A 43-year-old man who abandoned as many as 18 pedigree dogs at locations across the island and caused an uproar online was jailed for six weeks yesterday.
Low Chong Kiat, owner of a pet grooming school, is the first person taken to court for abandoning animals under the Animals and Birds Act.
He had let go of them in March after the authorities said he could not keep 30 dogs in his shop, following complaints from neighbouring establishments about noise.
Low was also fined $65,700 - for keeping 28 of the dogs without a licence; failing to ensure that two dogs were protected from and rapidly diagnosed of injury and disease; and keeping the 30 dogs in a place that is not a dog farm without permission from the authorities.
If he cannot pay the fine, Low, who pleaded guilty to 15 out of 49 charges under the Animals and Birds Act, will have to spend another six months and six weeks in jail.
Agreeing with the prosecution's call for a deterrent penalty, District Judge Low Wee Ping said: "An indication of how civilised a society is is the way we treat our animals."
Twenty-eight of the 30 dogs were found by a vet later to be healthy.
But an unsterilised female shih tzu had dental issues, skin problems and corneal damage in its right eye. It had to be treated for scabies, ringworms and ehrlichiosis - a bacterial illness transmitted by ticks. Another dog, an unsterilised female maltese, was found without teeth and had a broken lower jaw.
Low, owner of Prestige Grooming Academy, started pet shop Marine Pet Image in 2001. It was licensed to sell puppies. He also started a pet boarding and breeding business in 2009. He would breed puppies in Lim Chu Kang and sell them at his shop at Block 925 Yishun Central.
In 2012, Low moved his grooming business to Chun Tin Road in Bukit Timah. But last year, due to rising costs, he closed his breeding business and pet shop. He moved his 25 remaining dogs to Chun Tin Road, but later took in five more dogs.
Low kept the 30 dogs at the basement of 51 Chun Tin Road, and his grooming school students practised their skills using these dogs.
But Low did not have a dog boarding licence from the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA). Prestige Grooming Academy was also not a dog farm, and thus not allowed to keep more than three dogs without the permission of the AVA.
In early March, the Urban Redevelopment Authority sent Low a letter, telling him that he was not allowed to keep dogs overnight at the Chun Tin Road premises.
He then abandoned 18 dogs, mostly poodles, poodle crosses and malteses, in various places over two days on March 23 and 24.
On March 23, AVA got a tip-off about someone abandoning three dogs at Yishun Industrial Estate. Later that day, information about someone abandoning dogs circulated on social media, and three animal welfare groups found six dogs. The next day, another 12 were rescued.
On March 25, Low realised someone had posted videos and pictures online of him abandoning his dogs. He contacted Voices for Animals president Derrick Tan and gave up his remaining 12 dogs for adoption.
Deputy Public Prosecutor Bagchi Anamika said: "A stiff sentence is necessary to deter other breeders and pet business owners from following suit... and resorting to callous abandonment of the pets without a thought for their survival or well-being."
In mitigation, Low, who did not have a lawyer, said he ran a small business and could not afford to pay a hefty fine or go to jail.
The judge allowed him to start serving his sentence from Oct 21.
Correction note: In an earlier version of the story, we said that Low did not have a dog boarding licence from the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA). This is incorrect. URA has clarified that dog boarding licences are issued by the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA). URA grants approval for the use of a premise as a pet shop.