Speech by Minister of State Tan Kiat How at the Opening of the Animal Quarantine Centre
Nov 26, 2021
Good afternoon. I am very happy to be here to officially open the Animal Quarantine Centre at Jalan Lekar.
Importance of Biosecurity and Biosurveillance Measures in Singapore
Animal diseases pose a serious threat to public health. As we are witnessing with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, disease outbreaks can severely impact our lives and livelihood, and Singapore takes this risk seriously. We have put in place robust biosecurity and biosurveillance measures to detect infectious diseases carried by animals, so as to prevent them from being introduced into Singapore.
The Animal Quarantine Centre which serves as a key facility for the quarantine of cats and dogs arriving into Singapore plays an important role in this effort. For instance, our animal import regulations and quarantine operations have helped Singapore maintain our rabies-free status for nearly 70 years. Through these efforts, we have also remained free from other major animal diseases such as the African Swine Fever, Foot-and-Mouth Disease and African Horse Sickness.
Improved Facilities and Quarantine Processes
Besides enhancing its biosecurity operations, I’m happy to share that the new purpose-built Centre has been designed to make the quarantine process easier on both pets and their owners.
Having two dogs at home, I can appreciate that separation between owners and their pets during the quarantine process can be quite difficult for both parties.
With this in mind, we have designed the Centre to improve the comfort and welfare of quarantined animals. We have also implemented new measures and technology to enhance our animal quarantine processes. Pet owners will be able to walk and exercise their dogs around the compound or on the dog fields. We have deployed technologies to remind visitors to ensure safe distancing between animals while they are walking and exercising. There will also be CCTVs installed in the kennels and catteries to monitor the health of animals so that immediate attention can be given, when required.
In addition, the Centre is looking to conduct regular environmental air sampling to identify the presence of microorganisms causing respiratory diseases, which can spread quickly through the air. This will allow Centre staff to disinfect the environment more effectively. To detect potential diseases, the Centre will also employ rapid, point-of-care tests to detect exotic and infectious diseases, for animals that display signs of such illnesses. Our national laboratory, the Centre for Animal & Veterinary Science, is equipped to provide further support through diagnostics and tests. We are also exploring the use of smart collar tags to allow home quarantine of animals from countries that have a lower risk of rabies. With these measures, the overall quarantine experience will be enhanced for both owners and their animals.
Leveraging Technology to Strengthen Biosurveillance Capabilities
In addition, we are doing more to strengthen our biosurveillance capabilities through the use of technology.
Let me share some of these initiatives. First, we are developing an integrated information system that will consolidate animal health-related data in a central database. This will help us better identify potential biosecurity threats from animals coming into Singapore. Second, we will use technology to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of inspections. For example, we are piloting the use of CCTVs and drones fitted with thermal cameras to inspect imported pigs on shipping vessels, before they even reach Singapore’s shores. This will help us to quickly detect infectious diseases from imported animals and take the necessary precautions.
To conclude, the health and well-being of our people are closely interconnected with that of animals in our community. The new Animal Quarantine Centre plays an important role in supporting our efforts to safeguard animal and public health. Through the use of technology, we will enhance our biosurveillance capabilities to better monitor emerging threats from animal-borne diseases, and prevent such diseases from being introduced into Singapore. Everyone can play their part in keeping Singapore free from animal diseases.
I would like to thank our veterinary professionals, animal health inspectors, and laboratory scientists for their vigilance and efforts in detecting and reporting animal diseases.
I also urge pet owners and businesses to continue taking preventive steps, such as vaccination, deworming, and seeking medical attention when needed, to ensure the health and welfare of animals are protected.