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Govt agency’s 4-month probe clears Loki the dog’s owner, vets of any ethical breach over euthanisation

SINGAPORE — A four-month investigation by the Animal and Veterinary Service (AVS) into the euthanising of an adopted dog named Loki has found that the owners did not commit animal abuse under the Animals and Birds Act.

An investigation into the euthanising of Loki the dog (pictured) found that from 2018 to 2019, it had panic attacks with no known trigger and it was involved in 12 separate biting incidents.

An investigation into the euthanising of Loki the dog (pictured) found that from 2018 to 2019, it had panic attacks with no known trigger and it was involved in 12 separate biting incidents.

 

  • An AVS investigation found that Loki’s owners did not breach their duty of care or commit animal abuse under the Animals and Birds Act
  • The vets involved in the dog’s euthanisation did not breach their code of ethics, it found
  • Investigations revealed that Loki had bitten people and other dogs on 12 occasions
  • The report also detailed the actions Loki’s owners took before euthanising their pet

 

 

SINGAPORE — A four-month investigation by Animal and Veterinary Service (AVS) into the euthanising of an adopted dog named Loki has found that the owners did not commit animal abuse under the Animals and Birds Act.

It also concluded that the veterinary surgeons involved did not breach their code of ethics.

Earlier this year, a Facebook post about Loki’s euthanasia went viral on social media.

On Tuesday (Sept 15), the AVS released a report on its findings and set out the severity of Loki’s behavioural issues, noting that it had bitten people and other dogs about 12 times. These included a child who had to get stitches under her eye as well as its owner who was bitten on the lip.

AVS also detailed the steps that Loki’s owners had taken before eventually turning to the last resort of euthanising their pet. These steps included medication, training and a bid to rehome the dog.

The owners are a couple with a newborn baby and they had prior experience of keeping dogs as pets.

AVS interviewed 22 people who had seen Loki and his owners interacting, such as fellow dog owners who visited the same dog run and the owners’ neighbours, to verify Loki’s behaviour patterns.

On May 6, Facebook user Theng Wei Gan, a staff member of animal welfare group Exclusively Mongrels (EM), posted about Loki’s euthanasia on the social media platform and it went viral. The couple adopted Loki from EM. The post mentioned Loki biting people and said that Loki was healthy.

The post has since been taken down after Loki’s owners reported him to the police for alleged doxxing — publishing private information about someone on the internet.

AVS started investigations into Loki’s death after receiving a complaint from EM about the euthanising of the dog on May 7.

FROM ADOPTION TO EUTHANISATION

Loki was adopted by the couple in December 2017 when the dog was five months old, and was “timid, afraid of loud noises, averse to men and nervous around children”.

From 2018 to 2019, Loki grew to be about 25kg, and became more confident and confrontational. It had panic attacks with no known trigger, and it was involved in 12 separate biting incidents.

These included:

  •  

    A family friend was bitten when he was greeting and petting Loki

  •  

    A family friend sustained extensive bruising and teeth marks on her right thigh. She had not touched or provoked Loki and was standing 1m from it

  •  

    A relative staying with the family was bitten on the arm when reaching for a plate in the kitchen

  •  

    The child of a family friend was bitten under her eye when she touched Loki’s toys while at the owner’s home. She was taken to a hospital's accident and emergency department

  •  

    The owner was bitten on the lips when he was reaching over Loki. He went to the hospital and his wound needed stitches

 

In January 2019, the owners decided to seek help because Loki would get anxious and uneasy if either owners were not around, AVS said.

They visited a vet who conducted a blood test, determining that the dog’s aggression was not caused by any hormonal imbalances, and prescribed medicine to manage Loki’s separation anxiety.

The couple visited another vet at another clinic, Mount Pleasant Veterinary Group, after Loki was bitten by another dog in May 2019. That vet noted that Loki was “skittish and anxious”.

After seeking help for Loki’s behaviour on two Facebook groups — Family of EM and Singapore Special Dogs — in November 2019, the owners sent the dog for training sessions for four months up until February this year, AVS said.

“The trainer noticed that there was some improvement, but aggression was still there,” the report said.

During the training period, Loki bit a family friend’s child in the face, prompting the owners to inform the trainer in February that they were considering euthanising Loki. However, the trainer tried to convince them to consider other options such as continuing training, rehoming Loki or giving it mood-altering medication along with behavioural rehabilitation.

The owners then took Loki back to Mount Pleasant Veterinary Group where two vets suggested that Loki could be rehomed at an animal shelter in Malaysia.

However, these plans had to be put on hold as Malaysia closed its borders owing to Covid-19, so Loki’s owners decided to keep the animal in the meantime.

In April, the owners had a baby and noticed that “Loki was uncomfortable and nervous around their newborn child”, AVS noted.

As the husband was reaching over Loki to take a cover on which he was lying, the dog attacked him on the lips and he needed to visit the accident and emergency department of a hospital for stitches, a tetanus vaccination and antibiotics on April 19.

The wife later contacted the first clinic and the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) to ask for Loki to be euthanised, but she was either rejected or redirected.

She also contacted AVS to clarify if the procedure was allowed during the circuit breaker period when Singapore imposed stay-home curbs. She was informed that it was allowed because it was in the interest of public safety.

She later told the vets at Mount Pleasant Veterinary Group of the attack and made an appointment to have Loki euthanised.

The two vets both agreed that the owners had explored “all other options, and that Loki’s aggression and unpredictability was a risk to the family’s safety”.

Loki was euthanised on April 20 in the presence of the owners.

While AVS did not identify the clinic, Mount Pleasant Veterinary Group released a statement about its involvement in the euthanasia of Loki on May 13.

The AVS’ code of conduct for vets states that “veterinarians should take into account public safety and animal welfare in deciding on the course of treatment for an animal”.

It also states that they must consider other treatment options before considering euthanaisa and they can also reject an owner’s request for this measure if it is deemed inappropriate.

Member of Parliament Louis Ng commented in a Facebook post on Tuesday that the code of ethics is “clearly insufficient” and needs to be reviewed.

Mr Ng also questioned why the dog was not returned to EM, and called for an "independent committee comprising of vets, animal welfare groups and animal trainers to review and propose the new guidelines on pet euthanasia”.

When asked, AVS said it was understood that the owners did not try to rehome Loki by contacting EM, but noted that this was not part of its investigation.

Since late last year, AVS has been reviewing the pet sector to raise the standards of animal health and welfare and will continue to do so.

It has formed a work group chaired by the Mr Tan Kiat How, Minister of State in the Prime Minister's Office and for National Development, to study the standards and guidelines related to the rehoming and adoption of animals in Singapore.

Earlier this year, EM sued Loki’s owners, alleging that they had breached the adoption agreement. The parties are engaged in mediation sessions.

Related topics

euthanasia animal abuse Loki AVS investigation Louis Ng

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