Parliament: Definition of 'animals' under Road Traffic Act to be reviewed, says Desmond Lee

Monkeys seen on the road along Old Upper Thomson Road on June 25, 2012.
Monkeys seen on the road along Old Upper Thomson Road on June 25, 2012. PHOTO: THE NEW PAPER

SINGAPORE - The definition of "animals" under the Road Traffic Act will be reviewed to see if it can be aligned with the definition under the Animals and Birds Act, Senior Minister of State for Home Affairs Desmond Lee said on Monday (May 9).

But he pointed out that the definitions were not scoped in the same way, as the objectives of both Acts are different.

The Animals and Birds Act aims to prevent the introduction and spread of diseases through animals, control the movement of animals, prevent cruelty to animals, and safeguard the general welfare of animals in Singapore, Mr Lee told Parliament.

The Road Traffic Act, on the other hand, seeks to protect the safety of road users, including motorists, cyclists and pedestrians.

Enacted on Jan 1, 1963, the Road Traffic Act defines an "animal" as "any horse, cattle, ass, mule, sheep, pig, goat or dog". It requires motorists to stop and help these animals if they knock them down.

Mr Lee said the specific provision in the Road Traffic Act relating to animals had been confined to farm animals of commercial value. "The original intent of the legislation was to ensure restitution to their owners should an accident occur," he said.

On whether all motorists should stop if an animal is hit, Mr Lee said the primary requirement is safety.

"They should stop, if it is safe to do so. If the motorist requires assistance in attending to the animal, he can contact the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore or Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals."

He was responding to a question from Mr Louis Ng (Nee Soon GRC), who asked if the Ministry of Home Affairs would consider updating and aligning the definition of "animals" in the Road Traffic Act with the definition in the Animals and Birds Act to ensure that there is alignment of legislation across the statutes.

Prior to this, animal welfare groups in Singapore have called for the Government to amend the definition of animals under the Road Traffic Act, so that it includes other animals such as cats, and wild animals which are potential victims of road accidents.

In October 2014, the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (Acres) had argued in an appeal letter to the Ministry of Home Affairs that a classification system which refers mainly to farm animals "is not at all relevant in today's context", since with the exception of the dog, the animals mentioned are not owned by the general populace.

The groups added that amending the Act will "make it more relevant in a modernised context, especially in relation to the types of animals that have been typically involved in road accidents today".