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Freelance pet boarders unaware of AVA rules, disagree that tighter regulation is needed

SINGAPORE — Trying to find a place to board their pets while on holiday can be challenging for owners here due to the haphazard nature of the industry, where service providers range from commercial operators to freelancers who operate out of their own homes.

The exterior of Platinium Dogs Club, a pet boarding house that has recently come under fire for alleged animal abuse.

The exterior of Platinium Dogs Club, a pet boarding house that has recently come under fire for alleged animal abuse.

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SINGAPORE — Trying to find a place to board their pets while on holiday can be challenging for owners here due to the haphazard nature of the industry, where service providers range from commercial operators to freelancers who operate out of their own homes.

Pet owners told TODAY that standards vary from one operator to another, and that regulations are not enforced in some.

The pet boarding industry has come under the spotlight in recent days after allegations of animal abuse by pet boarding house Platinium Dogs Club.

“There’s no proper set of regulations on what to provide, with different boarding places providing different things,” said cat owner Mary Lim, 28, who leaves her cat at a pet boarding house whenever she travels.

According to the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA), while pet boarders do not require licences, they must receive approval from the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) to host pet boarding facilities on their premises. Pet boarding facilities should be located in suitable farm areas or on commercial premises such as shopping complexes so as not to cause disamenities to the surrounding residents.

Pet boarding houses are not allowed to be located on residential premises intended primarily for residential use unless they have approval from the URA. The URA said that enforcement action would be taken if there is an infringement.

Several freelance pet boarders whom TODAY spoke to said that they were unaware of these rules and disagreed that there is a need for tighter regulations. Some feel that the industry is too large to be regulated. Pet boarders who use their residences usually publicise their services online or through apps such as Pawshake, which matches pet owners to available pet boarders.

Mr Kelis Tham, 36, who provides pet boarding services from his home, suggested that the authorities introduce guidelines for pet boarders instead. “These guidelines can detail how many times a day a sitter should update the pet owner and how much space pets should be given to roam.”

Freelance pet sitter Ruby, 44, who only wished to disclose her first name, called on AVA to crack down on freelancers who take in more pets than they can handle to earn more profits, rather than “small fry” like herself who do it out of passion.

A spokesperson for pet hotel Pawty Paws said that stricter requirements for setting up a pet boarding house would benefit the industry. Currently, commercial pet boarding houses are only required to obtain URA approval to set up a pet boarding house.

However, the spokesperson said that unlike boarding houses which are located in more isolated areas, Pawty Paws, which operates in a commercial area in Joo Chiat, was subject to additional requirements by the URA. These included being free of urine and poop odour, and ensuring that noise levels were kept low.

The spokesperson believes that tighter regulation is needed on boarding houses run out of homes to ensure that they meet the same stringent requirements as those located in commercial areas.

“If bungalows are used to house the dogs, then neighbours could complain about the noise or the smell. When such complaints are raised to the authorities, the dogs would have to be shifted and the constant shifting would be bad for the dog’s welfare,” said the spokesperson.

ONUS ON OWNERS TO CONDUCT ‘DUE DILIGENCE’

Alexandra, a 26-year old university student who provides part-time pet boarding services from her home, said that owners should do their “due diligence”, such as by visiting boarding houses, before deciding where to leave their pets.

From cat owner Ms Lim’s own experience, the background checks are necessary. The first time she left her pet cat, Tiger, at a cat hotel in the east for eight days, he picked up a fungal infection there.

That was in October 2017. The next time she needed to board her cat, Ms Lim said she asked questions such as what the boarding house’s routine was like, how often they cleared the litter bin, how often they let the cats out to play and how frequently the facilities were cleaned.

Ms Joanne Chua, 35, who has two shitzu maltese mixed dogs, likened her own search for a pet boarding house to that of a child care centre: “When we were searching for a place to board our pets, we would always visit the places first.” Ms Chua said she considered cleanliness and the experience of the staff before finally settling on a boarding house for her dogs.

The pet boarding industry has been under scrutiny in the past week following allegations of animal abuse by pet boarding house Platinium Dogs Club, which was run out of a rented semi-detached house in Bukit Panjang.

One pet owner, Angeline Png, claimed that her dog had died under the care of Platinium Dogs Club. Another pet owner, Elaine Mao, said that her Shetland sheepdog, which she had left at the boarding house, had gone missing.

Authorities raided the premises of Platinium Dogs Club on Dec 29 and found 18 dogs and a rabbit during its inspections. Most of the animals have been returned to their owners.

On Jan 5, Minister for Home Affairs and Law K Shanmugam said in a Facebook post that the AVA and the police were actively investigating “several serious allegations” against Platinium Dogs Club and that those who engaged in illegal acts would face consequences.

The AVA said that under the Animal & Birds Act, offenders who failed in their duty of care towards the animals in the course of conducting an animal-related business may face up to a maximum fine of S$40,000 and/or a jail term of two years, if convicted.

 

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