Animal welfare groups hail authorities’ nationwide push to sterilise stray dogs

CYNTHIA CHOO Today Online 21 Dec 17;

SINGAPORE — In a move welcomed by animal welfare groups, the authorities will embark on a nationwide effort to sterilise the bulk of about 7,000 street dogs in Singapore from the second half of next year.

The five-year programme will be funded by the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA), with the support of 11 animal welfare groups such as Action for Singapore Dogs (ASD), SOSD, Animal Lovers League and Exclusively Mongrels.

The target is to sterilise more than 70 per cent of the stray dog population here, said the AVA. Based on scientific literature and modelling, this rate is needed to stabilise the population before it begins to decrease.

The AVA’s announcement on Thursday (Dec 21) was dubbed a “game changer” by Dr Jaipal Singh Gill, executive director of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, one of the participating groups.

For 30 years, various groups here have carried out sterilisation of stray dogs but efforts have not been large-scale or concerted, said SOSD president Siew Tuck Wah.

“We believe that this will be the turning point for stray animal management in Singapore,” said Dr Siew.

Sterilisation costs are hefty for independent groups. AVA’s funding would relieve groups of the cost of pre- and post-surgery care, as well as trapping of the animals, said president of Voices for Animals Derrick Tan.

Hiring dog trappers costs between S$300 to S$600, while sterilisation costs about S$200 to S$300 per animal, with some vets providing subsidies, said co-founder of Animal Lovers League Mohan Div.

Going by a back-of-the-envelope calculation, sterilisation costs alone of about 4,900 stray dogs – 70 per cent of the estimated population – would add up to about S$980,000 to S$1.47 million.

The AVA said it is working out the detailed costs of the initiative. “If stray dog numbers can be reduced in the long run, resources to be spent thereafter will be saved,” said a spokesperson.

The AVA’s budget for animal management operations in 2016 was S$800,000, said then-Senior Minister of State for National Development Desmond Lee in Parliament in February. Culling is a last resort, he said.

In 2015, the AVA euthanised nearly 2,500 animals – 942 dogs, 888 cats and 623 monkeys – National Development Minister Lawrence Wong said last year.

Under the new Trap-Neuter-Release-Manage programme, stray dogs will be humanely caught and sterilised and as many as possible will be rehomed. Those that cannot be rehomed will be released in “suitable locations” to live out their lives, said the AVA.

The animal welfare groups will help galvanise volunteers and stray feeders.

Mr Mohan said space to house the dogs temporarily could be a challenge, while ASD president Ricky Yeo said getting the buy-in of stakeholders such as stray feeders may be difficult.

“The people on the ground, the feeders, are still suspicious of the government’s real intentions, so the animal welfare groups will have to be the mediators, persuading them and rallying them to understand that this is for the greater good, that with this (programme), there will be much less culling or no culling in the future,” he said.

The results of current animal management measures show they have not been effective in reducing the stray population, added Mr Yeo. “Rather, it is just maintaining it. Rather than putting an expensive plaster on a festering wound, it is well-worth investing in a long-term solution, where tangible objectives can be met.”

From ASD’s experience with a similar Jurong Island project, Mr Yeo reckoned a combination of methods to trap the dogs would be needed, as the creatures wised up quickly to the use of cages.

The AVA, which began seeking feedback on the programme from the groups and vets in June, is in the midst of engaging them on operational aspects, such as areas that each group would oversee.

The programme will be “complemented by regulation of the pet industry to enhance traceability of dogs, control over import and export of pet dogs, licensing of pet dogs at source and tough penalties on pet abandonment”, said Ms Jessica Kwok, group director of AVA’s animal management group.

“We would also like to assure the public that during the implementation of this programme, AVA will continue to safeguard public health and safety,” she said.


AVA to roll out 5-year sterilisation programme of stray dogs
Channel NewsAsia 21 Dec 17;

SINGAPORE: The Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) said on Thursday (Dec 21) it is working closely with animal welfare groups (AWGs) and veterinarians to embark on a five-year Trap-Neuter-Release-Manage (TNRM) programme to manage the stray dog population in Singapore.

This is AVA's first sterilisation programme for stray dogs, the authority said, stressing that it is a "humane and science-based method" to reduce the stray dog population in the country.

"This will be done by humanely catching stray dogs and sterilising them. Efforts will be made to rehome as many of the sterilised animals as possible," AVA said.

AVA added that dogs that are unable to be rehomed will be released at suitable locations to live out their lives naturally.

The authority has set a target to sterilise more than 70 per cent of the stray dogs in Singapore within five years.

"Based on scientific literature and mathematical modelling, a sustained sterilisation rate of 70 per cent or more is necessary to stabilise a stray dog population, before it begins to come down," AVA said.

