SINGAPORE: Clearly written adoption agreements and a pre-adoption screening process covering the responsibilities and expectations of adopting a pet: These are among new guidelines aimed at standardising practices in the rehoming and adoption of dogs in Singapore.
The guidelines, introduced on Friday (Jan 14), were developed by the Rehoming and Adoption Workgroup, comprised of veterinarians, dog trainers and members of animal welfare groups.
Formed in October 2020, the workgroup is led by Minister of State for National Development Tan Kiat How and supported by the Animal & Veterinary Service (AVS) under the National Parks Board.
Under the new guidelines, animal welfare groups are advised to draw up an adoption/rehoming policy that includes considerations for when a dog should or should not be rehomed, and conditions under which ownership of the dog should be transferred to a new owner.
This will help ease the transition of animals adopted from these groups into their new home, and minimise stress on the dog, AVS said.
Animal welfare groups can also share a list of criteria for refusing the adoption of a dog, such as having reason to believe that the adoption will have a detrimental impact on the welfare of the dog, and concerns over interactions between prospective adopters and the dog.
The guidelines also recommend that these groups conduct pre-adoption screening as well as home inspections, in addition to sharing needs such as health and behavioural conditions of the dog that should be considered by the adopter.
These groups should also have written adoption agreement - to be signed by both the adopter and the animal welfare group - containing information such as the particulars of the adopter and details of the dog, as well as declarations made by both parties.
The guidelines also call on animal welfare groups to develop their own policies regarding the return and rehoming of adopted dogs when they can no longer be cared for by the adopter, as well as treatment and euthanasia.
The policies should provide adopters "clear guidance on their obligations" to avoid miscommunication between the adopters and the animal welfare groups, they state.
The workgroup also developed guidelines for dog trainers, behaviourists, as well as pet owners in conducting "safe, relevant, and effective" means of dog training.
Recommending a “least intrusive, minimally aversive” approach to animal training, the guidelines suggest dog owners first address all behavioural and medical needs of their pets in consultation with a qualified dog trainer or veterinarian before developing any training or rehabilitation plan.
A list of recommendations to identify a qualified dog trainer is also specified in the guidelines, AVS noted.
At an event launching the new guidelines on Friday, Mr Tan noted the AVS had worked closely with stakeholders to improve animal health and welfare standards in Singapore
He pointed to how the AVS introduced one-time licensing for sterilised pet dogs two years ago, making it more convenient for owners to licence their dogs, which in turn enhances traceability.
"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," he said.
The introduction of these guidelines follow a number of high-profile incidents involving pet dogs.
In August last year, Charlotte Liew, the owner of pet hotel Platinium Dogs Club, was jailed two weeks and fined S$35,700 after failing to properly take care of dogs in her care.
This came after a Shetland sheepdog was reported to have died in December 2018 while it was boarded at Platinium Dogs Club.
Liew had cremated the sheepdog after its death, later lying to the owner that it had gone missing.
In 2020, a Danish couple who euthanised their pet dog because of aggression was found not to have failed in their duty of care or committed animal cruelty after a four-month investigation by the AVS.
Dog welfare group Exclusively Mongrels, where the dog was adopted from, took legal action against Christian Parker Mygind for allegedly breaching the adoption agreement, though it later dropped the lawsuit after reaching a settlement with the adopter.