HDB-Pet Ownership Policy To Be Reviewed

The Ministry of National Development (MND) and Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) are working together to review long-standing policies on pet ownership and stray animal management. This announcement trails MND minister Khaw Boon Wan’s blog post, which called for the AVA to look into its practice of culling stray felines and urged for a “compassionate and mature approach” in tackling the issue.

( By reviewing pet ownership policies, authorities hope to reduce the number of stray animals in Singapore.)

Currently, HDB rules disallow residents to keep cats, while only one dog of an approved small breed is allowed for each unit. Brigadier-General (NS) and Minister of State for National Development Tan Chuan-Jin, who has been assigned by Khaw to work on the matter with AVA, animal welfare groups and residents on this matter, revealed to The Straits Times that the driving force behind this review was the surge in pet ownership over the years. For instance, the number of dog licenses increased from 56,000 in 2008 to 59,000 in 2010. Cats do not need to be licensed.

Tan explained, “So, I think it is important to now start focusing on going into a lot more details about the policies involved,” adding, “I think it is important for us to find out how to create a common space for people. It is not really about animals per se; it is really about the common space, the living environment that our people live in.”

His comments were made in reference to constant tensions between pet owners and those who do not like animals. In fact last year, AVA received 3,500 complaints on stray cats and 2,900 complaints on stray dogs. As such, the review will involve feedback from residents, town councils as well as animal welfare groups.

From this month, AVA will also launch the Stray Cat Sterilisation Programme – a pilot collaboration between AVA, participating town councils and the Cat Welfare Society (CWS) – to provide an alternative solution to culling. The programme will be carried out in the Sembawang-Nee Soon, Tampines, Ang Mo Kio and Marine Parade town councils. To encourage pet keepers to sterilise their cats, AVA will subsidise half the sterilisation costs (up to $30 for male cats, $60 for females) and $20 to microchip the animal. CWS will further subsidise $10 for each cat. SPCA will subsidise 50% of sterilisation costs in the MacPherson division of Marine Parade.

Previously, AVA, various town councils and animal welfare groups put a Stray Cat Rehabilitation Scheme together. However, negligible results – there was no reduction in the number of strays or complaints from the general public – caused the scheme to be terminated in 2003.

Not surprisingly, animal welfare groups in Singapore more than welcome the policy review. “We have always believed that sterilisation was the more humane and effective approach to significantly reducing the stray cat population. Culling over decades has proven ineffective,” commented Ms Deirdre Moss, outgoing executive director of SPCA.

How will the review affect those living in HDBs?
Should the sterilisation programme be a success, changes could be made to the pet ownership policy for HDB residents. Likewise, the culling policy could be replaced by a license-and-sterilisation one. Over time, as pet ownership numbers increase, HDB residents can expect a significant dip in the number of strays, and consequently, stray-related nuisances such as scavenging and dirtying of the environment.