Pet shops, farms 'falling foul of AVA licence rules'

Pet shops, farms 'falling foul of AVA licence rules'
Basic living conditions include housing the animals in large enough spaces. The length of the enclosure must be at least twice the length of the animal, measured from its nose to the base of its tail.

A HUSKY was kept in a cage that was too small and left outdoors in the heat.

Another dog was in a cage so low it could not even stand up while a cat was housed in one made of thin wire with no mat to protect its paws from cuts.

These and other lapses in animal living conditions were found in most pet farms and a third of pet shops checked during an undercover investigation by an animal welfare group.

The Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (Acres) selected at random 41 pet shops and farms which it visited from March to this month.

The majority were found to have flouted the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority's (AVA's) housing and environment licence conditions for displaying and selling cats and dogs.

Of the 29 pet shops visited, 11 breached one or more basic animal welfare conditions - such as providing a large enough cage and clean water. Of these 11, seven had received an "A" grade from AVA's pet shop grading scheme in February.

Acres deputy chief executive Anbarasi Boopal said the breaches were obvious on visual examination, adding that "AVA's guidelines for the grading scheme may need to be reviewed as these basic conditions were not met even by shops with an 'A' grade".

There are more than 150 pet shops in Singapore.

Ten of the 12 pet farms displaying and selling dogs and cats breached more than one of the requirements, said Acres. Unlike pet shops, pet farms are not graded by the AVA, as they are commercial facilities where animals are bred for sale.

AVA confirmed it had received the Acres report, and was investigating.

It said it had dealt with 40 cases over the past three years in which a pet shop or farm had failed to comply with licensing conditions and the owners were handed composition fines.

AVA said if any infringements are found, it would warn the licensee and ensure that the necessary rectifications are made.

But if the infringement has an "immediate and direct impact" on animal welfare, it would issue a composition fine.

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.

Acres' head of campaigns Noelle Seet said it is important to hold pet farms to the same animal welfare standards as pet shops.

Basic living conditions include housing the animals in large enough spaces. The length of the enclosure must be at least twice the length of the animal, measured from its nose to the base of its tail. The width should be at least 1.5 times the length and the height of the animal, and should allow it to stand on its hind legs.

Ms Seet said these criteria can be easily monitored even by members of the public.

"We encourage the public to be the check and balance of the pet industry as consumer demand wields much influence over industry practices," she said.

Another animal welfare group, Causes for Animals Singapore, welcomed Acres' findings while noting that enforcement could be an issue.

The group's fundraising coordinator, Ms Christine Bernadette, said: "Often, when we receive a tip-off and report it to the authorities, the owners would have cleaned up their act by the time officials investigate."

Ms Felicia Toh, 24, who bought her dog from a pet shop, said many prospective pet owners are not informed about guidelines for pet shops and farms, adding that "many pet owners make their decision based on their connection with the pet".

Undergraduate Annemarie Lim, 22, chose to adopt a dog instead of buying one because she saw that pet shops had cramped living conditions.

"Ideally, animal lovers should adopt, and boycott pet shops and farms but some owners prefer specific breeds and want to raise their pet from young," she added.

AVA also urged the public to help pet shops and farms raise their standards by patronising only the responsible ones. People should also contact AVA on 1800-476-1600 if they come across any errant pet shop or farm, it said.


This article was first published on May 21, 2015.
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