SINGAPORE - Standards in the pet sector will be reviewed and tightened by the National Parks Board (NParks) to protect animal health and welfare.
The board will work with pet industry stakeholders like boarders and breeders to discuss initiatives such as staff training to improve animal handling and care, as well as accreditation and licensing of service providers.
It will also improve animal traceability, possibly exploring the use of pet microchips that are enabled by Near Field Communication (NFC), a technology that can be read by mobile phones.
NParks will be conducting focus groups with breeders, boarders, pet associations and welfare groups. There will also be online public consultation in the last quarter of the year, with findings to be shared early next year.
The possible measures and areas under review were announced by Ms Sun Xueling, Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Home Affairs and National Development on Saturday (Aug 17). She was speaking at a Pets' Day Out event organised by NParks and held for the first time at Hortpark.
The event will be a regular gathering on every third Saturday of the month for the pet community. It features pets from shelters who need rehoming, offers free health checks and microchipping services, and helps owners learn more through talks and workshops.
Twelve animal welfare groups and 27 pet businesses participated in the event at Hortpark.
Ms Sun said: "Beyond such outreach events, we also want to work with our stakeholders and the wider community to shape solutions and policies related to pet issues.
"For instance, concerns about the varying standards and sometimes poor practices of pet breeders and boarders have come to our attention...it is timely for NParks to work with the pet industry to raise the standards of such service providers."
This can be done through measures such as accrediting service providers and training staff. There are currently 25 licensed pet farms in Singapore, excluding the businesses that do not operate on farm land.
Ms Sun added that NParks is also looking at improving how animals are traced so that infected pets can be tracked and the authorities can respond quickly to control the spread of diseases. Improving tracing also means lost pets can be found by their owners more easily.
Dogs currently are tagged with microchips that can only be read by a specific type of scanner. NParks is exploring the use of NFC so that anyone with a mobile phone can quickly scan a pet's microchip and find its clinical history and owner information.
"To truly safeguard animal health and welfare, we must ensure responsibility and a duty of care along the value chain for which our pets and community animals come into contact with," Ms Sun said.
"So we need to work with breeders, boarders, pet associations, pet businesses, veterinarians, animal welfare groups and the public to decide on those common standards to adhere to and to leverage technology where possible."
In January, a shetland sheepdog was reported to have died while it was boarded at Platinum Dogs Club. In April, a maltese who was left in the care of Board N’ Play died after a swimming incident on Sentosa. The case sparked criticism after the company was found to have engaged tourists as volunteers to care for the animals.
Mr Matthew Lim, president of the Pet Enterprises and Trade Association, said raising standards is especially urgent and important at this time.
"We want the industry to have good practices. There is a lack of knowledge and public education about pet boarding practices and it can be hard to trace boarders. Sometimes people want to take the low cost route as well. There should be a list of accredited boarders and guidelines for the public so they know what to look out for," he said.
Veterinarian Kenneth Tong, 39, who runs a clinic in Yishun, added: "More people have pets now and need to board them on holiday. Recent issues have shown that boarders need accountability. Now there are different prices and standards."