A man was handed the maximum fine for animal cruelty for the first time in Singapore on Thursday, after his eight-year-old emaciated dog died from negligence.
Lim Soo Seng, a 76-year-old businessman, was fined $10,000 after being convicted for failing to seek medical attention for his dog, which according to forensic investigation could have been starved “for months”.
After the mixed-breed female, named Chilli, died last May, he brought her body to the Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) for disposal.
She was found “to have been chronically starved or malnourished, possibly for months” before its death, according to the findings of the SPCA veterinarian, who handed the dog’s body to the Agri-food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) for a post-mortem examination. This found that the dog suffered multi-organ dysfunction from its exceedingly-emaciated body condition, said the AVA in a statement on Thursday.
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Lim had adopted the dog from the SPCA seven years ago when it was one, and when he hired a helper about a year ago, she took over its care. The AVA said the helper claimed that she fed the dog with dry food twice a day, and had told Lim in April that it was becoming very thin.
Lim, however, failed to bring the dog to see the vet, as he was “busy”, said the AVA. The helper then alerted Lim’s wife to the situation when she noticed that it had stopped eating on 16 May. The latter said she would ask Lim to take the dog to the vet, but the dog died a day later.
In a report on the case by The Straits Times, Lim’s lawyer said that apart from Chilli, the family had three other toy dogs which were “well-loved”, and that despite being provided with “more than adequate food each day”, Chilli had always appeared very lean since she was adopted.
The defense counsel reportedly said Lim did not bring Chilli to a vet because he did not observe any change in her appetite — a mistake on his part, and he was “extremely remorseful” for his lack of care and supervision.
When news of the case broke on Thursday, animal lovers online expressed outrage at the fact that Lim was not jailed for his act of cruelty and negligence.
“No jail time??? What kind of message is the AGC sending to the public???” asked a user named Henry Tan. “That the rich can get away with just a fine for extreme animal abuse???”
“He should be serving time for such cruelty,” added user Phyllis Tan. Another commenter, Betty Nah, wrote, “Should throw him in jail and give him the same treatment !!! A fine is just a slap on his wrist…. Our judges are getting too kind to these people!"
Anyone who is found guilty of animal cruelty in court can be fined up to $10,000 and/or jailed for up to a year, although Law Minister K Shanmugam indicated in January that recommendations from the Animal Welfare Legislation Review Committee may quintuple the maximum fine and triple the existing applicable jail term.
Shanmugam also said new legislation against animal abuse will be passed this year.