Speech by MOS Tan Kiat How at the Launch of New Educational Programmes and Resources on Science Behind Animal Behaviour at the Jacob Ballas Children’s Garden

Dec 18, 2020

Good morning everyone. Good to see everyone virtually.

I am very happy to be here today at Jacob Ballas Children’s Garden, and launch the suite of educational programmes and resources on animal behaviours and the science behind them, by AVS, a cluster of NParks. Being a pet owner comes with many responsibilities, not just to our pets but also to our neighbours and the wider community. Hence, it is important that we equip ourselves with the knowledge on how to take care of our pets, so that we can create a positive environment for everyone. 

A good proportion of AVS’ new programmes and resources are intended for students. We hope to inculcate values of compassion and care towards animals from a young age. This effort builds on AVS’ ongoing collaboration with MOE and ECDA to incorporate messages on pet care, and animal health and behaviours, into the school curriculum. For example, AVS worked with MOE to provide every Primary 4 student with a paper model of various pets and their respective care and needs. A teachers’ guide was also developed to help pre-school educators create lesson plans on animal-related topics.

AVS’ programmes will feature more interactive activities. For instance, starting from next month, pre-schoolers can visit the new Animal Classroom at Jacob Ballas Children’s Garden, where they can interact with small mammals such as rabbits, chinchillas and hamsters and learn more about them. To complement these sessions, AVS will be adding three new books for pre-schoolers that feature the animals at the Animal Classroom.

AVS will also reach out to older children and teenagers. Secondary and tertiary students can look forward to Learning Journeys to AVS’ animal centres like the Sembawang Animal Quarantine Station, where they can observe how quarantined pets are being taken care of.  AVS will incorporate topics such as human-animal interaction and stray dog population management into school projects to further raise awareness of such issues. 

There will also be resources for the general public, such as webinars and downloadable material. In October this year, AVS launched its webinar series on the Science behind Animal Behaviour. The first instalment on the Science of Canine Behaviour was very well received by all the participants. In this regard, AVS will increase the frequency of the webinars. They will now be held monthly on every fourth Saturday of the month. In fact, the next webinar on “Responsible Pet Ownership” will be held tomorrow, on 19 December. If you are thinking about getting a pet, I encourage you to tune in. AVS will be producing a series of 15 downloadable videos on basic pet care for popular pets, to be rolled out over the coming year. 

These educational programmes and resources are a key part of AVS’ efforts to improve the health and welfare of our companion animals via a holistic pet sector review. We have made good progress in other areas of the review. For instance, in September, AVS introduced one-time licensing for sterilised pet dogs. This makes it more convenient for owners to licence their dogs, which in turn enhances traceability. Better traceability will allow the community to report lost pets easily and for lost pets to be reunited with their owners more quickly. It will also enable AVS to react quickly in the event of a disease outbreak.

In October, we formed a multi-stakeholder Rehoming and Adoption Work Group, or RAWG for short, to improve dog rehoming and adoption processes. The RAWG comprises representatives from the Animal Welfare Groups (AWGs), veterinarians and dog trainers. The members of the group have had several discussions, and I am heartened by everyone’s commitment to contribute ideas and solutions. We have identified and are discussing key areas, such as how to increase the post-adoption support provided by the dog rehoming community to adopters. The RAWG will also be developing principles for dog rehabilitation and training, and measures to enhance the competency and standards of dog trainers in Singapore. This will increase the chances of an adopted animal being integrated successfully into its new home and the community. In the coming months, the RAWG will work on refining and distilling these ideas further. The public can look forward to providing their feedback and suggestions to our new community standards and guidelines on rehoming and adoption next year. 

In addition to the RAWG, we have been looking into raising the standards of service providers within the pet sector, such as by reviewing licensing conditions for pet boarders and breeders, as well as raising the professionalism of the vet sector. AVS has been consulting closely with these key stakeholders, such as the AWGs, pet businesses, and veterinarians on these issues, and will be announcing more details when ready. 

All of us have a role to play in creating a more gracious society where we can co-exist harmoniously with animals. This includes not just stakeholders in the pet sector but also the general public. I hope that Singaporeans will tap on the programmes and resources that AVS has made available, so that together as a community, we can achieve what is best for the health and welfare of the animals as well as the health and safety of the public. Thank you very much.