MHA to review definition of ‘animals’ in traffic law

ASYRAF KAMIL Today Online 10 May 16;

SINGAPORE — After previously rejecting calls to widen the definition of “animals” under the Road Traffic Act — to make it a crime for motorists who do not stop and help animals such as cats and monkeys after hitting them — Senior Minister of State for Home Affairs Desmond Lee said yesterday that the authorities would be reviewing the law.

He revealed this in response to a parliamentary question from Member of Parliament Louis Ng (Nee Soon GRC), who had asked whether the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) would consider bringing the definition of animals under the Road Traffic Act in line with that of the Animals and Birds Act, to ensure the alignment of legislation.

In response, Mr Lee said the definitions are scoped differently, and the primary intent of the Road Traffic Act is to “ensure the safety of road users, including motorists, cyclists and pedestrians”.

He added: “The specific provision in the Road Traffic Act relating to animals has been confined to farm animals of commercial value. The original intent of the legislation was to ensure restitution to their owners should an accident occur.”

Nonetheless, Mr Lee said the MHA “intends to review the definition of “animals” in the Road Traffic Act, and also consider any amendment in the context of road safety, especially the safety of the motorist and other road users.

Right now, it is an offence if a motorist knocks down a dog, horse, ass, mule, sheep, pig, goat or cattle, and he or she does not stop to help.

This is punishable with a S$3,000 fine or a jail term of up to a year. But the Road Traffic Act does not spell out what happens in cases involving other animals such as cats, monkeys, birds and rabbits.

Two years ago, the police rejected calls to penalise motorists who negligently run over any kind of animals, citing the concern that it was not always safe for a motorist to stop his or her vehicle after hitting an animal, such as on expressways.

In response to queries yesterday, the MHA said details would be announced when the review was complete. “It is premature at this juncture to comment on the animals that may be included,” a spokesperson said.

Animal welfare groups welcomed news of the review.

Action for Singapore Dogs president Ricky Yeo said it was time for such grey areas in statutes to be cleared up, and “finally have inroads into getting more defined boundaries for animal welfare”.

The group regularly receives calls about such cases, and “people get away scot-free”.

“People will be more aware and conscious of their actions and their liabilities and responsibility (if changes are implemented). It’s a good step moving forward,” he said.

Noting that safety remains a top priority, Mr Tan En, director of advocacy at Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (Acres), said that “motorists should render assistance … when it is reasonable and safe”.

“Acres has never been an organisation that puts animals first before human (safety),” he said.

“What the Government is going to include in this particular legislation is something we will work (on) closely with Louis (founder of Acres), who will work closely with MHA to see what we can do to increase the welfare of animals in Singapore.”

Dr Jaipal Singh Gill, acting executive director at the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA), acknowledged that there would be challenges in enforcement even if the definition of animals was expanded, but it was “doable”.

“There are a lot of organisations like the SPCA that provide a lot of assistance to the authorities in cases like these ... by helping to gather evidence, speaking to witnesses and putting forward a case to the authorities.

“If we work together on cases like these, we will reduce the demand on the services of the (authorities),” he said.

What's an animal? Road Traffic Act to be reviewed to dispel doubts
Under current rules, motorists are only required to stop and help when they hit animals listed in the Act — such as a dog, horse, ass, mule, sheep, pig, goat or cattle - but not others, including cats and wild boars.
Linette Lim Channel NewsAsia 9 May 16;

SINGAPORE: The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) intends to review the definition of animals in the Road Traffic Act, said Senior Minister of State for Home Affairs Desmond Lee in Parliament on Monday (May 9).

This means that it may be mandatory for motorists to stop should they hit any animal. Under current rules, motorists are only required to stop and help when they hit animals listed in the Act — such as a dog, horse, ass, mule, sheep, pig, goat or cattle. Failure to do so may result in a fine of up to S$3,000 or a jail term of up to a year.

The Act is silent on other animals, including cats, monkeys, birds, rabbits, and wild boars.

