Guidelines introduced for dog training, adoption

The guidelines aim to improve dog rehoming and adoption practices, as well as dog training and behaviour rehabilitation. PHOTO: NPARKS

SINGAPORE - Training devices and techniques that cause dogs pain, fear, anxiety and distress should be avoided, a workgroup has recommended in new guidelines introduced on Friday (Jan 14).

The Rehoming and Adoption Workgroup also called on those giving up dogs for adoption to have the dog assessed, and clearly make known the canine's existing medical and behavioural conditions and history.

The workgroup, which comprises veterinarians, dog trainers and members of animal welfare groups, released two sets of standardised guidelines to improve dog rehoming and adoption practices, as well as dog training and behaviour rehabilitation.

Led by Minister of State for National Development, Mr Tan Kiat How, and supported by Animal and Veterinary Service (AVS), the group was formed in October 2020.

"These guidelines will help to improve existing rehoming and adoption practices, and encourage better care for our pet dogs. Animal welfare groups can now refer to these guidelines to adopt best practices for rehoming, adoption, and rehabilitation," he said.

The workgroup was set up following concerns over the varying levels of standards in the sector given the increase in rehoming and adoption activities.

Mr Tan shared that from 2006 to 2020, the number of dogs licensed by AVS increased from around 46,000 to 72,000. He added more Singaporeans are discovering the benefits of having an animal companion in their lives, especially during the pandemic.

The new guidelines clarify the roles and responsibilities of all stakeholders involved, and were finalised after many rounds of focus group discussion.

There was also a month-long online public consultation from October to November last year, where more than 90 per cent of the close to 4,000 respondents were pet owners.

More than 80 per cent of participants supported the need to have standardised guidelines on the adoption, rehoming and training of dogs, said Mr Tan.

Animal welfare groups, animal trainers and vets said the guidelines are a benchmark against which to measure best practices.

"With the guidelines, at least now there's transparency and it's publicly available so in that sense it empowers the vet... so we can enlighten and educate the pet owner and in a way, enforce it," said Dr Kenneth Tong, who runs AAVC-Animal & Avian Veterinary Clinic.

"(The pre-adoption screening process) also helps pet owners know what they are getting into...hopefully they can choose a dog that suits their lifestyle, time and financial commitment," added Dr Tong.

"If it doesn't work out for some reason, there's also post-adoption support available."

More than 80 per cent of participants supported the need to have standardised guidelines on the adoption, rehoming and training of dogs. PHOTO: NPARKS

Ms Aarthi Sankar, executive director at the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, added: "Adoption and rehoming are two-way processes that are a shared responsibility between animal welfare groups and pet guardians, so these guidelines help us to build more clarity."

Ms Sankar also said that the new training guidelines were a long time coming.

"These guidelines could pave the way for other enforcement so that in time, we could ban the use of training devices like electric shock collars and (take) disciplinary action against recalcitrant trainers."

The guidelines for dog rehoming and adoption practices, and dog training and behaviour rehabilitation are now available at this website.

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