The standards and expectations for looking after one's pets have been set out by the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA).
The Code of Animal Welfare (for Pet Owners), which came into effect yesterday, is the first of its kind in Singapore and lays out minimum standards in accountability, animal housing and environment, as well as animal management and care.
All pet owners in Singapore are expected to comply with the code.
While it is not an offence if they fail to meet minimum standards, such failures can be used to support prosecution or other enforcement actions in cases of animal neglect or abuse.
There have been a handful of people prosecuted for animal-related offences, including abandonment and animal cruelty, in the past one year.
In January this year, a self-proclaimed animal rescuer was fined $8,000 for ill-treating a dog.
Last November, a woman was jailed for two weeks for failing to care for her 39 cats.
WHAT NEEDS TO BE OBSERVED
Here are some key guidelines for pet owners under the Code of Animal Welfare (for Pet Owners) which took effect yesterday.
• Be accountable for your pets' whereabouts. Do not abandon them or leave them about without arrangements for care.
• Report lost pets to the police and the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority.
• Secure doors and gates to prevent pets from escaping.
• Provide a safe, well-ventilated and clean environment.
• If confining pets, such as in a cage, make sure they can move around comfortably inside.
• Pets should have areas for rest, feeding, exercise and exploration.
• Provide clean drinking water at all times and take pets to the vet if they are ill.
• Leashes or other tethers should be comfortable and not strangle the pets.
• When transporting pets, ensure carriers are well ventilated and do not leave the animals unattended in vehicles.
• Pregnant pets should be taken to the vet if they experience birthing difficulties.
And last September, a dog groomer was sentenced to six weeks' jail for abandoning 18 dogs.
Some of the guidelines include making sure not to leave your pet without proper arrangements for its care, securing doors and gates to prevent it from escaping, providing a well-ventilated and clean environment, and reporting to police and AVA if the pet goes missing.
The code for pet owners comes eight months after the Code of Animal Welfare for the Pet Industry came into effect last October.
Ms Veron Lau, a member of the Multi-Stakeholder Collaboration Committee (MSCC) that drafted both codes, told The Straits Times yesterday that the new code is a step towards responsible pet ownership. "It's definitely a good step to let pet owners know what are the basic standards they need to adhere to when they keep a pet."
Ms Lau, who is also a committee member in the Cat Welfare Society (CWS), said she hopes the new code will help address issues CWS faces. "We hope there will be fewer abandonment and neglect cases," she said.
Mr Ricky Goh, president of Action For Singapore Dogs, told The Straits Times that the code is a good move. "While it seems rather like common sense, I guess a set of guidelines gives the authorities more bite when enforcing or meting out punishments to wrongdoers," said the 49-year-old.
AVA chief executive Tan Poh Hong said the code would improve animal welfare in Singapore.
"Owning a pet is a lifelong commitment and AVA has always advocated responsible pet ownership," she said. "With the code, pet owners will now have an official guide that explains their responsibilities. We will continue to work closely with pet owners, animal welfare groups and other stakeholders to enhance animal welfare standards in Singapore."
The MSCC, formed in October 2013 and chaired by Mr Alex Yam, an MP for Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC, discusses views and champions efforts to promote animal welfare in Singapore.
Its members include MPs, animal welfare groups, pet industry insiders, veterinarians and AVA's representatives.
Pet owners can get a booklet on the code from veterinary clinics, pet businesses and animal welfare groups. It is also available online at www.ava.gov.sg/codepetowners.