Poor living conditions for animals in pet shops and farms: ACRES investigation

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ACRES Jalan Lekar signBy Howard Lee

An undercover investigation conducted by the Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (ACRES) from March to May this year found that pet shops and farms in Singapore, including those licensed by the Agri-food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) might not be practising good standards in terms of housing their pets.

ACRES highlighted a need for AVA’s licensing system, which grades pet shops for compliance standards, might need to be reviewed, as some of the pet shops found to have contravened the licensing scheme’s basic criteria for housing animals have received an A grading.

The study, conducted by AVA volunteers as a visual check on pet shops and farms, showed that 31 out of the 42 pet shops and farms surveyed flouted at least one of the 10 criteria ACRES identified from the licensing regime as basic requirements, which include housing animals in an appropriately sized cage and providing the animals clean drinking water at all times.

The 10 criteria selected by ACRES are from a total of 26 requirements under AVA’s published Pet Shop Licence Conditions. The regime also does not apply to pet farms.

However, the criteria was selected based on their ability to provide a purely visual evaluation, which would allow members of the public to monitor pet shops and farms in Singapore – something that ACRES hopes to encourage the public to do to help prevent animal abuse, said Ms Noelle Seet, Head of Campaigns at ACRES.

“There is an urgent need for pet shops and farms to comply with the existing licence conditions,” said Ms Seet. “We will continue to work closely with AVA by complementing their efforts.”

Image -ACRES
Image -ACRES

“However, as the breaches are obvious upon a purely visual examination, members of the public are equally capable of monitoring pet shops and farms in Singapore. We encourage the public to be the check and balance of the pet industry as consumer demand wields much influence over industry practices.”

She proposed that, on its part, AVA can do better by being stricter in its enforcement activities of pet shops, such as increasing the frequency of spot checks.

Ms Seet also noted that pet farms are licensed separately with AVA, for which the standards are not made known to the public.

However, many of these farms also double as pet shops putting up animals for sale, and hence should be regulated like pet shops.

On how AVA can promote greater consumer awareness of deplorable housing conditions at pet shops, Ms Anbarasi Boopal, group director at ACRES, suggested that AVA can consider adding animal housing conditions into its current awareness campaign for responsible pet ownership.

When asked if ACRES plans to launch a separate evaluation standard or pet shops, Ms Anbarasi said that there were no such plans, but ACRES will continue to work to AVA to improve the evaluation criteria in licensing framework. ACRES has also sent the investigation report to AVA.

Meanwhile, consumers who witness such animal housing conditions can report them to AVA (Animal Response Centre: 1800 476 1600) or request for help from ACRES (+65 6892 9821, [email protected]).

The 10 criteria used for visual checks, extracted from AVA’s pet shop licensing regime:

  1. That the length of cage/ enclosure was at least 2 times the length of the animal from nose to base of tail.
  2. That the width/ depth of cage /enclosure were at least 1½ times the length of the animal from nose to base of tail.
  3. That the height of cage/ enclosure allowed the animal to comfortably stand upright on its hind legs.
  4. That the cage/ enclosure structure was in good condition, and kept clean and dry. That it was safe and comfortable for the animals.
  5. That the flooring provided firm and comfortable support for the animals. If the floor was made of thin wire or if the wire mesh had gaps larger than 1 cm by 1 cm, that mats covered at least half the floor area.
  6. That no pregnant or nursing animals were on display.
  7. That clean drinking water was provided at all times, and the drinking containers kept clean.
  8. That animals for grooming were not kept together with animals for sale.
  9. That only breeds approved by AVA were displayed for sale. (Banned breeds are the Pit Bull, Akita, Neapolitan Mastiff, Tosa, Dogo Argentino, Fila Brasileiro, Boerboel, Perro de Presa Canario, and cross breeds of any of these)
  10. That shops with a grade displayed their latest Grade decal prominently.

Key findings of the investigation:

  • 21 out of 29 pet shops breached one or more of the 10 criteria identified by ACRES that relate to animal welfare conditions for housing and displaying pets.
  • 11 out of 29 pet shops (38%) breached one or more of the most basic animal welfare conditions.
  • 10 of the 12 farms (83%) breached two or more of the most basic animal welfare conditions.
  • Of the 11, seven received an A grade under AVA’s Pet Shop Grading Scheme, dated 26 February 2015.
  • 10 out of 29 pet shops (34%) failed to display their Grades.
  • Only 8 out of 29 pet shops (28%) complied with all 10 criteria.

Key recommendations from ACRES:

  • AVA to educate the public on animal welfare conditions for pet shops and farms
  • No disparity between the animal welfare conditions that pet shops and farms’ retail spaces are required to adhere to
  • Breeding facilities to be made accessible to the public, for consumers to make informed choices
  • Pet farms to be graded
  • Stricter enforcement of the Pet Shop Licence Conditions, and more frequent spot checks by AVA,to ensure currency of the grades conferred

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