Parliament: AVA to review rules governing pet boarding businesses

Wong Casandra
Senior Reporter
A photo taken of Platinium Dogs Club premise  on 31 December, 2018. (Yahoo News Singapore file photo)

The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) plans to review regulations governing the pet industry including pet boarding businesses, said Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Home Affairs and National Development Sun Xueling on Wednesday (13 February).

“The AVA intends to undertake a holistic review of the regulatory approach for the pet industry, including how best to regulate pet boarding businesses,” said Sun in Parliament.

As part of the review, the authority will engage stakeholders, including pet owners, industry players, and animal welfare groups, she added.

Currently, the AVA licenses pet shops and pet farms, some of which have commercial pet boarding facilities.

Sun was responding to a question posed by Nee Soon GRC Member of Parliament Louis Ng on whether the Ministry of National Development, which oversees the AVA, will introduce a licensing requirement for pet boarding businesses on top of the standards and best practices that they have to observe under the Code of Animal Welfare (for the Pet Industry).

Pet boarding businesses, as well as pet cremation service providers, were recently in the media spotlight, following the death and subsequent cremation of a seven-year-old Shetland sheepdog without its owner’s knowledge during its stay at Platinium Dogs Club.

Prior to the incident in December last year, multiple allegations of animal negligence had been made by owners whose dogs were placed under Platinium’s care.

In the same month, another dog, a 14-year-old Jack Russell Terrier, had allegedly died during its stay at the facility and at least three dogs were reportedly sent to be cremated.

Ng also asked if the AVA has a list of pet boarders to conduct spot checks on their premises to prevent cases of animal abuse while the review is ongoing.

Sun said the AVA has a list of commercial pet boarders located within pet farms, while later noting that those that operate outside of farmland, such as Platinium, are not required to be licensed by the authority.

“(That) perhaps is where the issue lies, whether we have a list of pet boarders outside pet farms. I hope we can provide some timeframe of how long this review is going to take because I am pretty sure that would be the questions on the ground,” said Ng, in response to Sun’s comments.

Declining to provide a timeline, Sun also said: “We also need to be mindful that there are many pet boarders out there who are do-gooders, well-meaning pet lovers who provide pet boarding facilities.”

Pet cremation service providers are similarly not required to be licensed by the AVA. Likewise, approval from the authority must be sought for AVA-licensed premises – pet shops or veterinary clinics, for instance – if they wish to conduct ancillary activities, such as animal cremation, in their premises.

On 1 February, Ng wrote in a Facebook post that he would table a question on pet boarding licensing in Parliament, following the controversy surrounding Platinium. “Many of you have written to me and I share your concerns and do agree that our legislation needs to be updated,” he said.

As part of its investigation into Platinium, the AVA conducted two raids on the facility’s premises, a private semi-detached house at Galistan Avenue, and took 18 dogs and one rabbit into temporary custody.

A 30-year-old woman, the operator of Platinium, was later arrested on 6 January and released on bail two days later. The AVA’s investigation is still ongoing and the woman remains out on bail.

All pet business operators, including pet boarders, have a duty of care towards the animals they handle, said Sun.

“Beyond the Code of Animal Welfare, the AVA can take enforcement action against pet boarding businesses under the Animals and Birds Act for failing in this duty of care, or for animal cruelty,” she added.

Under the Act, a person who is convicted of failing to care for animals in the course of conducting an animal-related business may be fined up to $40,000, jailed up to two years, or both.

Related stories:

Need for tighter rules on pet cremation services following Platinium saga: AWOs

Platinium Dogs Club: Timeline of saga surrounding controversial pet boarding facility