Proposed animal welfare Bill strikes balance between diverse views: Yeo Guat Kwang

Vimita Mohandas Channel NewsAsia 5 Nov 14;

SINGAPORE: The Animal and Birds (Amendment) Bill, which aims to strengthen animal welfare legislation in Singapore, was read for the second time in Parliament on Tuesday (Nov 4). Yeo Guat Kwang, who chairs the Animal Welfare Legislation Review Committee, spelt out details of the Private Member's Bill after consultations with various stakeholders.

He said that the recommendations put forth by the committee sought to strike a balance between diverse views on animal welfare, to ensure a harmonious living environment for animals, animal lovers and those who may not be comfortable with animals.

Mr Yeo said there is a need to strengthen the legislation as society becomes increasingly aware and concerned about animal welfare issues. The number of animal welfare cases has been rising, with a total of over 1,000 cases received annually.

The Bill also serves to strengthen existing legislation which makes it difficult to take action without strong evidence of cruelty and witnesses who are willing to come forward to testify in court.

A new Section 41C has also been proposed to place legal responsibility on owners and persons in charge of animals to provide proper care for them. The proposed definition of a person in charge will include a person who has the animal in that person's possession, custody or control, or under that person's care or supervision, whether permanently or on a temporary basis.

The definition of owners would include persons in charge. These include pet owners, as well as those working with animals and handling animals in the course of their work - for instance, pet industry workers.

The duty of care would also extend to include those who do not own the animals but care for them in a shelter or in their homes, such as those looking after the pets of family members or friends. The Bill also requires employees of animal-related businesses to be properly trained and not just staff in pet shops.

An increase in penalties was also proposed - with the maximum penalties of S$20,000 for non-cruelty offences and S$30,000 for cruelty offences and a possible jail term of up to two or three years. Another recommendation is giving enhanced powers to enforcement officers to conduct investigations and gather evidence.

Members of the House will debate the Bill on Wednesday.

- CNA/xy

More teeth for law to protect animals
Audrey Tan The Straits Times AsiaOne 6 Nov 14;

PET-RELATED businesses must ensure their staff are trained to handle animals, while pet owners have been put on notice that they cannot neglect their animals. Owners must ensure their pets are provided with enough suitable food and water, and are not treated or confined in a way that would cause them pain.

These are among the requirements spelt out in changes to the existing animal welfare law that Parliament approved yesterday.

The changes to the Animals and Birds Act, which won support from all six MPs who spoke on it, include enhanced penalties.

For instance, business owners who do not provide training for staff who handle animals can be fined up to $5,000, face a maximum jail term of six months, or both. They can also be banned from doing business for up to a year.

Mr Baey Yam Keng (Tampines GRC), who lent his support to the changes, said: "The amendments are timely and I am sure the updated legislation, backed by rigorous enforcement, will enable us to be better stewards and custodians of our fellow creatures."

Overall, the amendments make those in charge of animals - such as pet owners, shelters, fosterers and stores - more accountable for the welfare of animals.

As Mr Yeo Guat Kwang (Ang Mo Kio GRC) put it, a key idea has been to eventually move from a reactive regime reliant on penalties and punishment to a proactive system which focuses on getting people to do the right thing.
Mr Yeo, who chaired the Animal Welfare Legislative Review Committee that pushed for changes to the law, pointed to elements that have now been put in place: LThe National Development Minister will be empowered to make training mandatory for anyone in a business who handles animals for a living;

=The authorities can issue codes and set standards for the proper care of animals;

=The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) can direct a person to take corrective action if he is found to have taken inadequate care of animals under his charge;

=Courts can disqualify a person from owning an animal or from working with animals.

Just as Mr Yeo acknowledged that the law was not a "magic bullet", MPs who lauded the changes also suggested ways that it can continue to be strengthened.

Ms Lee Bee Wah (Nee Soon GRC) said animal abusers should be given counselling and education to reduce the likelihood of their being repeat offenders. Ms Tin Pei Ling (Marine Parade GRC) had recommendations for improving the pet licensing process, to reduce cases of abandonment.

Speaking during the debate, Minister of State (National Development) Desmond Lee said the AVA will review rules on dog licensing to see if owners should inform the AVA when there is a change of ownership and provide details of the new owners.

He said a society's standards of animal welfare reflected its maturity and compassion, and also made the point that there were emotive and varied views on animal welfare which the Government has to balance in its management of animals, as well as when safeguarding public safety and health.

