A comprehensive guide to animal abuse offences and penalties in Singapore
Singaporean legislation states animals should be treated with respect. However, reports reveal 90 cases of animal abuse take place each month.
Many people in Singapore own pets that are treated like a member of the family, and those that do not own pets, treat the animals around them with respect.
Unfortunately, there are also a number that do not, with the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) in Singapore receiving an average of 80 to 90 reports of alleged animal cruelty every month.
This article will help you to identify animal abuse, the consequences for the abuser and the abused animal, and what steps to take should you witness it.
There are 2 main types of animal abuse recognised as criminal offences in Singapore. These are namely:
A person commits animal cruelty if they:
- Cause or allow any unnecessary physical or psychological pain or suffering to any animal by beating, kicking, torturing, ill-treating or terrifying the animal;
- Make a sick or unfit animal work; or
- Are involved in any business or incident related to animal fighting (e.g. dogfighting or cockfighting).
Any person found guilty of animal cruelty faces a fine of up to $15,000, and/or imprisonment for up to 18 months. In the case of subsequent offences, the offender faces a fine of up to $30,000 and/or imprisonment of up to 3 years.
A particularly severe example of animal cruelty in Singapore occurred in 2017. The offender had run down 19 flights of stairs with his pet poodle attached to him on a leash. As a result, the poodle was banged against the wall, floor and stairs, leaving blood stains, and sustained serious injuries from being dragged by his owner. The poodle was then abandoned and subsequently died from its injuries.
Pet owners are under a duty to:
- Provide their pet with adequate and suitable food and water;
- Provide their pet with adequate shelter;
- Not subject the pet to unreasonable or unnecessary pain or suffering in how they are handled, or confined; and
- Protect their pet from any significant injury or disease.
Additionally, pet owners must not abandon their pets, and must make efforts to find them if they go missing.
Failing to comply with any of the above duties is considered neglect, which is a criminal offence.
Any person found guilty of neglecting an animal faces a fine of up to $10,000, and/or imprisonment for up to 12 months. In the case of subsequent offences, the offender faces a fine of up to $20,000 and/or imprisonment of up to 2 years.
Where the person commits such an offence while in the course of employment in an animal-related business (e.g. at a pet boarding facility), they will be liable for a fine of up to $40,000 and/or to imprisonment for up to 2 years. In the case of subsequent offences, the offender faces a fine of up to $100,000 and/or imprisonment for up to 3 years.
The court has the power to disqualify those found guilty of animal cruelty or neglect from owning all kinds of animals for up to 12 months. In the above case involving the abuse of the pet poodle, the offender was disqualified from owning animals for 12 months.
If a person who has been disqualified from owning animals continues to do so, they are guilty of an offence and face a fine of up to $5,000, and/or imprisonment for up to 6 months.
When such a disqualification order is made, the court may also take away any animals owned by the offender.
The court may also order for the animal to receive veterinary treatment. In this situation, the offender is liable for all costs of the animal’s treatment until it has recovered.
If you witness an act of deliberate cruelty that results in the death or injury of an animal, or the abandonment of an animal, the SPCA recommends that you take the following steps:
- Call the police at 999 immediately.
- Call the SPCA at 62875355 ext 9 (available 24/7).
- Take a video or picture of the suspect if it is safe to do so.
- Note any distinguishing features of the persons, or any clothing or accessories worn, or any vehicle numbers.
- Note the exact location the cruelty took place.
- Take pictures of the animal and the surrounding area. Forward all pictures and videos to the SPCA at [email protected].
- If the animal is dead, do not move the body.
If you witness any other type of cruelty that may not require the immediate attention of the SPCA or the police (for example, you suspect an animal is being neglected but it has no injuries), you may fill out the Cruelty Complaint Form and the SPCA will investigate.
However, it must be noted that the SPCA does not have any powers of enforcement. The SPCA is a charitable, non-government animal welfare charity that primarily works to rescue animals, facilitate the adoption of unwanted and stray pets, and educate the public on treating animals kindly.
Hence, serious cases of animal abuse, where the animal is severely injured or dies from the abuse, or cases of neglect with no improvement are referred to the police or the Animal & Veterinary Service (AVS) of the National Parks Board. As the police and the AVS have powers of enforcement, they can launch criminal investigations against the abuser.
Once an injured animal has been discovered, and the SPCA has been alerted, they will dispatch their Animal Rescue Officers who are on call 24/7. These officers will bring the animal to SPCA’s vets for care.
Once treated, many of these animals are released back into the community, put up for adoption or fostered by a fosterer.
Sadly, in some situations, the animal either does not survive the abuse, or is in such a state that they must be euthanised. In such a situation, the court may make an order to euthanise the animal.
Fortunately, there is legislation in place and animal welfare organisations that aim to help and rehome abused animals, and prevent such incidents of abuse from occurring in the first place. If you witness any acts of animal cruelty or neglect, please inform the SPCA and/or the police.