Packed in small cages, the puppies displayed for sale at the pet shop looked ill, with dry scaly skin.
It was heartrending for Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (Acres) undercover investigator John (not his real name) to witness.
The puppies also panted heavily, an indication that they were not given enough clean drinking water by the pet shop owners, John added.
While this scene from last month remains deeply etched in John's mind, they were only some of the practices that breached animal welfare conditions at local pet shops and farms.
Acres uncovered these poor practices during its undercover investigations between March and May, the animal activist group revealed at a press conference yesterday at its headquarters in Jalan Lekar in Choa Chu Kang.
The two-month investigation involved the inspection of 29 local pet shops and 12 farms displaying cats and/or dogs for sale.
The pet shops and farms were assessed based on 10 criteria extracted from the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority's (AVA) pet shop licensing regime. This includes dimensions of cages, comfortable flooring and provision of clean water.
Twenty-one of the 29 pet shops and 10 of 12 farms were found to have breached one or more of the 10 criteria.
Ms Noelle Seet, Acres head of campaigns, told The New Paper yesterday that the group hopes to educate and raise public awareness through this undercover investigation.
"What our investigators did are solely visual examinations of the pets in the shop and this is something anyone can do.
"We hope potential pet owners will look out for such poor practices when they go into pet shops and choose against buying pets from shops that breached animal welfare conditions," Ms Seet said.
Acres' findings also revealed that 11 out of 29 pet shops failed to meet the conditions for most basic animal welfare.
This means the length of the cage must be at least two times the length of the animal, the width be at least one-and-a-half times the length of the animal, and the height must allow the animal to comfortably stand upright on its hind legs.
Seven of the 11 pet shops that failed had even received an A grade under AVA's Pet Shop Grading Scheme, in February. (See report above.) The scheme was introduced by AVA in 2007 to raise standards in the pet retail industry.
Under the scheme, pet shops are graded from A to D based on their compliance with licence conditions and their adoption of best animal welfare practices.
Investigator John hopes more people will help expose shops with poor conditions.
He added that his motivation for being an Acres undercover investigator is his belief for the need to stand up for animal rights.
"They are living things, too, and they should not be subject to needless suffering," said John.
He added that he felt a sense of accomplishment knowing that he is doing something meaningful and worthwhile.
"I am doing this to build a more compassionate society," he said.
If you witness poor animal housing conditions, you can report them to AVA (Animal Response Centre: 1800 476 1600) or request for help from Acres (+65 6892 9821, firstname.lastname@example.org).
AVA investigating pet shops and farms
The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) said it has received Acres' report and investigations are ongoing.
The agency also thanked Acres for its efforts, in reply to queries from The New Paper.
In the past three years, the AVA handled 40 cases of non-compliance of licensing conditions and the affected pet shops/farms were issued composition fines.
Pet shops and farms are inspected regularly, as well as in response to public feedback, said the AVA.
"During inspection, our officers check for compliance with licensing conditions and assess the general condition of the animals and the premises in which they are kept.
"If any infringements are found, AVA will warn the licensee and ensure that the necessary rectifications are made."
However if the infringements result in an immediate and direct impact on animal welfare, AVA will issue a composition fine, it said.
Repeat offenders may be charged in court.
If convicted, they can be fined up to $5,000 and AVA may suspend or revoke their licence.
This article was first published on May 21, 2015.
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