An accident involving this wild boar caused a massive traffic jam on the Seletar Expressway on Apr 21.

Mr Lee was responding to a question by MP Louis Ng, who had asked if MHA will consider updating and aligning the definition of "animals" in the Road Traffic Act with the definition in the Animals and Birds Act.

The original intent of the provision in the Road Traffic Act was targeted at farm animals of commercial value, to ensure restitution to their owners should an accident occur, Mr Lee explained.

On the other hand, the definition of animals laid out under the Animals and Birds Act was intended to prevent the introduction and spread of diseases through animals; control the movement of animals; prevent cruelty to animals; and safeguard the general welfare of animals in Singapore, he said.

Mr Lee also told Parliament that the review will also “consider any amendment in the context of road safety, especially the safety of the motorists and other road users”.

“The question is whether we should now make it mandatory all motorists to stop should they hit an animal. The primary requirement must be safety,” said Mr Lee.

“They should stop if it is safe to do so. If the motorist requires assistance in relation to attending to the animal, he can contact the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore, or AVA, or the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, or SPCA.”

- CNA/ll

Cheers for move to keep wildlife from becoming roadkill
Jessie Lim, The Straits Times AsiaOne 14 May 16;

Wildlife experts and animal welfare groups have applauded proposed changes that will give more creatures in the animal kingdom protection on Singapore's roads.

The proposed changes to the Road Traffic Act, made in Parliament on Monday, will widen a 53-year-old definition of "animals" - from mainly farm creatures to include cats and wildlife.

Currently, the Act requires only motorists who run over "horses, cattle, a**, mule, sheep, pig, goat or dogs" to stop to help them, or risk being jailed for up to a year or fined up to $3,000. With hundreds of animals, including rare species, ending up as roadkill here each year, animal welfare groups have lobbied for the law to be changed.

"Wild animals in Singapore will continue to explore new habitats," said Ms Anbarasi Boopal, deputy chief executive of the Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (Acres). "We should take this into consideration as we embark on new developments and make necessary policy amendments."

She added: "While the habitats of critically endangered species like the Sunda pangolin are protected here, their major threat is becoming roadkill."

The National Environment Agency had 2,258 pieces of feedback last year on dead animals sighted, whether killed on the roads or otherwise. This is up from 2,198 in 2014.

Animals run over by drivers in recent times include the plantain squirrel, long-tailed macaque, wild pig and deer. On May 8, an otter was almost knocked down in East Coast Park Service Road.

"If you hit an animal, it should be common sense to stop and see if it is alive," said Nee Soon GRC MP Louis Ng, who is also Acres' chief executive. He said animals left to die often face a slow and painful death, while those that are rescued have the potential to recover.

Mr Bernard Tay, chairman of the Singapore Road Safety Council, said the amended law can encourage drivers to be more alert, but added: "It is inevitable that some drivers will find it inconvenient to stop."

Motorists interviewed admitted that they were previously unaware of the Road Traffic Act's section on animals, or the proposed changes.

Housewife Alice Loo Lay See, 54, said: "The proposed modifications are good, but I think it should be applied to only some animals. I would probably not stop for a rat."

Engineer Ho Pwee Kim, 59, added: "On the highway it may be dangerous to stop."

Dr Shawn Lum, president of Nature Society (Singapore), said that while it was "a good idea to review aspects of the law", the changes should be practical.

Dr Lum suggested potential measures to complement the Road Traffic Act, including reducing speed limits for vehicles near nature reserves and identifying potential hot spots for collisions with wildlife.

Ms Mary-Ruth Low, a research assistant studying the spatial ecology of reptiles at the National University of Singapore, believes an amended definition of "animal" will have a significant impact on mindsets.

"Some people think of snakes as pests, not wildlife. They forget that these animals are part of the nature reserve."

