Animal groups upset with HDB over 'debark' dogs suggestion

SINGAPORE - A Housing Board notice that asked some dog owners in Ang Mo Kio to consider "debarking your dog through surgery", which would quell noisy dogs by cutting their vocal chords, has been removed following criticism by animal lovers.

The Housing Board notice, which was dated Aug 22 and posted in the lift lobby, referred to feedback about nuisance barking in the middle of the night at Block 601 Ang Mo Kio Avenue 5.

It asked dog owners to consider three ways to keep their pets from barking incessantly: obedience training, using training collars or debarking through surgery.

Animal welfare groups criticised the option of surgery as inhumane. A post on Action for Singapore Dogs' Facebook page said they "strongly object" to such surgery as it is an "extremely cruel and painful procedure of removing the vocal cords which can cause constant physical pain".

Ms Corinne Fong, the executive director of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, said in a media statement that while she acknowledged barking can be an inconveneince to those who live in flats, she found the debarking recommendation "disappointing" as the procedure is "one that destroys an animal's central means of communication merely for human convenience."

SPCA also objects to the use of training collars or electric collars as they cause pain and fear by delivering a low-level electric shock to the animal as a form of punishment or correction when it does something it should not.

She advised pet owners to first consider approaches which do not harm the animal's welfare such as obedience training to teach dogs socially acceptable behaviour.

The Agency for Animal Welfare said it e-mailed the Ministry of National Development (MND) on Thursday morning about the notice and received a positive e-mail response from Minister of State Desmond Lee on the same day. The notice was later removed.

The Housing Board said in response to media queries: "We apologise for causing anxiety to dog owners. The notice had meant to seek the assistance of dog owners to help manage the issue of excessive dog barking, arising from complaints. We agree it should have been handled more sensitively, and the notice has since been taken down."

The board added it has always advised and counselled dog owners to manage their pets' barking and behaviour through obedience training and that debarking should only be considered by pet owners as a last resort when all other measures, especially training, are ineffective and only if the dog owner considers it an option.

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