Ms Jessica Kwok, group director of AVA’s animal management group, said the sterilisation programme is a "humane and sustainable solution" to manage stray dogs in Singapore.

"The TNRM programme will be complemented by regulation of the pet industry to enhance traceability of dogs, control over import and export of pet dogs, licensing of pet dogs at source, and tough penalties on pet abandonment," Ms Kwok said.

"We would also like to assure the public that during the implementation of this programme, AVA will continue to safeguard public health and safety,” she added.

The programme is slated to start in the second half of 2018.

PROGRAMME 'STRONGLY SUPPORTED' BY ANIMAL WELFARE GROUPS

AVA said it began seeking feedback and suggestions from animal welfare groups and the veterinary community on the initiative from June this year, and has received strong support from these organisations.

Eleven animal welfare groups have agreed to participate in the programme, AVA added.

The groups are Action for Singapore Dogs, Animal Lovers League, Causes for Animals, Exclusively Mongrels, Mercylight, Oasis Second Chance Animal Shelter, Noah's Ark CARES, Purely Adoptions, Save Our Street Dogs, Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) and Voices for Animals.

AVA said these groups will play a "crucial supportive and facilitative role" in the implementation of this programme by, for example, helping to galvanise stray feeders and volunteers.

AVA noted that some welfare groups have also been conducting their own sterilisation programmes in localised areas for many years.

"Their dedication and expertise will be incorporated into this nationwide approach," AVA said.

Commenting on the programme, executive director of SPCA Jaipal Singh Gill called it a "game changer for street dogs in Singapore" and his organisation was "thrilled" with the implementation.

"We are very pleased to see so many stakeholders, including the government, animal welfare groups and veterinarians, coming together with a shared vision and approach to humanely reduce the street dog population,” Dr Singh said.

In a Facebook post on Thursday, Minister for Social and Family Development Desmond Lee said that through this programme, the government hopes to manage Singapore’s stray dog issue in "a humane manner, based on science and data, and in the spirit of community partnership".

"This work will not be easy. We need the patience and support of the public, and the partnership of other animal welfare groups, vets and responsible animal feeders," said Mr Lee, who is also Second Minister for National Development.

Source: CNA/am



AVA to roll out 5-year sterilisation programme to manage stray dog population
Ng Huiwen and Audrey Tan Straits Times 21 Dec 17;

SINGAPORE - To better manage the stray dog population in Singapore, the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority (AVA) will be rolling out a five-year programme aimed at sterilising 70 per cent of such dogs here.

In a statement on Thursday (Dec 21), the authority said that it will be working with animal welfare groups and veterinarians in the new Trap-Neuter-Release-Manage programme, slated to start in the second half of 2018.

This is the first time that such a scheme for stray dogs has been rolled out at a national level. Previously, dog welfare groups, fearing that culling may be used as a method of animal population control, conducted such programmes on their own initiative. There is already a national trap-neuter-release programme for stray cats, which was rolled out islandwide in 2014.

The programme will involve humanely catching stray dogs and sterilising them, with efforts made to rehome as many of the sterilised animals as possible, AVA said. Those that cannot berehomed will be released at suitable locations to live out their lives naturally.

AVA said that this is a humane and science-based method to reduce the number of stray dogs here. These dogs, who live in harsh and difficult conditions, face various risks, such as from traffic, starvation and disease.

"Stray dogs who return to their feral instincts can potentially pose a danger to the public, especially when in packs. Stray dogs are also a potential reservoir of disease like rabies," it added.

AVA is targeting to sterilise more than 70 per cent of the stray dogs here in five years. It estimates that there are currently about 7,000 stray dogs in Singapore

According to Animal Lovers League co-founder Mohan Div, strays are mostly found at industrial areas and construction sites.

"A trap-neuter-release programme is a win-win situation: It allows existing dogs to live out their lives in their habitats, takes future generations of dogs off the streets where they may suffer, and overall, helps reduce the number of stray dogs in Singapore," he said.

Citing scientific literature and mathematical modelling, AVA said a sustained sterilisation rate of 70 per cent or more is necessary to stabilise a stray dog population, before it can begin to decrease.

AVA's animal management group director Jessica Kwok said: "Through the sterilisation of stray dogs nationwide, we hope to find a humane and sustainable solution to manage stray dogs."

She said that the programme will be complemented by regulation of the pet industry. This aims to make dogs more easily traceable, exercise control over import and export of pet dogs and ensure that pet dogs are licensed at the source. There will also be tough penalties for abandoning dogs.

Several animal welfare groups and the veterinary community have shown strong support for the programme, AVA said.

