposed on an accused person for committing animal cruelty and welfare-related offences. This is also the first time a disqualification order has been issued for animal-related businesses.

In 2015, the Animals and Birds Act was amended to include provisions for disqualification orders and higher penalties for offences committed by persons involved in animal-related businesses.

Tan’s offences came to light after the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) carried out a surprise inspection on March 9 last year at the farm Tan has been running since 2015. Eight breeding dogs, including an unsterilised bulldog, shih tzus, husky and pomeranian, were found in poor physical condition. The farm was also housing more than 100 dogs at that time.

The AVA instructed Tan to take the dogs to the vet for treatment immediately and to produce the vet’s report during their next inspection.

The vet who examined the dogs that day found that they suffered from a range of conditions, such as corneal swelling in the eye, corneal ulcer, loss of hair, scabs and open wounds.

The AVA’s investigations later found that Tan had operated a pet shop at Bukit Merah Central without an AVA licence. Tan was instructed to stop the sale of animals immediately.

A few months later, the AVA found that two dogs — a female shih tzu and a male husky — had died. While some of the dogs’ physical conditions had improved, others continued to suffer from discharge and swelling in their eyes, among other conditions.

Although Tan knew about these problems and had tried to treat the dogs, he did not go to a vet promptly, said Deputy Public Prosecutor Selene Yap. She urged the court to impose a punishment that would “prevent any like-minded pet business owners from engaging in similar activities”.

In sentencing, the district judge said people like Tan had a greater obligation to care for the welfare of animals in his custody, since he ran an animal-related business.

Parliament clearly intended to emphasise that persons like Tan had to ensure that the animals’ welfare was not compromised by the need to make profits, the judge added.

Tan’s disqualification order will start on Aug 7, and the dogs must not be sent to the AVA. The grace period is for Tan to make arrangements to comply with the order, the AVA said.

Contacted by TODAY, animal welfare groups SOSD and Action for Singapore Dogs (ASD) said they have not received any requests to take in dogs from Tan’s farm. In any case, the SOSD can only take in about 10 to 20 dogs should Tan approach them, said president Siew Tuck Wah.

ASD president Ricky Yeo added that more upstream measures should be put in place, such as requiring pet farm owners to place a deposit with the AVA before issuing them a licence.

The deposit could be used to offset the costs of rehoming the dogs in cases where owners are unable to continue with their business, he noted.

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