SINGAPORE — A four-month long investigation has shown that the owners of a dog that was euthanised in April, as well as the veterinarians involved, did not breach the law or code of ethics, said the Animal and Veterinary Service (AVS) on Tuesday (15 September).
There was "no failure in duty of care or cruelty" by the owners – a married couple – as they had provided Loki with its "basic needs” such as food, water, shelter and veterinary attention, and “treated it well", said AVS.
Three veterinarians from two clinics involved in the case also complied with the code of ethics for vets and other regulations such as the Animals and Birds Act. The current code states that "humane euthanasia of animals is an ethical veterinary procedure". Vets must also consider other treatment options and are empowered to reject owners' requests.
In addition, there was no breach of the Covid-19 (Temporary Measures) Act by all parties as "veterinary acts that uphold public safety", including the humane euthanasia of animals, were considered an essential service during Singapore’s partial lockdown.
Therefore, no further action will be taken against those involved.
Loki the dog
On 6 May, a volunteer at animal welfare group Exclusively Mongrels (EM) alleged in a Facebook post that Loki's owners had euthanised their healthy two-year-old dog. After the post went viral, netizens shared the owners’ information online.
The volunteer, who was accused by the couple of doxxing, was subsequently instructed to remove his post after police interviewed him.
EM then sued the owners for breach of contractual obligations. The group noted in a Facebook post that its adoption agreements include a specific clause that the adopted dog must be returned to EM should the adopter not be able to care for it. “They chose to put Loki down instead. Was it truly necessary? Did they exhaust all avenues to help Loki?”
The couple then counterclaimed for abuse of process and sued EM for defamation. The owners are said to have left Singapore in July.
On 7 May, AVS commenced investigations at the request of EM.
According to AVS, the couple adopted Loki from EM in December 2017 after viewing it at an adoption drive. At the time, Loki, who was about five to six months old, was "timid, afraid of loud noises, averse to men and nervous around children".
The dog subsequently grew to be about 25kg and became more "confident and confrontational", and had "panic attacks with no known trigger". AVS also found that during the two years after adoption, Loki attacked humans and dogs on about 10 occasions.
In one incident, it bit a child of the owners' friends on her face, when the child touched the dog's toys. She had to be taken to a hospital for treatment.
Owners tried various options
AVS said the owners had tried medication, training and exploring rehoming alternatives over a period of more than a year, before euthanising the dog. Behavioural modification medication prescribed by vets to treat the aggression and to reduce anxiety, did not succeed in resolving the issues.
A dog trainer who was engaged from November last year for four months, noted that Loki had "made some progress" during the first few sessions. However, the training had "limited effect" and it continued to bite people, said AVS.
In March, two attending vets from Mount Pleasant Veterinary Group suggested rehoming it to an animal shelter in Malaysia. However, this was curtailed when Malaysia's movement control order came into effect on 18 March.
Loki bit owner
On 19 April 19, Loki bit one of the owners on the lip without warning. He received stitches for the wound.
The owners had also noticed that Loki was uncomfortable and nervous around their newborn child, added AVS.
The following day, the owners called one of the Mount Pleasant Veterinary Group vets. "Given Loki's case history and continued unpredictability, the owners assessed that Loki was a risk to the family and requested to euthanise Loki. The veterinarian agreed, in the interest of public safety," said AVS.
That evening, Loki was put down in the presence of the owners.
AVS added that it has been conducting a review of the pet sector to raise the standards of animal health and welfare in Singapore since late 2019 and will continue to do so.
Louis Ng weighs in
In response to the AVS statement, Nee Soon Member of Parliament Louis Ng said in a Facebook post that the current code of ethics is “clearly insufficient” and must be reviewed and significantly improved.
The post, entitled “No breach?”, noted, “We should for example look into the requirement of returning the dog to the person or organisation you adopted the dog from. Why wasn’t Loki returned to Exclusively Mongrels Limited?”.
Ng, a former executive director of the animal welfare charity Acres, said he would continued to speak up in Parliament about this issue. He added that he had asked the Ministry of National Development to consider setting up an independent committee comprising vets, animal welfare groups and animal trainers to review and propose new guidelines on pet euthanasia.
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