Desmond Lee: A multi-pronged approach by AVA to manage animal population and mitigate health and safety concerns

Source : Channel News Asia.

Senior Minister of State for National Development, Desmond Lee said that Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) takes a multi-pronged approach, involving various stakeholders, to manage the animal population and mitigate health and safety concerns.

This is his response to questions filed by Mr Louis Ng Kok Kwang, MP for Nee Soon GRC who asked the Minister for National Development  for each year in the past three years, how much does the Ministry spends on culling dogs, cats and monkeys respectively, whether the Ministry expects an increase in culling expenditure in the next three years, whether the Ministry has conducted scientific research on the effectiveness of culling on population control, and whether the Ministry is conducting scientific research into measures other than culling to address the human-animal conflicts.

The Minister said that it first undertakes an assessment of potential threats that animals might pose to public health and safety.

Mr Lee said that if there are no significant public health and safety concerns, AVA will work with the public to mitigate any potential nuisance issues. While, if there are significant health and safety concerns, then AVA will have to act.

Where feasible, the Minister said that AVA will work with stakeholders, including animal welfare groups (AWGs) and organisations like Wildlife Reserves Singapore, to relocate or rehome these animals.

“Culling is used only as a last resort, a point which my colleague MOS Koh Poh Koon had made at the last sitting,” he stressed.

“AVA does not track the expenditure it incurs on culling animals as this is only a small part of AVA’s work,” he added.

Mr Lee said that AVA will continue to conduct relevant studies and research to inform its policies and facilitate a science-based approach to animal management. For example, AVA engaged a team of local and overseas academics in November 2015 to start a 3-year stray dog study, in which it will estimate the stray dog population in Singapore, look at the ecological and biological aspects of stray dogs, and determine the efficacy of various population management options such as sterilisation.

He also noted that AVA has also been carrying out similar studies on birds, as well as conducting trials to test the effectiveness of various bird deterrent methods.

“Our animal welfare groups are also pitching in, for example by conducting sterilisation on Pulau Ubin as well as Jurong Island,” he added.

The Minister then said that the Government also need the community to do their part in helping to reduce potential animal-human conflicts in our society.  For example, if everyone practises responsible pet ownership and refrains from feeding strays, the number of stray animals will fall and present a much smaller problem.

“AVA has been and will continue to work with various Animal Welfare Groups (AWGs) on public education for responsible pet ownership,” he said.

In a follow up question, Mr Louis asked the Minister on the amount of money that AVA has to pay for each monkey, cat, or dog that has been caught.

The Minister said that he does not have the figure for the questions asked. However, he said that he is aware that the total budget for the Animal Control Management Operations for 2016 is $800,000.

Mr Ng also asked, as the Minister mentioned assessment, to know who conducts the assessment.

The Minister said that AVA look at the nature of the complaints or feedback then verify the facts. As for the surveillance, whether by AVA officers or deployment of the cameras are often used.

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