Speech by MOS Tan Kiat How at the Launch of Guidelines for Adoption, Rehoming and Rehabilitation of Dogs

Jan 14, 2022

Good morning, and a warm welcome to everyone joining us today. A very Happy New Year to all.

Over the past few years, the pet population in Singapore has steadily risen, as more Singaporeans are finding benefits of having an animal companion in their lives,especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, from 2006 to 2020, the number of dogs licensed by the Animal & Veterinary Service (AVS) increased from around 46,000 to 72,000. Pet owners have also shared that their pets have helped to improve their mental health, and enhance their quality of life.

AVS has worked closely with stakeholders to improve animal health and welfare standards in Singapore. We have made good progress in our efforts. For instance, two years ago, AVS introduced one-time licensing for sterilised pet dogs. This had made it more convenient for owners to licence their dogs, which in turn enhances traceability. In partnership with the Singapore Veterinary Association, we also developed vaccination guidelines in 2020 for dogs and cats, to raise awareness on the importance of pet vaccinations and to increase pet vaccination rates. Just recently, in November last year, we also launched guidelines to encourage the responsible use of antimicrobials, such as antibiotics, in pets.

To raise industry standards, we also enhanced the licensing conditions for pet boarders and breeders in October last year. These were developed in consultation with industry stakeholders and the public. And, we have continued to deepen our educational and outreach efforts, where we are developing new partnership programmes with animal interest groups, to promote responsible pet ownership.

These efforts would not have been possible without the support and hard work of all our partners. From members of animal welfare groups, veterinarians, animal trainers, and those in the pet industry who have actively contributed through the various workgroups set up to improve animal health and welfare standards; To our animal interest groups, community volunteers, and the passionate pet lovers who have engaged with us – a big thank you for all your contributions and feedback.

Today, I am happy to launch two new guidelines to improve the rehoming, adoption and rehabilitation processes for our dogs. The first set of guidelines aims to improve dog rehoming and adoption practices. For example, we have clearly set out the roles and responsibilities of parties involved in the adoption process, and the support required for new pet owners during and after the adoption process.

The second set of guidelines provides recommendations on the training and rehabilitation approaches for dogs, to guide dog trainers, behaviourists, and pet owners in achieving positive outcomes for animal welfare and behaviour.

This is a key outcome following several rounds of discussions by the Rehoming and Adoption Workgroup (RAWG), which aims to improve dog rehoming and adoption processes in Singapore. The RAWG comprises representatives from the animal welfare groups, veterinarians and dog trainers. Since it was formed in October 2020, the members of the group have actively contributed ideas and solutions, and have worked hard on these guidelines. I would like to express my appreciation to all our RAWG members for their time and dedication in working with us to develop these guidelines.

I am also heartened by the many views and suggestions received from the wider community, as part of our public consultation on dog rehoming and adoption practices, launched in October last year. Close to 4,000 respondents participated in the survey. Based on the findings, more than 80% of participants supported the need to have standardised guidelines on the adoption, rehoming and training of dogs. We have incorporated relevant feedback from the community in our guidelines as well, such as the responsibilities that come with owning a dog, and avoiding training devices and techniques that cause pain and distress.

These guidelines will help to improve existing rehoming and adoption practices, and encourage better care for our pet dogs. Animal welfare groups can now refer to these guidelines to adopt best practices for rehoming, adoption, and rehabilitation, I would like to strongly encourage the industry, pet owners, and members of the community to make use of these guidelines as well.

In the coming year, we will continue to work with our stakeholders, such as animal welfare groups, pet businesses, veterinarians and the community to further raise standards within the pet sector. For example, we plan to review the current dog trainer accreditation scheme, such as benchmarking the qualifications for dog trainers against internationally recognised standards.

We will also look into the use of dog training devices to ensure that dog training
methods are carried out in the least intrusive and aversive manner, with an approach that is rooted in science. Beyond this, we are also taking additional steps to strengthen the resilience of our animal health system. And, we are working to raise the professionalism of the veterinary sector, in consultation with veterinarians, vet paraprofessionals, and vet service users. We will share more details on these plans when ready.

All of us have a role to play in creating a more gracious society where we co-exist harmoniously with animals. This cannot be achieved by the Government alone. I would like to invite stakeholders, and the wider community to contribute to these efforts.

Through participating in our outreach and education events, including the Pets’ Day Out, and our Science Behind Animal Behaviour webinar series, to learn more about animal ethology, behaviour, and welfare.

Thank you.