AVA's 'animal police' team revamped to prevent abuse cases

A stray cat in Bishan. The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) has reorganised its investigation and enforcement team to respond to animal abuse cases more quickly.
A stray cat in Bishan. The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) has reorganised its investigation and enforcement team to respond to animal abuse cases more quickly. PHOTO: ST FILE

One unit looks into alleged abuses, while the other keeps tabs on pet shops

Watch out animal abusers: Singapore's "animal police" could nab you much quicker now.

The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) has reorganised its investigation and enforcement team into two units, a move that will enable its officers to respond more promptly to animal welfare cases, such as acts of cruelty or pet shops which do not comply with licensing conditions.

"One unit investigates feedback on alleged animal cruelty and failure of duty of care, while the other inspects pet establishment licensees to ensure compliance with licensing requirements," a spokesman told The Sunday Times.

Both units are led by former police officers, said Mr Louis Ng, an MP for Nee Soon GRC, during a dialogue on animal welfare held in his ward last month.

AVA said the separation allows its officers to tap their expertise to optimise enforcement efforts. Said the spokesman: "For instance, officers in the investigation unit leverage on their investigative expertise and experience to carry out effective and efficient investigations.

"Similarly, officers who specialise in the inspection of pet establishment licensees are better able to observe and detect abnormalities as they would have more training and exposure in this area of work."

The reorganisation of the AVA's enforcement and investigation division is one of the Government's latest moves to safeguard animal welfare in Singapore.

It is also a timely move, considering the spate of unusual cat deaths that happened in Yishun last year. More than 40 cats have been found dead there since last September. So far, a 41-year-old unemployed man, Lee Wai Leong, has been sentenced to 18 months' probation for throwing a cat over the 13th-floor parapet at his block in Yishun Ring Road.

An Animal Welfare Legislative Review Committee had in 2013 proposed 24 measures to better protect animals here, all of which were accepted by the National Development Ministry.

"In line with their recommendations that AVA adopt a more 'responsive and preventive' approach to protect of animal welfare, AVA has been putting in place new initiatives that are more upstream," said the authority's spokesman.

Such measures aim to stop acts of abuse or neglect before they happen. For instance, other than the reorganisation of the investigation and enforcement division, AVA has also implemented measures to minimise impulse buying of pets by putting in place minimum age requirements and pre-sale screening at pet shops.

Ms Veron Lau, a spokesman for the Cat Welfare Society, had called for an "animal police" unit to investigate alleged animal abusers.

When contacted, she said she welcomed the AVA's latest move, as she has observed that more cases of animal abuse have been looked into than before.

But it would be helpful for AVA to communicate better with the animal welfare volunteers who report the case as the volunteers are on the ground and could provide useful information, said Ms Lau.

She added: " There are many opportunities for public education and engagement that the cases present but the findings, and sometimes even the outcomes, are not shared. They become another missed opportunity to promote good practices and better advance animal welfare in our society."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on November 06, 2016, with the headline 'AVA's 'animal police' team revamped to prevent abuse cases'. Print Edition | Subscribe