Mr Yeo indicated as much, saying when wrapping up the debate that animal welfare was a shared and collective responsibility among all parties.

Key changes

ANIMAL handlers, those who foster and care for pets temporarily, as well as owners are legally responsible for providing proper care for animals.

- New codes of animal welfare spell out what constitutes proper care. Failure to abide by them can be used as evidence to prosecute offenders.

- Both individuals and businesses that commit acts of cruelty or fail to provide duty of care will face tiered and higher penalties. Repeat offenders will face harsher punishments.

- Staff working with animals in relevant businesses must be trained in animal care and handling. A fine, jail term, or both will be meted out if this is not complied with. There will also be a temporary ban on the business.

- The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority will have more enforcement powers like issuing written directives to owners. Its officers can take pictures, audio and video recordings for evidence.

Pre-sale screenings for pet owners should not be conducted by pet sellers: Baey
Channel NewsAsia 5 Nov 14;

SINGAPORE: The Animals and Birds (Amendment) Bill was passed in Parliament on Wednesday (Nov 5), more than two years after a committee was set up to look into strengthening legislation on animal welfare.

The National Development Ministry said the recommendations aim to strike a balance between enhancing animal welfare and addressing the community's concerns.

Said Minister of State for National Development Desmond Lee: "The law is just an enabler to set boundaries and strengthen powers. What is more important is for everyone to play his or her role. What we need is to cultivate a shared ethos of animal welfare, a sense of realism on the trade-offs involved, and a willingness to compromise and collaborate with one another despite our diverse perspectives."

While speaking in support of the Bill, several Members of Parliament (MPs) also raised various concerns ranging from pre-screenings of pet owners to granting dog licences.

Pre-sale screenings for pet owners should be conducted by a neutral party such the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) or an animal welfare group - rather than pet sellers who have vested interests in ensuring successful transactions, said MP for Tampines GRC Baey Yam Keng.

Pre-sale screenings began in January this year, and the process includes questions about the potential buyers’ pet ownership history and whether he or she has the time and resources to care for the new pet.

“This pre-sale screening is certainly a step in the right direction," said Mr Baey. "Potential owners are prompted to think more deeply and carefully before buying and this would help to reduce impulse buying or adoption.”

But the screenings could be made more stringent, he said. “Getting pet owner certifications from independent third parties sounds inconvenient. However, compared to putting down thousands of animals every year, especially highly-cognisant ones such as dogs and cats, additional red tape is definitely the lesser evil."

He also argued for stricter limits on the number of pets sold and the number of places that sell pets, as well more stringent requirements to ensure the health of animals being bred or imported for sale.

“Sellers should be required to be more transparent about the lineage of their animals and be required to offer animals suited to our warm and humid tropical climate and dense, built-up environment," he said. "In recent years, there have been a number of mass adoption exercises due to pet farms closing down or not being able to sell their ‘excess stock’. There have also been cases of poor breeding practices leading to genetic health problems."

He noted: "Many animals which cannot find homes or which suffer from health problems have to be put down. Such tragic outcomes could have been prevented if we have more stringent measures in place upstream.”


Also speaking on the Bill was MP for Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC Gan Thiam Poh, who suggested that the size of a pet-owner’s house and the number of people living there are factors that should be taken into consideration by authorities when granting dog licences. Current regulations are based on whether the pet-owner lives in an HDB flat or on private property.

Mr Gan, who is also a member of the Animal Welfare Legislation Review Committee, pointed out that regulations now stipulate that those living in an HDB flat can only have one dog of an approved breed, while those who live in a private property can have three dogs.

However, he said that a couple “can live quite comfortably with a chihuahua and a toy poodle in a four-room flat”, while some private property units allowed to house three dogs can be smaller than certain HDB flats.

Mr Gan also asked for updates on a pilot project to assess the feasibility of keeping cats in HDB flats and more stringent measures to compel owners of noisy dogs to get their pets trained.

He also said those interested in keeping cats feel that the animals "can be confined without problems by fencing their windows and doors with netting", and "can also be toilet-trained and their caterwauling can be prevented by sterilisation".


MP for Marine Parade GRC Tin Pei Ling spoke about the issue of pet abandonment and how current practices make it difficult to apprehend the culprit.