Mr Derrick Tan, founder of the animal shelter Voices for Animals, said the latest initiative was a step in the right direction, as it involves the authorities working closely with animal welfare groups.

A standard operating procedure is now being worked out between the authorities and the animal groups, which will detail the steps that should be taken after a dog is trapped. This involves procedures such as taking the dog for health checks and vaccinations.

The plan is also to get the various animal welfare groups to be involved in the management of certain areas after dogs are released into the environment. This will ensure that all released dogs are accounted for. Animal welfare groups will also be able to mediate any potential human-wildlife conflict that should arise if dogs are released back into the environment.

"There is a difference between animal welfare groups stepping in to respond to complaints from people in an area, and in AVA doing so. If animal welfare groups are the first responders, we could do our best to mediate conflict," said Mr Tan.

Some 11 groups have committed to join in the programme and AVA said that these groups play a crucial supportive and facilitative role. Animal welfare groups or those who wish to participate in the programme can contact AVA on 1800-476-1600.

For instance, they will be help to galvanise stray feeders and volunteers in these efforts.

The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) executive director Jaipal Singh Gill said that he was thrilled to learn of the programme and called it "a game changer for street dogs in Singapore".

SOSD president Siew Tuck Wah noted that various animal welfare groups have carried out sterilisation of stray dogs for the past 30 years, but there has never been a concerted, large-scale effort such as this programme.

Mr Desmond Lee, Minister for Social and Family Development and Second Minister for National Development, said in a Facebook post on Thursday evening that many animal welfare groups have already adopted trap, neuter, release and manage programmes on their own.

“AVA wants to take this effort further, and has been discussing with the animal welfare groups and the Singapore Veterinary Association on how to replicate the success of these localised efforts on a wider scale... through this programme, we hope to manage Singapore’s stray dog issue in a humane manner, based on science and data, and in the spirit of community partnership.”

Separately, AVA is working with a team of academics from Singapore and Australia on a three-year stray dog study which started in 2015.

The scientific study, which involves attaching GPS collars on dogs, aims to establish an estimate of the stray dog population size in Singapore, and to understand its ecology. "Some of the ecological and biological aspects being looked at include the dogs' range size, activity patterns, mortality and reproductive rates," said AVA.

In conjunction with AVA's study, researchers from the National Institute of Education are helping the National Parks Board look into the impact of stray dogs on native biodiversity in the nature reserve, including at Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve.


Joint effort to manage stray dog population in Singapore
AVA is working with animal welfare groups and vets on 5-year sterilisation programme
Audrey Tan Straits Times 22 Dec 17;

The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) will be rolling out a five-year sterilisation programme for stray dogs in the second half of next year to manage their numbers more humanely.

The programme aims to sterilise 70 per cent of the stray dogs roaming Singapore's streets.

AVA said yesterday it will work with animal welfare groups and veterinarians on the trap-neuter-release-manage programme. Efforts will also be made to rehome as many such animals as possible. Dogs deemed unsuitable for rehoming will be released at chosen locations to live out their lives.

This is the first time that such a scheme for stray dogs has been rolled out at a national level. Previously, dog welfare groups, fearing that culling may be used to control the animal population, conducted such programmes on their own.

There is already a national trap-neuter-release effort for stray cats, rolled out islandwide in 2014.

On the streets, dogs live in harsh and difficult conditions and face risks from traffic, starvation and disease. "Stray dogs who return to their feral instincts can potentially pose a danger to the public, especially when in packs. They are also a potential reservoir of disease like rabies," said AVA.

It estimates that there are currently about 7,000 stray dogs here and aims to sterilise 70 per cent of them in five years.

AVA, citing scientific literature and mathematical modelling, said a sustained sterilisation rate of 70 per cent or more is necessary to stabilise a stray dog population, before it can begin to decrease.

AVA animal management group director Jessica Kwok said: "Through the sterilisation of stray dogs nationwide, we hope to find a humane and sustainable solution to manage stray dogs."

Mr Derrick Tan, founder of the animal shelter Voices for Animals, told The Straits Times that a standard operating procedure is being worked out between the authorities and the animal welfare groups, which will detail the steps that should be taken after a dog is trapped. This involves procedures such as taking the dog for health checks and vaccinations.

The plan is also to get the various animal welfare groups involved in the management of certain areas after dogs are released into the environment. This will ensure that all released dogs are accounted for.

Animal welfare groups will also be able to mediate any potential human-wildlife conflict that should arise if dogs are released back into the environment.

"There is a difference between animal welfare groups stepping in to respond to complaints from people, and AVA doing so.

"If animal welfare groups are the first responders, we could do our best to mediate conflict before it escalates," said Mr Tan.

