All parties involved in the ongoing Platinium Dogs Club saga should let the authorities carry out the investigations, and not take the law into their own hands, said Law and Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam yesterday.
The pet boarding facility in Bukit Panjang was raided by the authorities on Dec 29 and Dec 31 last year following complaints of animal abuse. The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) then took temporary custody of 18 dogs and a rabbit found on the premises.
Both the AVA and police are actively investigating "several serious allegations" and "Singaporeans can rest assured: There will be thorough investigations and there will be due process. Anyone who has engaged in illegal acts will face the consequences", said Mr Shanmugam in a Facebook post.
He added that "there are also allegations that some people, in response, have also acted wrongly, and taken the law into their own hands" and these "allegations will also be investigated".
The AVA and police reiterated that final point in a joint statement yesterday, saying that the investigations will be thorough and fair.
They also advised the public not to take matters into their own hands or engage in any actions that may violate the law or cause harm to themselves and others. They said the public should also refrain from speculation, and let the investigations take their course.
Last Wednesday afternoon, a woman in her 30s, who gave her name as Ms Mao, and 10 of her friends gathered outside a semi-detached house at 7 Galistan Avenue, the address of Platinium Dogs Club.
They went to confront the alleged owner of the boarding house on the whereabouts of Ms Mao's 7½-year-old shetland sheepdog, which had been left at the centre but had gone missing.
Detailing the events of that day, the joint statement by AVA and the police said: "Despite advice by the police officers to give way for their safety, a 40-year-old man in the group remained in the path of the reversing car as it slowly reversed out of the (Platinium Dogs Club) premises.
"The man later alleged that there was contact and pain in his knees, and was conveyed to Ng Teng Fong General Hospital for outpatient treatment."
The 33-year-old driver of the vehicle, along with a group of seven women and four men, including the injured man, are assisting with police investigations.
The ongoing saga has led to an online petition calling for stiffer penalties against animal abusers garnering more than 50,000 signatures since it was set up last Thursday.
It has also sparked vitriol on social media, with netizens posting a host of negative comments and personal information about Platinium Dogs Club's alleged owner.
Dr Jaipal Singh Gill, executive director of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA), which was involved in the raids, agreed with the call for calm.
While it is important that anyone who harms animals get dealt with by the law, he said, it is crucial to let the law take its own course.
"The authorities were involved in the case quite early on, and have received evidence from quite a number of people, including the SPCA," he told The Sunday Times.
"I think we can leave the authorities to it. We do want to see action being taken, and we are upset as well. It's understandable. But the best thing we can do is to lend our voice, advocate strongly for animals, and aid and assist the authorities in any way we can."
Under the Animals and Birds Act, those who fail in their duty of care towards animals in the course of conducting an animal-related business can be fined up to $40,000 and jailed for two years.
While he was not condoning it, president of animal welfare group Voices for Animals, Mr Derrick Tan, was sympathetic to the plight of Ms Mao, who, in a video posted online, is seen pleading with Platinium Dogs Club's alleged owner for information on her pet.
The actions of her and her friends were driven by desperation, Mr Tan noted.
One issue that has surfaced during this saga is the accountability of such animal boarding homes.
Mr Tan said he was aware that in some such facilities, there are people who work part time and have no training and no prior experience in the area.
"So when things happen, like dogs fight, or a dog falls sick, or a dog escapes, they do not know how to deal with it," said Mr Tan, who is also general manager of dog-care centre Sunny Heights.
Dr Gill stressed that in all pet boarding facilities, the key things to look out for are animal welfare and cleanliness.
While the amount of space is an important factor, there are others too, such as whether there is enough light and ventilation, adequate hygiene and disease control, and safety precautions in place, he added.
The AVA launched the Code of Animal Welfare (for Pet Industry) in October 2016. It establishes minimum standards and best practices on animal housing, management and care, which pet businesses are expected to comply with and encouraged to adopt.
It noted then, however, that "failure to meet a minimum standard under the code is not an offence, but such incidents can be used to support prosecution or other enforcement actions in animal welfare cases".