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Malaysia: Second dugong found dead in Johor

The Star 9 May 16;

GELANG PATAH: The carcass of a young dugong was found floating in the sea near Kampung Pendas Laut here after getting caught in a fishing net.

Fishermen spotted two dugong, believed to be a mother and its kid, on Thursday.

A few hours later, the carcass of a young dugong emerged and was spotted floating in the sea.

A fisherman from the village, Azman Adan, said the dugong was found floating near a mega development project.

“The dugong, weighing about 60kg, was already dead, so the fishermen brought the carcass back to shore.

“We immediately alerted the Fisheries Department and handed the carcass to them,” he said.

State Fisheries Department director Zamani Omar said that a team of officers went to the location after being informed of the sighting.

“The dugong suffered injuries after it got caught between some fishing nets.

“We will conduct a post-mortem first,” he added.

This is the second dead dugong sighting this year after the first carcass was found washed ashore at Pantai Tanjung Logok, near Kota Tinggi in February.

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Indonesia, Lake Toba: Fish cages blamed for dead fish, environmental damage

Apriadi Gunawan and Syofiardi Bachyul The Jakarta Post 7 May 16;

Tourists expecting to enjoy the beauty of Lake Toba over the long weekend may be disappointed as the lake has been contaminated by thousands tons of dead fish in the Haranggaol waters, Simalungun, North Sumatra.

In response, 1,000 people of Haranggaol sub-district joined together to remove the carcasses of goldfish and tilapia ( ikan nila ) from the lake on Friday.

Hasudungan Siallagan, a cage-culture fish farmer, said the locals were willing to clean Lake Toba because they wanted to prevent the dead animals from polluting the water, which could affect tourism and make the water unsafe for use by residents.

“Up to 820 tons of dead fish have been lifted from the fish cages in Lake Toba in the past two days. And today, 1,000 tons of dead fish will be lifted out,” Hasudungan told The Jakarta Post in Haranggaol on Friday, adding that 1000 tons of dead fish had been found as of Wednesday.

He added that about 116 cage-culture farmers in Haranggaol had reported that their fish were dead.

“We have been managing fish cages in Lake Toba for decades and this is for the first time we have seen the mass death of fish,” he said.

“All of the fish from two zones are reportedly dead, from a total of six zones of fish cages in Haranggaol. So, there are only four zones left and I haven’t got any news about that,” he said.

Hasudungan said the farmers had suffered billions of rupiah in losses because of the mass death of fish. He also said local government research into the incident had concluded that the cause of the mass death was lack of oxygen.

Head of the Simalungun district Agriculture and Fisheries Agency, Jarinsen Saragih, confirmed that the cause of the mass death of fish in Lake Toba was an oxygen shortage triggered by the postponed fish harvest.

“Lack of solar radiation since April 28 has also aggravated the oxygen shortage,” he told the Post on Friday.

Jarinsen dismissed speculations that the mass death of the fish was because of water pollution in Lake Toba, adding that “the dead fish were only found in the fish cages, not in the lake”.

Meanwhile, the local government of Agam district in West Sumatra plans to decrease half of floating net cages in Maninjau Lake in order to improve the ecosystem.

Head of Agam Maritime and Fisheries Affairs Agency, Ermanto, said that his team had recorded the number of floating net cages and instructed their owners to gradually reduce the amount in the lake.

“The lake water is heavily polluted. There is a lot of sediment from residual feed and tons of dead fish found every year. If left unchecked, fish will not be able to live inside the cages,” Ermanto told the Post recently.

According to the fisheries agency’s records, there are 16,964 fish cage swaths containing 4,000 minnows in the lake area of 99.5 kilometers. A total of 10,765 swaths are made of iron and 6,199 are made of bamboo.

Ermanto said he would regulate that all fish cages must be made of fiber and not iron, which can rust, or bamboo, which can decay.

Currently, there are 5,520 fish cages owned by 146 locals. Each of them own up to 250 cages. The local government plans to limit cage ownership to a maximum 20 fish cages per owner.

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