Singapore, 24 February 2011 – “Can you help with the licensing of the dog? Can you tell me more about the puppy’s parents? Am I able to see the puppy’s parents?” These and more questions were posed to 35 pet shops and farms when the animal welfare groups went undercover over the period of November and December 2010.
The undercover operation was a follow-up from the ‘Stop the Cruelty in Puppy Mills’ campaign launched in October 2010 which saw the birth of a dedicated website (http://sgpuppies.com) a joint effort by seven animal welfare groups to raise awareness about the unethical and unacceptable practices of puppy mills in Singapore. The undercover operation (survey results attached) was aimed at establishing the current conditions for dogs in pet shops and pet farms, to observe the sales process first hand whilst ascertaining how much information was conveyed to customers, in terms of pet care and background of puppies on sale.
The outcome and findings from the undercover operations is far from positive. A total of 19 out of 35 establishments failed to comply with the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority’s (AVA) standards and these cases have since been referred to the AVA. Of the conditions not being adhered to these included unsuitable flooring, small cages and unsatisfactory hygiene. In relation to assisting with application of dog licences, all 13 pet farms and 33 per cent of shops declined to help. 92 per cent of the farms and shops did not question prospective buyers on their knowledge of puppy care and very few shops were proactive in offering pet care tips.
79 per cent did not provide details about the puppy’s parents when asked, while 84 per cent did not allow viewing of parents. Two responses to a request to see the parents were “For what? You are buying the puppy not the parent”, while another question was met with a counterclaim “If you can find another pet farm which allows you to see the parents, the pup is free”.
Ms. Deirdre Moss, Executive Director of the SPCA says the disappointing results and glaring lapses are somewhat expected. “It is a case of puppies for profit and the results highlight the urgent need for setting higher industry standards and best practices, a robust licensing system and increase rigorous enforcement for the trade”, said Ms. Moss
Ms Shirley Goh a volunteer from Cat Welfare Society, who participated in the survey found that in many pet shops, the living condition of the animals do not meet the AVA stipulated standards, “This exercise shows how important it is that the public are made aware of animal welfare standards in the pet trade to make an informed decision when they are buying, as well as to act as community eyes and ears when it comes to safeguarding the welfare of the animals.”
Mr. Ricky Yeo, President of Action for Singapore Dogs (ASD) said “the survey has exposed the glaring shortfalls of the pet trade with a blatant disregard for the standards set to ensure the welfare of the animals being sold. On top of enforcement, the public also needs to empower themselves with the knowledge and responsibility to discern the ethical pet shops and to report errant ones.”
The results from the undercover operation have been forwarded in a paper to the AVA with key recommendations such as improvements to flooring, abolishment of the use of water bottles, mandatory licensing at the point of sale as well as proper counseling on pet care prior to any purchase of a pet.
Other recommendations include a, “Think twice before you buy” poster (designed by welfare groups and endorsed by AVA) that should be prominently displayed in all shops and farms, and improvements to be made in all 19 premises that failed to meet AVA’s standards.
Meanwhile, an official reply was received from the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority (AVA), following a joint proposal last July, setting out recommendations and best practices for these establishments. According to the AVA, they had carefully considered each item in the groups’ proposal and had met the farm licensees to address the issues on the farms. AVA has taken all the input into consideration and will be adopting a holistic approach, whereby the farms will be required to provide AVA with their plan for improvement. The farms have been asked to ensure that the plans are followed. The AVA will also be registering existing kennel operators and introducing screening for new individuals who wish to practice dog breeding on the farms. In addition AVA officers will be conducting more frequent inspections.