Speech by MOS Tan Kiat How at Pets' Day Out

Apr 30, 2022

A very good afternoon. I am very happy to join you at Pets’ Day Out today.

This is the 13th Pets’ Day Out since it was launched in 2019. This event is an important platform for the community, such as pet owners, animal welfare groups and veterinarians, to come together and share best practices for pet care and management, to improve animal health and welfare standards.

It is great to see everyone together again at a physical event. We had previously pivoted to online and hybrid editions of Pets’ Day Out over the past two years.

This has allowed us to continue to engage the pet community, even throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. AVS colleagues have conducted more than 20 webinars, and invited overseas and local experts to share about the Science behind Animal Behaviour. These have been well received. 

I would also like to especially thank our Animal Welfare Group partners and vets from the private sector for their strong support in partnering us on the online and hybrid events. It has been a challenging period, but we are happy to resume our physical activities, such as adoption drives. We look forward to more collaborations with our AWG and vet partners.

There have also been some recent media stories about how some owners are giving up their pets following the relaxation of Safe Management Measures. We’ve also spoken to some AWGs and are concerned about this. We’re monitoring the situation closely together with our AWG partners. We would like to remind pet owners that pet ownership is a lifelong commitment. Being a responsible pet owner means not giving up your pet, because a pet is part of family.

Contributions of the Veterinary Sector

Significantly, today is also World Veterinary Day. Over the years, the veterinary community has played an important role in safeguarding public health.

First, our vets assist with disease control efforts, including the development of animal vaccines. Vets have also been assisting with the vaccination of animals. For example, in the 1950s, vets assisted with the mass inoculation for dogs, which has kept Singapore rabies-free since 1953. Till today, our vets continue volunteering to vaccinate stray dogs. For example, in our annual Ops Vax Lyssa, vets from the private sector volunteer with AVS to vaccinate dogs at the coastal fish farms and Pulau Ubin, as part of our continuous efforts to keep Singapore rabies-free.

Second, vets help to protect Singapore against zoonotic viruses such as the Mad Cow Disease, Avian influenza and the H1N1 Swine Flu, through inspections, surveillance, and research. In 2020, Dr Cathy Chan of The Animal Doctors identified the Haemorrhagic Rabbit Disease, which is a highly contagious and fatal disease of rabbits. Because of her early detection, we were able to swiftly step up measures to prevent the spread of the disease, and to quickly import vaccines for it.

Third, our vets also care for our companion animals, as well as educate pet owners on responsible pet ownership. At events such as Pets’ Day Out, vets from the private sector have also volunteered to conduct free health checks for our residents’ pets.

I am happy to see that our veterinary community has grown as well; today, we have about 100 private vet practice centres and 460 licensed veterinarians in the private and public sectors.

Launch of SVA’s Book – Vets at Work

Today, in conjunction with World Vet Day, I am happy to launch the book – Vets at Work. The book is produced by the Singapore Veterinary Association , in collaboration with AVS, and other partners. It highlights the history of SVA and the significant contributions of Singapore’s veterinary professionals over the years.

Vets at Work is a publication that was first conceived by the late Dr Giam Choo Hoo, a pioneer of the veterinary community in Singapore in the 1960s. Many pioneering veterinarians are featured as well, such as Dr Cheng Tong Fatt and Dr Ngiam Tong Tau, who helped to develop Singapore’s pig industry in the 1970s; Dr Chua Sin Bin, who established modern food safety processes in Singapore; and Dr Shane Ryan, who brought the World Small Animal Veterinary Association conference to Singapore in 2018, and was president of the association in 2019.

We have Dr Cheng Tong Fatt, Dr Chua Sin Bin and Dr Shane Ryan joining us today. We thank you and the veterinary profession - vets, vet paraprofessionals, and staff, for your contributions to veterinary science and animal health in Singapore.

Update on the Vet Sector Review

To advance the professional standards and practices for the vet sector, we started a review of the sector together with SVA in early 2020, gathering views from vets, vet paraprofessionals, and vet service users.

Last year, AVS and SVA carried out a survey to better understand the key challenges faced by the veterinary sector. More than half of the respondents felt that vet paraprofessionals in Singapore could be better recognised for their role, and have better career progression and development opportunities. Almost all respondents agreed that professional standards for veterinarians should be regularly reviewed, and benchmarked with that of other developed countries. And nearly all respondents agreed that there is a need to promote lifelong learning for the veterinary profession.

We have discussed these issues in detail with stakeholders through a series of focus group discussions, and identified several key areas to look into as part of the vet sector review.

First, the need to better define the scope of veterinary activities and recognise the critical role of vets and vet paraprofessionals. Second, the importance of upholding professional standards in the veterinary sector. Third, the need to encourage continuing education in the vet profession. Some have also suggested the formation of a veterinary professional body. We are looking into these suggestions in detail.

AVS will continue to engage stakeholders to discuss these ideas further, and we will share the recommendations when ready.

Many in the veterinary community have shared with me about how veterinary work is meaningful and fulfilling. We look forward to our vets’ contributions in advancing the frontiers of veterinary science, animal health and welfare.

All of us have a role to play to create a more gracious society where we can co-exist with animals. I look forward to partnering all of you on this journey. Thank you.