Include rabbits in AVA revision to pet business licensing conditions

Kudos to the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) for the new rules for pet businesses (Tighter licensing rules for pet shops and pet farms; March 29).

Unfortunately, these changes pertain mainly to dogs and cats.

Every year, more than 200 rabbits are abandoned in Singapore.

Rabbits are prey animals and are unlikely to survive outdoors, especially since they have been domesticated.

They face starvation, predation, disease and death.

There is a limit to what non-profit rabbit welfare organisations can do, given the high costs associated with sterilisation, treatment of infections and diseases, and monthly maintenance.

I urge the AVA to make it mandatory for pet businesses to microchip all rabbits before they are sold.

This would be a good first step. Negligent owners could then be traced and charged under the Animals and Birds Act.

Stepping up enforcement of this law would also discourage impulse buying and decrease rabbit abandonment numbers.

It would, no doubt, be difficult and expensive for the AVA to enforce this standard on all pet businesses quickly.

As an interim measure, the AVA could adopt a system of mandatory registration of rabbits upon sale and adoption.

It could also make the cost of registering unsterilised rabbits higher than that for registering sterilised ones, similar to the practice of pricing licence fees of unsterilised and sterilised dogs at $90 and $15 respectively.

This will encourage sterilisation of the animals.

Pet businesses may also be given discounts for bulk sterilisation at selected vets.

To further improve the welfare of rabbits at pet shops, there should be minimum dimensions set for cages and detailed housing conditions for the AVA to enforce.

Lynne Tan Xin Lin (Ms)

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 12, 2017, with the headline Include rabbits in AVA revision to pet business licensing conditions. Subscribe