Parliament: protecting animals is 'a shared social duty'

Protecting the welfare of animals must involve more than just the Government, Parliament has been told.

The pet industry, pet owners and animal welfare groups will also play a role in safeguarding this, if proposals to reinforce animal welfare are passed in Parliament today.

Opening the debate on the Animals and Birds (Amendment) Bill in Parliament yesterday was Mr Yeo Guat Kwang (Ang Mo Kio GRC), who chaired the Animal Welfare Legislative Review Committee pushing for the changes.

"Much emphasis is placed on the Government to be the sole protector of animal welfare, when it should really be a shared social responsibility," he said.

The proposed amendments to the Act will try to "instil responsible and appropriate behaviour in all stakeholders who play a part in an animal's life cycle", Mr Yeo added.

These stakeholders will include people who work with animals, such as pet groomers and trainers, and individuals who do not own animals but care for them, such as in a shelter or in their homes.

The proposed amendments will also include harsher penalties for animal abuse, especially for repeat offenders and animal-related businesses.

The stiffer penalties for offences committed by animal-related businesses will target the industry's profit motives, Mr Yeo said. The tougher penalties will also highlight these businesses' obligations to care and provide for the welfare of animals, he added.

Under the proposed changes, staff in animal-related businesses are required to be trained in animal care.

For animal welfare groups, Mr Yeo said that they will not be exempt from the committee's original recommendation for harsher penalties that was initially targeted at pet-related businesses.

He explained: "(It is not) our intent to cause animal welfare groups to be over-penalised, but rather to ensure that these groups have the proper processes and systems in place, similar to any other businesses which handle animals."

If the proposed amendments to the Act are passed in Parliament today, pet owners must also provide reasonable care for animals that are under their charge.

Those who neglect to do so will, for the first time, face a fine, a jail term, or both.

If passed, the changes will also let the authorities adopt a code that sets new standards on animal welfare.

The debate continues today.

This article was first published on November 5, 2014.
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