Animal welfare: Extensive measures recommended to protect them

Stiffer fines and jail terms for animal abusers and compulsory screening of would-be pet buyers may be imminent.

These recommendations are among a slew of wide-ranging measures put forward by a panel set up by the government last year to review existing animal welfare laws.

The 11-member panel, chaired by Member of Parliament for Ang Mo Kio GRC Yeo Guat Kwang, submitted its widely anticipated report to the National Development Ministry on Friday after a year's deliberations.

It proposes introducing tiered penalties that consider the offenders' intent. Where previously the maximum penalty was a fine of up to $10,000 and/or a one-year jail term, repeat or malicious offenders could soon be slapped with fines reaching $50,000 and/or three-year jail terms. They would also be barred from keeping pets for up to a year.

First-time offenders who neglect their pets would face the original penalty, and have to perform community service with animal welfare groups.

The harsher penalties would extend to pet shops and farms, which could be fined up to $100,000 and banned from operating for up to a year.

But Mr Yeo stressed that the panel, which also comprised animal welfare activists and industry representatives, sought preventive - not just punitive and deterrent - measures.

Its proposals for mandatory pre-sale screening of pet buyers, training staff at pet-related businesses, and a stepping-up of efforts to inculcate responsible pet ownership, were ways to "address the problem at the root", he said, to ensure good animal care is fostered.

It also recommended an industry-led accreditation scheme for pet farms, breeders and groomers be set up, and that all pet breeding and boarding facilities be licensed.