5-year plan to curb number of stray dogs

AVA initiates programme to sterilise over 70% of street dogs, together with 11 animal welfare groups

Mr Desmond Lee, Minister for Social and Family Development, holding a puppy available for adoption as he mingles with pet owners during his tour of the Happy Pets, Happy 'Hood carnival at Bukit Panjang yesterday.
Mr Desmond Lee, Minister for Social and Family Development, holding a puppy available for adoption as he mingles with pet owners during his tour of the Happy Pets, Happy 'Hood carnival at Bukit Panjang yesterday.ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

A five-year sterilisation programme to manage the stray-dog population was launched yesterday by Minister for Social and Family Development and Second Minister for National Development Desmond Lee.

Stray dogs, or "Singapore Specials" as Mr Lee prefers to call them, have caused occasional "human-animal friction", evoking a range of reactions from people.

"Some care for them, and feed them out of compassion. Some are oblivious to them. Other people are afraid of them, and will press the authorities to take action," said Mr Lee, at the Happy Pets, Happy 'Hood carnival at Hillion Mall in Bukit Panjang.

To address differing concerns, the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) has launched a nationwide initiative known as the Trap-Neuter-Release-Manage (TNRM) programme, a humane, scientific and sustainable method of managing the stray-dog population, said Mr Lee.

The AVA developed the programme with 11 animal welfare groups, with the aim of sterilising more than 70 per cent of the stray-dog population over five years. There are about 7,000 strays here.

The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) will lead the coordinating efforts in areas such as trapping operations and providing sterilisation services at their clinic, which will be ready in the first half of next year.

MORE HUMANE

It's a whole mindset change from culling to a more humane method of sterilisation.

DR SIEW TUCK WAH, president of animal welfare group Save Our Street Dogs, on the new management programme.

AVA will also provide funding to support animal welfare groups conducting sterilisation for dogs.

In addition, there will be a central pool of trappers that animal welfare groups can tap and training with regard to the programme.

Previously, dog welfare groups conducted localised sterilisation programmes on their own, and the AVA initiative will consolidate and amplify these efforts at a national level, said Mr Lee, who noted: "After sterilisation, the priority will be to rehome as many Singapore Specials as possible, where they will have shelter, food and vet care provided by their new owners."

Those that cannot be rehomed will be released to suitable locations where they can be supported by responsible community feeders, he added.

Dr Siew Tuck Wah, 39, president of animal welfare group Save Our Street Dogs (SOSD), which is involved in the programme, welcomed the nationwide initiative.

Since 2014, SOSD has conducted sterilisation programmes and Dr Siew said the funding and operational help from AVA would help scale up their efforts.

"It's a whole mindset change from culling to a more humane method of sterilisation," he noted.

"But this has to go hand-in-hand with rehoming and education to ensure that Singaporeans are more accepting of these dogs."

Mr Lee also touched on the importance of responsible pet ownership, which also means being considerate to non-pet owners.

He said: "This is important in a small place like Singapore, where living spaces overlap and friction can easily occur between neighbours over their pet animals."

He also urged patience, understanding and support for TNRM, and asked people to volunteer or spread the word about it.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on November 11, 2018, with the headline '5-year plan to curb number of stray dogs'. Subscribe