Joint effort to manage stray dog population in Singapore

AVA is working with animal welfare groups and vets on 5-year sterilisation programme

Stray puppies spotted at the Sungei Buloh Wetlands Reserve in January this year. AVA estimates there are currently about 7,000 stray dogs in Singapore and aims to sterilise 70 per cent of them in five years.
Stray puppies spotted at the Sungei Buloh Wetlands Reserve in January this year. AVA estimates there are currently about 7,000 stray dogs in Singapore and aims to sterilise 70 per cent of them in five years. ST FILE PHOTO

The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) will be rolling out a five-year sterilisation programme for stray dogs in the second half of next year to manage their numbers more humanely.

The programme aims to sterilise 70 per cent of the stray dogs roaming Singapore's streets.

AVA said yesterday it will work with animal welfare groups and veterinarians on the trap-neuter-release-manage programme. Efforts will also be made to rehome as many such animals as possible. Dogs deemed unsuitable for rehoming will be released at chosen locations to live out their lives.

This is the first time that such a scheme for stray dogs has been rolled out at a national level. Previously, dog welfare groups, fearing that culling may be used to control the animal population, conducted such programmes on their own.

There is already a national trap-neuter-release effort for stray cats, rolled out islandwide in 2014.

On the streets, dogs live in harsh and difficult conditions and face risks from traffic, starvation and disease. "Stray dogs who return to their feral instincts can potentially pose a danger to the public, especially when in packs. They are also a potential reservoir of disease like rabies," said AVA.

It estimates that there are currently about 7,000 stray dogs here and aims to sterilise 70 per cent of them in five years.

AVA, citing scientific literature and mathematical modelling, said a sustained sterilisation rate of 70 per cent or more is necessary to stabilise a stray dog population, before it can begin to decrease.

AVA animal management group director Jessica Kwok said: "Through the sterilisation of stray dogs nationwide, we hope to find a humane and sustainable solution to manage stray dogs."

Mr Derrick Tan, founder of the animal shelter Voices for Animals, told The Straits Times that a standard operating procedure is being worked out between the authorities and the animal welfare groups, which will detail the steps that should be taken after a dog is trapped. This involves procedures such as taking the dog for health checks and vaccinations.

The plan is also to get the various animal welfare groups involved in the management of certain areas after dogs are released into the environment. This will ensure that all released dogs are accounted for.

Animal welfare groups will also be able to mediate any potential human-wildlife conflict that should arise if dogs are released back into the environment.

"There is a difference between animal welfare groups stepping in to respond to complaints from people, and AVA doing so.

"If animal welfare groups are the first responders, we could do our best to mediate conflict before it escalates," said Mr Tan.

AVA has been engaging with the animal welfare groups and veterinarians since June this year.

Animal welfare groups or those who wish to participate in the programme can contact AVA on 1800-476-1600.

Mr Desmond Lee, Minister for Social and Family Development and Second Minister for National Development, said in a Facebook post yesterday that many animal welfare groups have already adopted trap, neuter, release and manage programmes on their own.

He wrote: "AVA wants to take this effort further... Through this programme, we hope to manage Singapore's stray dog issue in a humane manner, based on science and data, and in the spirit of community partnership."

• Additional reporting by Ng Hui Wen

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 22, 2017, with the headline Joint effort to manage stray dog population in Singapore. Subscribe