AVA has been engaging with the animal welfare groups and veterinarians since June this year.

Animal welfare groups or those who wish to participate in the programme can contact AVA on 1800-476-1600.

Mr Desmond Lee, Minister for Social and Family Development and Second Minister for National Development, said in a Facebook post yesterday that many animal welfare groups have already adopted trap, neuter, release and manage programmes on their own.

He wrote: "AVA wants to take this effort further... Through this programme, we hope to manage Singapore's stray dog issue in a humane manner, based on science and data, and in the spirit of community partnership."

• Additional reporting by Ng Hui Wen


Animal groups welcome stray dog sterilisation scheme
Audrey Tan Straits Times 22 Dec 17;

Animal welfare groups, which have long called for a more humane way of dealing with stray dogs besides culling, have welcomed the new move to sterilise them.

Co-founder of animal shelter Animal Lovers League, Mr Mohan Div, described the sterilisation programme as a "win-win situation".

"It allows existing dogs to live out their lives in their habitats, takes future generations of dogs off the streets where they may suffer and, overall, helps reduce the number of stray dogs in Singapore," he told The Straits Times.

AVA estimates that there are now 7,000 stray dogs in Singapore. The latest initiative aims to sterilise at least 70 per cent of them.

Dr Jaipal Singh Gill, executive director of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, said that he was thrilled to learn of the programme and called it "a game changer for street dogs in Singapore".

He said: "We are very pleased to see so many stakeholders, including the Government, animal welfare groups and veterinarians, coming together with a shared vision and approach to humanely reduce the street dog population."

Dr Siew Tuck Wah, president of animal welfare group SOSD, said that various animal welfare groups have carried out sterilisation of stray dogs over the past 30 years, but there has never been a concerted, large-scale effort such as now.

"This effort also proves that our society is evolving into a more compassionate, kinder one which cares not only for its human residents but for its animals as well," he added.

Some 11 groups have joined the programme.

Animal welfare groups or those who wish to participate in the programme can contact AVA on 1800-476-1600.

Audrey Tan



Rehoming dogs is still main challenge
Fewer than half of dogs in shelters get adopted
Jan Lee, Ang Tian Tian New Paper 23 Dec 17;

Although regulations and attitudes have shifted to be more welcoming towards stray dog adoption, the rehoming of stray dogs is still a challenge for many animal welfare groups (AWGs) in Singapore.

President of Action for Singapore Dogs Ricky Yeo said: "Only about 30 per cent to 40 per cent of the dogs that come through us every year get adopted."

As for the Animal Lovers League, co-founder Cathy Strong said only 20 per cent of dogs in their shelter get new homes.

Yet, rehoming is still the top option for many shelters in Singapore. And the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) is in line with that strategy.

The AVA announced on Thursday that it will be rolling out a five-year trap-neuter-release-manage programme next year to manage the stray dog population in Singapore, the first scheme of its sort for stray dogs on a national level.

The programme aims to sterilise 70 per cent of the stray dog population and rehome as many of them as possible.

Yet, rehoming may be a long shot for many of these dogs.

Dogs that are big, older, have some form of disability or illnesses are notoriously difficult to rehome, welfare groups said.

Factors such as appearancematter as well.

Mr Yeo said: "Black dogs tend to be discriminated against... And dogs with one or two white paws are difficult to rehome as well as they remind people of the Chinese funeral custom of wearing white socks."

PROJECT ADORE

Despite an adoption programme called Project Adore that allows those living in HDB flats to adopt strays up to 15kg and 50cm in height, dogs larger than that still cannot be accepted.

Dogs that are not successfully rehomed will be released to suitable locations, said AVA.

AWGs said these dogs will most likely be released back to the areas where they were found.

Co-founder of Causes for Animals Singapore Christine Bernadette said: "Dogs are very territorial animals.

"They might not survive in a new environment where there are already existing packs of dogs or a lack of feeders."

However, alternative arrangements would need to be made for dogs found at areas that are deemed unsafe or slated for redevelopment, welfare groups said. These include retraining, fostering or putting them in shelters.

The temperament of the dogs also matters when it comes to deciding whether to release them back into their old area.

AVA told TNP yesterday: "For aggressive dogs, checks will be done with AWGs to determine if they are prepared to keep the dogs in their shelters or determine if they are suitable for retraining."

As animal shelters in Singapore have been full for years due to space constraints, AWGs still hope that more people will adopt stray dogs.

Mr Yeo explained: "Not everyone will welcome a stray into their homes so that cultural bias is the hardest to combat.

"But we have seen improvements in younger people, those in their 20s or 30s, who are more open to adoptions."

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