On Sunday (June 7), Member of Parliament (MP) for Nee Soon Group Representation Constituency Louis Ng invited members of the public to take part in a public consultation to establish clearer rules on euthanizing pet dogs. This came after two-and-a-half-year-old mongrel, Loki, was put down by a veterinarian surgeon as requested by the owner which sparked online outrage.
On May 18, a lawsuit was filed against the owner of Loki by animal welfare group Exclusively Mongrels (also where Loki was adopted from) for “outrageous” breach of the adoption agreement that required the owner to consult the adoption centre before taking such an action.
This incident prompted Mr Ng, who is the founder of welfare group Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (Acres), to take to Facebook to announce that he is working with a group of veterinarians to propose a set of recommendations to be submitted to the Ministry of National Development.
New regulations are being called for owners to explore all options such as finding a new home or retraining aggressive pets before considering euthanization. The current regulations, however, do not specifically address the demand for euthanizing a healthy animal.
Putting an end to “convenience euthanasia”
Mr Ng draws attention to implementing measures to end “convenience euthanasia”. He suggested that in the case of aggressive pets, all options have to be explored such as showing proof of engaging a trainer and that the trainer has to certify if the pet is deemed impossible to train. He proposes that owners have to show evidence that they have tried to find a new home for the pet.
Mr Ng also added that vets should be required to hold off a minimum of seven days before putting down the animal in order to seek adoption alternatives. A “cooling off” period may not only give pet owners time to rethink their decision but also for Nparks and animal welfare groups to try to find a new home for the pet.
“These proposed measures might cause some inconvenience to people wanting to euthanize their dog or cat, but they are necessary to ensure that we exhaust all available options before taking the life of a healthy animal”, he said.
Reactions to Reviewing Euthanasia Guidelines
In interviews conducted by TODAY, some vets expressed their concerns over Mr Ng’s proposal.
Dr Chua Hui Li, the primary head vet of house-call practice The Housecall Vet said that Singapore should revise its animal euthanasia guidelines.
“I think we really need the authorities to come down and actually state that before we put down an aggressive dog, there should be steps taken to ensure that this dog cannot be restrained, cannot be managed and therefore poses a serious threat to humans,” she said.
Some vets, however, have concerns regarding the one-week waiting period. Dr Kenneth Tong, founder of Animal and Avian Veterinary clinic said, “You need to give the vet some flexibility for emergencies and exceptional cases. When you make this a law… it’s too stiff.”
Concerns were also voiced in regards to having an aggressive pet at home with young children. Dr Michelle Loh, who runs vet house-call practice Polaris Veterinary Services said that vets should have the authority to decide when to put down an animal if it poses a threat to human safety and cannot be rehomed or retrained.
Shanmugan: “too quick to jump to conclusions”
Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugan urge netizens to stop sending threats to the veterinary clinic that put down Loki. He said that people were too quick to jump to conclusions.
“I can understand people being upset, and wanting justice. No one likes to see a puppy, full of life, put down. But we have to get all the facts first, understand why the vet in this matter came to a view,” he wrote online. “Most of us don’t go out and hit people when we are angry. The same applies, on the net. We can’t go and hit out at people, whenever we feel that some injustice has been done, we can’t just react and hit out, with our emotions, when other people are involved.”
In his post, he included an excerpt of an email from an anonymous senior veterinarian who expressed distress over “cyberbullying”. Shanmugam seeks understanding from netizens to understand that “no one likes to see a puppy, full of life, put down” and hopes that Singapore can become a “society where people will first get the facts, then express our feelings.”
His full post can be found here.