4 things to know about the new law on improving animal welfare in Singapore

A dog in an enclosure at the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA). -- PHOTO: ST FILE
A dog in an enclosure at the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA). -- PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - The Animals and Birds (Amendment) Bill was passed in Parliament on Wednesday, after more than two years of work.

Tabled by Members of Parliament Yeo Guat Kwang, Alex Yam, Gan Thiam Poh, Edwin Tong and Vikram Nair, the Bill was driven by an Animal Welfare Legislative Review Committee led by Mr Yeo.

The committee brought together MPs, community leaders and representatives from the animal welfare groups, pet industry and the veterinary profession for discussions on how to improve animal welfare in Singapore.

Here are four things you need to know about the new law.

1. Who will be affected?

Pet owners, animal-related businesses, animal shelters, people who foster animals and those who care for animals on behalf of family or friends.

The current legislation prohibits a wide range of cruel conduct to animals, from beating, kicking, ill-treatment to abandonment.

But under the new law, these groups must not only avoid such acts, but they must also provide a positive duty of care. This means they must take steps to ensure that efforts are taken to recover a missing animal and ensure that an animal is cared for in accordance with Codes of Animal Welfare.

It also means that animals should be:

- Provided with adequate and suitable food and water.

- Given adequate shelter.

- Not confined or physically handled to cause unreasonable or unnecessary pain and suffering.

- Protected from and receive rapid diagnosis of any significant injury or disease.

2. How else will animal-related businesses be affected?

Staff working with animals in relevant businesses must be trained in animal care and handling. The precise training requirements will be announced at a later date.

A panel formed by the Government last year to strengthen collaboration for animal welfare will work with the Singapore Workforce Development Agency and the Employment and Employability Institute (e2i) to standardise the training and raise the number of training providers.

3. What are the penalties for failing to comply with the new law?

For the first time, those found guilty of pet negligence will face a penalty of up to $20,000 and/or a two-year jail term.

The new law will also toughen the penalties against those convicted of animal cruelty. Previously, animal abusers faced fines of up to $10,000 and/or a one-year jail term. Now, this will go up to a maximum fine of $30,000 and/or a three-year jail term.

Animal-related businesses that contravene the new law will face fines of up to $100,000 and/or a three-year jail term. This is up from the maximum $10,000 fine and/or a one-year jail term.

Businesses that do not provide training for staff can be fined up to $5,000, face a maximum jail term of six months, or both. They can also be banned from doing business for up to a year.

4. How will the Bill impact enforcement?

The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) will have more enforcement powers like issuing written directives to owners.

AVA officers can also take photographs, audio and video recordings for evidence, and the crime no longer needs to be committed in their presence.

Those who do not comply face a $10,000 fine and/or one-year jail term. Businesses that do not comply with directives face fines of up to $20,000, a jail term of up to 12 months, or both.

audreyt@sph.com.sg