"Abandonment is currently recognised as an offence only if the owner confesses - which I am highly doubtful of because whoever is guilty, I do not think the person will confess," she said. "Or if the act of abandoning the pet was caught on camera - which is challenging as well - because the guilty owner will usually do so very discreetly. And even if not so discreetly, who among the unsuspecting passers-by will stand by with a camera and is prescient enough to have a camera ready and film the act of abandonment?"

Ms Tin also said that currently, there is no obligation for the owner who wishes to give his pet away to ensure that the next owner registers himself with the AVA. She suggested that pet owners must ensure that the next owner is registered within a stipulated time-frame.

- CNA/xy

MPs want stricter rules for sale of animals
SIAU MING EN Today Online 6 nov 14;

SINGAPORE — While the proposed amendments to the laws governing animal welfare were passed in Parliament yesterday, lawmakers also raised issues that were not covered by the legislation, such as the sale of animals.

During the debate on the Animals and Birds (Amendment) Bill, Member of Parliament Baey Yam Keng (Tampines GRC) urged the Ministry of National Development to limit the number of pet farms and stores as well as the number of animals being sold, given the “mass adoption exercises” that have emerged in recent years when pet farms closed down or were unable to sell their “excess stock”.

Ms Tin Pei Ling (Marine Parade GRC) suggested improving the traceability of pets, such as requiring subsequent pet owners to register themselves with the authorities, while Dr Lee Bee Wah (Nee Soon GRC) raised concerns about additional costs for smaller pet-related businesses under the new laws.

Responding to the issues raised, Minister of State (National Development) Desmond Lee noted the need to strike a balance amid the varied views on animal issues, with some advocating stricter laws to raise animal welfare standards, while others are concerned animals could be a public nuisance.

Echoing the views of Mr Yeo Guat Kwang (Ang Mo Kio GRC), who is also chairman of the Animal Welfare Legislation Review Committee, Mr Lee said the aim of the amended laws was to take a responsive and preventive approach to animal welfare and to nip problems in the bud.

First tabled as a Private Member’s Bill in Parliament last month, the amended laws will include tiered penalties for acts of cruelty and neglect to animals.

Repeat offenders of animal cruelty can be fined up to S$30,000 and/or sentenced to a three-year jail term, while animal-related businesses can be fined up to S$100,000 and/or sentenced to a three-year jail term.

Repeat offenders who fail to provide reasonable care can be fined up to S$20,000 and/or sentenced to a two-year jail term.

Animal-related businesses can be fined up to S$100,000 and/or sentenced to a three-year jail term.

Also, staff working with animals in animal-related businesses will now have to be trained and certified in animal care and handling.

The amended Act will also adopt a code to set the standards for animal welfare, while enforcement powers will be enhanced, where the authorities can issue directives to require an individual to improve the care of an animal.

Acknowledging Ms Tin’s concerns, Mr Lee said the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority will be reviewing its rules on dog licensing to explore whether owners must inform it of changes in ownership.

Responding to Mr Baey’s calls to limit the sale of animals, Mr Yeo said while many suggestions have been considered — such as introducing the concept of a Certificate of Entitlement for pet ownership — the setting of a threshold for the supply of pets is “not the right approach” and runs the risk of driving underground pet sales and breeding.

“The way to go is to increase public and pet ownership education, raise the standards in the industry and allow the market to sort it out by itself,” he added.

Parliament: protecting animals is 'a shared social duty'
Audrey Tan and Rachel Au-yong The Straits Times AsiaOne 7 Nov 14;

Protecting the welfare of animals must involve more than just the Government, Parliament has been told.

The pet industry, pet owners and animal welfare groups will also play a role in safeguarding this, if proposals to reinforce animal welfare are passed in Parliament today.

Opening the debate on the Animals and Birds (Amendment) Bill in Parliament yesterday was Mr Yeo Guat Kwang (Ang Mo Kio GRC), who chaired the Animal Welfare Legislative Review Committee pushing for the changes.

"Much emphasis is placed on the Government to be the sole protector of animal welfare, when it should really be a shared social responsibility," he said.

The proposed amendments to the Act will try to "instil responsible and appropriate behaviour in all stakeholders who play a part in an animal's life cycle", Mr Yeo added.

These stakeholders will include people who work with animals, such as pet groomers and trainers, and individuals who do not own animals but care for them, such as in a shelter or in their homes.

The proposed amendments will also include harsher penalties for animal abuse, especially for repeat offenders and animal-related businesses.

