Monday, October 1, 2007

Out of the doghouse

30 Sep 2007, ST

Dog owners who have not licensed their pets don't have to fear the $5,000 fine if they come forward now

By Mak Mun San

IF YOU still haven't got your dog licensed and worry that you will be slapped with a $5,000 fine if you try to do it now, sleep easy.

The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) says dog owners who come forward to license dogs they have kept unregistered for some time will not be penalised, even though the deadline concerning new fines has passed.

'However, if our officers visit their premises and find them keeping unlicensed dogs, they will be penalised,' AVA spokesman Goh Shih Yong tells LifeStyle.

The AVA announced on Aug 3 that it is raising the maximum fines for unlicensed dogs from $500 to $5,000.

Licence fees have also gone up from $14 a year for an unsterilised male dog to $70, the same for an unsterilised bitch. The licence fee for a sterilised male dog or bitch remains at $14 a year.

The new rules kicked in on Sept 1. All dogs that apply to be licensed from this date must also be microchipped. Mirochipping was not a requirement previously.

Tiny electronic chips, which are implanted under the skin of a dog using a needle, contain the contact details of the dog owner. These chips make it easy to trace the owner should the dog be lost or abandoned.

Microchipping is carried out by vets and is different from an AVA licence.

Mr Goh says the AVA has not taken action against anyone since Sept 1. However, about 1,000 dog owners were fined last year for keeping a dog without a licence.

'We are not out to collect fines and fees,' he stresses, adding that the whole exercise is to emphasise the 'importance of being a responsible pet owner'.

'Dogs need to be licensed so that we will know where they are. In a situation where there is an outbreak of rabies, the AVA can arrange for the licensed dog to be vaccinated quickly,' he says.

You can apply for a licence online ( or at the Animal Welfare and Control office in Pasir Panjang.

For housewife K. Tan, 71, the good news from the AVA means that she no longer has to worry about being fined.

She realised that her three-year-old bichon frise was unlicensed only after the new AVA rules were announced.

'I bought my dog as a puppy from a pet shop and it came microchipped. I had assumed that it also came with a licence,' she says.

When the new rules were announced, she went to look for the dog's licence and realised he didn't have one.

'I'm so relieved I won't be fined if I apply for a licence now. I will apply for one straightaway,' she says.

While Mrs Tan's pet dog can continue to run around without fear, some dogs are not so lucky.

Last week, The Straits Times reported that the number of dogs that are abandoned or given up has gone up alarmingly since the new AVA rules were announced.

From Aug 3 to Sept 1, pet owners had left 107 dogs with the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA). In the month of July, the number of dogs given up was just 62.

The SPCA also took in 76 lost or abandoned dogs during that period, more than the 64 or so for June and July.

It says owners are giving their unlicensed dogs up or abandoning them because they do not want to pay the fines.

This 'amnesty' of sorts from the AVA is also unlikely to improve the situation for some people with unlicensed dogs, such as a dog owner who wants to be known only as Jeremy.

The 31-year-old sales executive has been keeping a large golden retriever in his five-room flat for about two years. This despite the HDB rule that allows just one dog of an approved breed, generally small canines, in each flat.

Jeremy says he gave the dog to his ex-girlfriend as a gift and it used to live with her in a terrace house. But she returned the pet when they split up and he had 'no choice' but to take it in illegally.

'I know I'm risking hefty fines from both the AVA and the HDB but what can I do?' he laments.

The maximum fine for keeping a dog of a non-approved breed in an HDB flat is $4,000.

He adds that the dog was registered under her name but as she has since moved to a flat, he has not been able to renew the licence or transfer the ownership of the dog given his HDB address.

'I don't want to give the dog up for adoption because my family members have become very attached to it, and abandoning it is out of the question.'

He says he is now exercising extra caution and will walk his dog only 'very late at night' when fewer neighbours are up and about.


Owners' FAQ

At what age must a dog be licensed?

A dog that is three months old and above must be licensed.

Where can I get my dog microchipped?

You can get it done at any veterinary clinic. The cost may range from $40 to $80. When applying for a new licence, dog owners must submit documentary proof from a veterinarian to show that their dogs have been microchipped.

I currently have a licensed dog. Do I need to microchip my dog before I can renew my dog's licence?

Only dogs registered after Sept 1 need to be microchipped. You do not need to microchip your dog if it has already been licensed. But for better identification of your pet, you are strongly encouraged to have it microchipped.

Source: Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority

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