Puppy love breeds more pet services

Mr Patrick Soh (left), 55, cuddles his toy poodle, while his son, Mr Dominic Soh, holds their shih tzu, which his parents bought for companionship after the NTU student and his sister moved to hostels.
Mr Patrick Soh (left), 55, cuddles his toy poodle, while his son, Mr Dominic Soh, holds their shih tzu, which his parents bought for companionship after the NTU student and his sister moved to hostels.ST PHOTO: WONG KWAI CHOW

Licensed dogs up 32% over 10 years; pet numbers set to hit 824,600 this year

More people in Singapore now own dogs, with the number of canine pets increasing from an estimated 47,000 in 2006 to 62,000 last year.

These numbers - of licensed dogs registered with the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) - represent a 32 per cent rise in just under a decade.

Pet-shop owners say the rising popularity of dogs as pets is largely a result of the growing perception that they are very companionable animals.

"People see dogs as more affectionate and loyal compared with other animals," said Mr Lim Seng Niah, 41, owner of Hotdog Pet Store in River Valley.

"People see them as companions or as members of the family, especially for couples who are not married."

As pet dog numbers grow, dog-related services have also seen a jump in demand.

Super Cuddles, a dog boarding home in Tanjong Katong, said its number of clients has risen by 20 per cent over the past 10 years.

Doggie Retreat, a dog daycare centre in Marine Parade, has seen a 20 per cent increase in business every year for the past three years.

According to AVA rules, dogs above three months old must have licences, which need to be renewed yearly.

They cost $15 for a sterilised dog and $90 for an unsterilised one.

Owners can be fined up to $5,000 if they do not comply.

These rules help to instil responsible pet ownership and discourage pet abandonment, the AVA states on its website.

The growth in the number of pet dogs here takes place amid an overall increase in pets here.

Singapore's pet population is projected to hit 824,600 pets this year - up from 816,115 in 2014, according to statistics from Euromonitor International, a market research firm.

According to AVA, the number of vet clinics here has risen from 53 in 2011 to 75 last year.

While the jump in the number of pet dogs here may spark concerns about a rise in abandoned dogs, two animal welfare societies said they were not worried.

Ms Cathy Strong, founder of the Animal Lovers League, a shelter for about 700 stray dogs and cats, said: "It is a good sign that more people buying dogs are taking the step of licensing them, meaning they are truly concerned about their pets' welfare and not purchasing them on impulse."

Mr Louis Ng, chief executive of the Animal Concerns Research and Education Society, said: "People are now more interested in their dogs' welfare and have a sense of responsibility for them, even in children as young as primary school age."

Mr Ng, who is also MP for Nee Soon GRC, added that residents have been asking for facilities such as dog runs, which are spaces for dogs to play freely in without a leash.

According to AVA, mixed breeds were the most popular dog breed here last year, followed by the toy poodle, the shih tzu, the miniature schnauzer and the maltese.

Small dogs have always been popular here as most people live in flats, said Mr Stanley Shen, president of the Singapore Kennel Club.

He said these dogs look cute due to their short muzzles, small faces and resemblance to toys.

He added that the influence of trends from countries such as Japan and South Korea, where dog owners buy special accessories for their pets, also contribute to the popularity of dogs here.

Nanyang Technological University student Dominic Soh, 23, has a toy poodle and a shih tzu.

His parents had bought the shih tzu to keep them company, as he and his sister are staying in hostels now.

He added: "One of the best things about owning dogs is seeing them welcome you back home every time. Having their companionship makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 24, 2016, with the headline 'Puppy love breeds more pet services'. Print Edition | Subscribe