The stiffer penalties for offences committed by animal-related businesses will target the industry's profit motives, Mr Yeo said. The tougher penalties will also highlight these businesses' obligations to care and provide for the welfare of animals, he added.

Under the proposed changes, staff in animal-related businesses are required to be trained in animal care.

For animal welfare groups, Mr Yeo said that they will not be exempt from the committee's original recommendation for harsher penalties that was initially targeted at pet-related businesses.

He explained: "(It is not) our intent to cause animal welfare groups to be over-penalised, but rather to ensure that these groups have the proper processes and systems in place, similar to any other businesses which handle animals."

If the proposed amendments to the Act are passed in Parliament today, pet owners must also provide reasonable care for animals that are under their charge.

Those who neglect to do so will, for the first time, face a fine, a jail term, or both.

If passed, the changes will also let the authorities adopt a code that sets new standards on animal welfare.

The debate continues today.

New bill against animal cruelty: Got teeth or not? activists ask
Zul Othman The New Paper AsiaOne 8 Nov 14;
The Animals and Birds (Amendment) Bill is a "huge leap forward" and shows a commitment from the Government to protect animal welfare here, activists told The New Paper yesterday.

The Bill, which was passed in Parliament yesterday, will mean stiffer fines and longer jail terms for animal abusers.

Those who commit acts of animal cruelty face a maximum fine of $30,000 or three years' jail, or both.

Animal-related businesses face a maximum fine of $100,000 or three years' jail, or both.

Currently, those convicted of animal cruelty under the Animals and Birds Act can be fined up to $10,000, jailed for up to a year, or both.

Under the Bill, pet owners who neglect their pets will also, for the first time, face a fine and/or a jail term.

Individuals who fail to provide care for their animals face a maximum penalty of $20,000 or two years' jail, or both, while animal- related businesses face a fine of up to $100,000 or three years' jail, or both.

The changes will also require staff in animal-related businesses to be trained in animal care.

The enhanced penalties will send a strong message against animal cruelty, said Mr Louis Ng, chief executive of animal welfare group Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (Acres).

"The Bill defines cruelty (against animals), which I think is good. I hope this Bill will be a deterrent, as it will send a message that cruelty to animals is morally wrong," he added.


Ms Eunice Nah, volunteer chief advocate at the Agency for Animal Welfare, also said the Bill is "a good first step".

"It remains to be seen how effective the Bill will be," she remarked. "But I will choose to remain hopeful that more can done in the future."

Ms Joanne Ng, chief executive of the Cat Welfare Society, said the Bill has been "long awaited" and is a sign of a changing climate.

"More people now have an interest in the welfare of animals.

"But what we would like to know is how the authorities are going to enforce these rules, because enforcement is a key issue," she added.

In Parliament, Minister of State for National Development Desmond Lee said the aim of the Bill "is to take a responsive and preventative approach to animal welfare and nip problems in the bud".

He pointed out that this is a better approach as compared to reacting only when it is too late, and pet owners have to be hauled up for animal cruelty amidst public outcry.

The amendments will also "instil responsible and appropriate behaviour in all stakeholders who play a part in an animal's life cycle".

The Bill was lauded as timely by all six backbenchers who spoke on it in an hour-long debate.

The Members of Parliament (MPs) also praised Mr Yeo Guat Kwang (Ang Mo Kio GRC) - who chaired the Animal Welfare Legislative Review Committee (AWLRC), which was set up in April 2012 to review the issue.

He also initiated the Private Member's Bill with fellow backbenchers Alex Yam, Gan Thiam Poh, Edwin Tong and Vikram Nair.

Private Member's Bills are introduced by MPs who are not Cabinet ministers.

However, Ms Tin Pei Ling (Marine Parade GRC) was concerned that if applied rigidly, the duty of care imposed on animal owners in the amendment may drive up pet abandonment.

In reply, Mr Lee said owners who take proper care of their pets need not fear running afoul of the law as the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) will enforce the law "sensibly, fairly and even-handedly".

In his closing speech, Mr Yeo acknowledged that there will be challenges ahead. Successful prosecution requires credible evidence, he said.

"In this regard, I urge members of the public to step forward and render assistance to the authorities," he said.

The last major review of animal welfare legislation was in 2002.

According to AWLRC's report last year, cases of animal abuse handled by AVA grew from 377 in 2008 to 484 in 2012.