Ensuring Tammy did not die in vain

Ensuring Tammy did not die in vain
The AVA relies on culling and other measures to deal with the 8,000-strong stray dog population because animal shelters have been full for years. The AVA had 2,400 stray dogs euthanised in 2011 and 2012.

THERE is a furore over a woman who had a veterinarian put down her healthy, seven-month-old puppy called Tammy.

Tammy was a stray taken in from an animal welfare group by Ms Ada Ong. Ms Alison McElwee later adopted the mongrel from Ms Ong and contracted with Ms Ong to return Tammy if she were to decide she no longer wanted it.

Ms McElwee said she had Tammy euthanised because it was aggressive and had bitten her family members. She did not inform Ms Ong beforehand of her intention to have it put down. The dog's death upset Ms Ong and many animal lovers.

Law Minister K. Shanmugam weighed in on the issue, writing on Facebook that he had looked at the contract and the text messages between the two women. He thought Ms Ong could sue Ms McElwee for breach of contract and "suggested a lawyer to her who will help her pro bono".

One issue that arises is whether the vet concerned did the right thing to put down Tammy. On this, the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA), which regulates vets, said in a statement that a vet consulted about euthanising an animal must confirm ownership of the pet, examine it to assess if euthanasia is necessary and then advise the owner accordingly. So it would appear that a vet would not err if he complied with these rules.

There is another issue at the heart of the case, which was shocking to many: that vets can and do carry out "convenience euthanasia", even when the pet is healthy and adoptable or could be adoptable with reasonable vet care.

This is in fact the harsh reality in Singapore. Pet owners can pay vets to kill their companion animals whenever it is convenient for them, without having to show that the pet has an incurable health condition, or is suffering unbearably in a way that can't be alleviated with good vet care.

Current law and regulation permit owners to put down pets for convenience.

Should this be allowed to continue?

No, because companion animals should have the right to life. After all, they already have some rights, including legal protection from cruel, abusive or exploitative humans.

Under the Animals and Birds Act, any act of cruelty to an animal attracts a fine of up to $10,000, a jail term of up to 12 months, or both. These acts range from "the more commonplace acts of cruelty (inflicted upon animals)" in Public Prosecutor v Seah Kian Hock (1997) to "unnecessary suffering" by confining one's pet in a small place, as ruled in a recent case.

Singapore thus has anti-cruelty statute that protects animals from "unnecessary suffering" inflicted by humans. It thus seems strange that pets do not have protection from owners' callous decisions to have them killed for no good reason other than convenience. Surely being killed for no good reason constitutes "unnecessary suffering" or worse.

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