Diversify the pet industry here as population density grows

The international pet industry is one of the fastest-growing market segments, valued at US$100 billion (S$136.5 billion) and growing.

The local pet industry should be allowed to diversify, taking environmental concerns and legal, sustainable wildlife use into account.

Diversification is important to increase industry resilience, improve animal welfare issues and reduce zoonotic risks to humans.

In Singapore, with an increasing population density, traditional pets like cats and dogs with high spatial and behavioural needs may not be the most suitable pets for people staying in proximity to one another.

Pets that are allowed to roam freely generally cause more public concerns and harm to the native wildlife.

Citizens should not be incriminated for wanting pets that cause minimal public disturbances.

No international standard defines which animals may be kept as pets but there are regulations with regard to the legitimate international trade which should be followed and respected.

Scientifically, mammalian and avian pets pose the highest risk of zoonotic diseases spreading to humans when compared with other classes of pet species that are currently blacklisted here but are allowed in other countries.

This can also be the Achilles heel in preventing inter-species disease jumps between pets and humans, which can be disastrous.

Ong Junkai

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 24, 2018, with the headline 'Diversify the pet industry here as population density grows'. Print Edition | Subscribe