I WELCOME the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority's tighter regulations to ensure more responsible pet ownership ("Stiffer AVA rules on pet purchases"; Tuesday).
But more can be done to meet the intended objectives.
The pre-sale screening checklist for both buyer and pet shop is to help reduce pet abandonment.
But the jury is still out on the extent of its effectiveness.
Such checklists risk becoming mere formalities that are not taken seriously after a while.
One way to further curb impulse buying is to incorporate a cooling-off period of between three and seven days.
This could come with a partial refund if, for any reason, the buyer finds that owning a pet is not what he thought it to be.
Where relevant, the pet's history and the temperament of its parents should be made known to the buyer for him to make an informed decision.
Under current regulations, all pets need to be vaccinated and micro-chipped before any buyer can take his pet home.
One more useful step is to have the pet sterilised.
For kittens or puppies less than six months old, sterilisation should be included in the purchase price.
Besides controlling the animal population, sterilising a pet offers lifelong health benefits.
It can also vastly improve the behaviour of the pet and keep it close to home.
A common misconception among first-time pet owners is that the space where the pets are enclosed in the pet shop is acceptable.
There should be a prominent notice in the shop to inform potential buyers that the enclosure is temporary housing in a retail environment, and not the proper way to shelter a pet.
As for the age limit of the buyer where parental consent is required for pet purchase, it should be 18 instead of 16 years old.
Besides emotional maturity, an 18-year-old is more likely to have some financial means to give reasonable care to the animal, such as providing food and medical attention.
Pet owners who abandon their pets should also be fined.
Still, public education on responsible pet ownership is the most effective, especially when such education starts at a young age.
Edmund Lam (Dr) (Reader)
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