Ban children under 16 from buying pets, says SPCA

A bloodied cat at the void deck of a Tampines HDB block in Oct last year.

SINGAPORE - Children aged under 16, who do not have the maturity or means to take care of pets, should be banned from buying them.

This was one of the recommendations made by the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) in a draft proposal calling for the Government to make changes to the animal cruelty act by end of this year, reported The Straits Times (ST).

SPCA suggested that teenagers are more prone to impulse buying, which could lead to pets being abandoned once the novelty wears off.

According to the same report, the society also wants the Government to ban animal cruelty offenders from keeping pets, to publish a list of what constitutes as animal cruelty, and to double the maximum penalties of those who abuse animals.

Between July last year and June this year, SPCA received 987 reports of animal cruelty, which is a 15 per cent spike compared to the preceeding 12 months. Of which, dogs being confined in cages for extended periods made up a third of the most recent complaints.

It recommended that having tougher penalties could deter offenders from causing harm to animals. For example, by increasing fines for animal abuse offences to $20,000 or up to two years' jail or both. In addition, fines collected could be channelled toward a fund for the care of animals.

Banning the sale of pets to under-16s without parental consent could also be another way to deal with problem, said the society, citing a case study that teenagers in Europe are not allowed to buy animals unless a parent is present.

It also said that there have been cases of abusers avoiding prosecution due to uncertainty about what counts as mental suffering to animals, which it claimed was not sufficiently covered under the current law.

It questioned practices such as the use of electric collars and other painful aids to train pets, shortening their tails for cosmetic reasons and keeping animals prone to fighting, like Siamese fighting fish, in close quarters.

'It is necessary to recognise that brutal cruelty is not the only way to harm an animal,' it said in its draft.

The society also recommended a committee separate from the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) be set up to advise the Government on animal welfare matters.

The public can give feedback on the proposals online at www.spca.org.sg/lawreview.html before Dec 4.