SINGAPORE - Reports of alleged animal abuse here are on the rise but only a fraction of them lead to the alleged abusers being taken to task by the authorities.
Animal-welfare groups told My Paper that the lack of incriminating evidence is a stumbling block in the prosecution of alleged animal abusers.
Complainants may also eventually refuse to testify in court, My Paper understands.
"A dedicated animal police like in other countries is definitely needed here as there is simply not enough manpower to do investigative work," said Ms Veron Lau, president of the Cat Welfare Society.
"When there is no witness, cases will be dropped almost immediately," she added.
Ms Corinne Fong, executive director of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA), observed increases in complaints of alleged animal abuse, but "cases fall apart when complainants do not provide credible evidence (such as) visual or audio evidence".
Reports of animal abuse made to the Agency for Animal Welfare (AAW) have also gone up, from about two a month last year to about seven a month now. Hope Dog Rescue said it receives about three calls a month.
According to Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) figures, reports of animal abuse have risen over the last five years, from 377 in 2008 to 484 last year. But the percentage of cases which lead to prosecution remains low, with just 20 per cent in 2008 and 7 per cent last year.
The AVA said that its investigations found that the majority of such reports were not animal-abuse cases. Instead, they were a result of other issues, such as disputes between neighbours.
It said: "No further action will be taken in such cases."
My Paper understands that for abuse cases, the offender can be brought to court, with penalties ranging from a warning to compensation and a fine.
Ms Fong said the most prevalent abuse reported to the SPCA involved cases where animals, such as rabbits, hamsters, cats and dogs, are forced to live in squalid conditions.
The AAW said that, traditionally, abuse was thought of in terms of beatings, killings and causing pain but it now also includes neglect.
Neglect includes not providing enough food, water, grooming, shelter, exercise and medical care to pets.
Animal-welfare groups say the onus is on members of the public to provide enough evidence to the authorities in abuse cases.
Hope Dog Rescue founder Fiona Foo said: "Be alert, be conscientious and be responsible. Don't turn a blind eye. An animal can't ask for help."
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