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MP Louis Ng's call to further regulate euthanising pets draws range of views from vets

SINGAPORE — Some veterinary surgeons have expressed reservations over a recent call by Member of Parliament (MP) Louis Ng for new regulations to prevent healthy but aggressive pets from being euthanised before options to find a new home or re-train the pet are explored.

Member of Parliament Louis Ng is seeking tighter rules over the euthanising of healthy pets which may be aggressive.

Member of Parliament Louis Ng is seeking tighter rules over the euthanising of healthy pets which may be aggressive.

SINGAPORE — Some veterinary surgeons have expressed reservations over a recent call by Member of Parliament (MP) Louis Ng for new regulations to prevent healthy but aggressive pets from being euthanised before options to find a new home or re-train the pet are explored.

In a social media post on May 7, Mr Ng, who is MP for Nee Soon Group Representation Constituency, advocated that before a healthy animal is euthanised, its owners must prove that they attempted to both train and re-home it.

He also suggested that vets wait seven days after a euthanasia request before putting the animal down.

Mr Ng, also the founder and executive director of animal welfare group Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (Acres), told TODAY that he intends to raise these recommendations in Parliament by directing a question to National Development Minister Lawrence Wong.

He emphasised the need for owners to show documentary evidence that they had exhausted all alternatives before resorting to euthanasia.

Under current regulations in the Singapore Veterinary Association’s code of ethics for veterinarians, vets must consider euthanising animals to prevent unnnecessary suffering, but must first consider all appropriate treatment options.

The Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority, which was disbanded in 2018, helped to create the code. Animal-related functions of the agency have been transferred to the National Parks Board (NParks) under a new Animal and Veterinary Service (AVS) unit.

Vets must obtain informed consent for euthanasia in writing as far as possible, and may turn down a euthanasia request if they do not deem it necessary.

The regulations do not specifically address the question of euthanising a healthy animal.

Mr Ng’s first suggestion mandates that owners present a certified statement from a trainer accredited by the AVS confirming that their pet is not capable of being trained and that its aggressive behaviour cannot be tamed.

He also suggested that pet owners must also show documentary proof that they attempted to find the pet a new home.

Speaking on his proposed seven-day waiting period, he added that this time restriction would not only give NParks and animal welfare groups a chance to find the animal a new home, but it would also serve as a “cooling-off” period to give its owner an opportunity to rethink the decision.

“These proposed measures might cause some inconvenience to people wanting to euthanise their dog or cat, but they are necessary to ensure that we exhaust all available options before taking the life of a healthy animal,” he said.

Mr Ng’s push for these new guidelines comes after he received news that a young adopted dog named Loki was put down on May 6 after displaying apparent aggressive behaviour, including biting people.

Netizens have criticised its owners for their decision, and the case is currently under investigation by AVS.

In the meantime, Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam advised Singaporeans via a Facebook post on Wednesday to refrain from drawing conclusions on the matter before the AVS investigations are completed.

REVIEWING PET EUTHANASIA GUIDELINES

Dr Jaipal Singh Gill, executive director of the Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA), felt that Singapore is ready for a review of existing pet euthanasia regulations.

“Times have changed over the years, and more people are open to adopting rescued animals. We’re in a day and age where a healthy animal will be able to find a home,” he told TODAY.

Dr Gill also said that revamping Singapore’s pet euthanasia regulations should be a holistic process involving veterinarians, government agencies and animal welfare groups, since the issue is complex and involves many parties.

“The decision of whether an animal should be euthanised is a very challenging and emotional one… We need a framework to support those making that decision,” he said.

He added that the SPCA’s euthanasia procedures would be adjusted to fall into line with any changes to guidelines following a review, since the animal welfare organisation’s procedures are similar to those of vet clinics.

Dr Chua Hui Li, primary head vet of house-call practice The Housecall Vet, said she also felt that Singapore should revise its animal euthanasia guidelines.

“I think we really need the authorities to come down and actually state that before we put down an aggressive dog, there should be steps taken to ensure that this dog cannot be retrained, cannot be managed and therefore poses a serious threat to humans,” she said.

She also said that it is important to also educate pet owners on animal behaviour to better understand the triggers and reasons behind their pet’s aggression.

OTHER VETS EXPRESS CONCERNS

Some vets interviewed by TODAY expressed concerns over Mr Ng’s proposal.

Dr Kenneth Tong, founder of Animal and Avian Veterinary Clinic, said that while he welcomed Mr Ng’s recommendations, most vets in Singapore already practise the suggested measures.

“A lot of it is done behind the scenes and we don’t broadcast it, to maintain patient confidentiality… But I can say with confidence that most clinics do this,” said Dr Tong.

He said that most vets, himself included, advise pet owners making euthanasia requests to first seek help from AVS-certified trainers. Dr Tong added that vets would often also assist these owners with finding a new home for their animal.

“It is like washing your hands before you eat. Everyone already knows they should do it, why make it a rule?” he said.

Nevertheless, he said he agreed with Mr Ng’s suggestion of requiring owners to show documentary proof of these measures, saying it would provide better confirmation that they had sought alternatives to euthanasia.

However, Dr Tong expressed concerns over imposing a compulsory one-week waiting period, which he said would be too prescriptive.

“You need to give the vet some flexibility for emergencies and exceptional cases. When you make this a law… it’s too stiff,” he said, adding that vets are already held accountable by NParks and AVS for any complaints made by pet owners.

Dr Michelle Loh, who runs vet house-call practice Polaris Veterinary Services, said that while euthanasia should be used only as a last resort, vets should have the authority to decide when to put down an animal if it poses a threat to human safety and cannot be rehomed or retrained.

“Realistically, if the owner has young children running around at home, an arbitrary waiting period that is imposed on a family that has been attacked by the animal also prolongs the risk of serious injury to them... Who is going to be responsible if an owner’s family member is injured in the meantime?” she said.

LOUIS NG RESPONDS TO VETS' CONCERNS

Responding to these concerns, Mr Ng said that he believes it is unlikely that his suggested measures have already been implemented at all vet clinics, owing to the fact that the Loki case, for example, was allowed to happen under the current euthanasia regulations.

Mr Ng added that he understands a pet may pose a threat to its owners or their family but stressed that there remains “a whole range of solutions” they can use to house the animals during the seven-day waiting period.

“You can put the dog in a boarding facility or you can put it with some animal groups that can house it temporarily… we are talking about saving a life,” he said.

Related topics

pets training SPCA pet euthanasia

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