Singapore should adopt stronger measures to protect animal welfare: Shanmugam

Singapore needs to adopt tougher measures to protect the welfare of animals, said Law and Foreign Minister K Shanmugam at the opening ceremony of animal welfare conference Asia for Animals on Tuesday morning. -- ST FILE PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG
Singapore needs to adopt tougher measures to protect the welfare of animals, said Law and Foreign Minister K Shanmugam at the opening ceremony of animal welfare conference Asia for Animals on Tuesday morning. -- ST FILE PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

Singapore needs to adopt tougher measures to protect the welfare of animals, Law and Foreign Minister K Shanmugam said at the opening ceremony of animal welfare conference Asia for Animals on Tuesday morning.

These measures should be undertaken in two areas - penalties for animal abusers and responsible pet ownership, he added.

Currently, those convicted of cruelty to animals under the Animals and Birds Act are subject to a fine of up to $10,000, a jail term of up to a year, or both.

Changes will be made to substantially enhance the laws to send a deterrent message to abusers, he said in his speech.

On responsible pet ownership, Mr Shanmugam, who is a known animal welfare advocate, said people may buy pets on impulse without knowing what having a pet entails.

Pointing to the Agri-Food and Veterinary's two new pet shop licensing conditions - preventing the sale of dogs, cats and rabbits to those under the age of 16 and a mandatory pre-sale screening - that kicked in on Jan 1 and the introduction of animal welfare in school syllabus, Mr Shanmugam added that education will help produce a "substantive change" in the treatment of animals.

The five-day Asia for Animals conference, which started on Monday, is being attended by over 320 delegates from more than 30 countries. Singapore animal welfare group Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (Acres) is hosting it.

Its chief executive Louis Ng, who also spoke at the event, said a Bill proposing an increase in the penalty for animal abuse from the current $10,000 to a high of $50,000 will be "introduced in Parliament this year".

Six working groups formed during the event will discuss issues such as animal testing, animals in entertainment, cetaceans in captivity, dog and cat meat trade, stray dogs management and wildlife trade.

"Individually, we have made so much progress and I am confident that through the discussions and sharing that will take place during this conference and with more collaborations, we can achieve miracles," Mr Ng added.