We have many MPs who care a lot about animal welfare. So when I broached the subject of updating our legislation to raise the standard of care for animals, a few of them spoke out passionately. I decided that we should work together on this.
First, I asked MP Yeo Guat Kwang to chair the Animal Welfare Legislation Review Committee (AWLRC) to review the subject comprehensively. He took an inclusive approach, inviting many representatives from animal welfare groups, vets, community, grassroots leaders and the pet industry to join his Committee.
Second, Mr Yeo’s Committee consulted widely. This was necessary as issues relating to the welfare of pet animals evoke strong reactions among our residents. They are not in agreement on how best to ensure the welfare of animals while balancing the interests of the various stakeholders.
Third, patiently, Mr Yeo sought out common ground and settled on what was do-able and acceptable to most, if not all. Their final report of recommendations was a good piece of work, to which MND readily accepted.
Under normal arrangement, the next step would be for MND to work with the AG’s Chambers to draft a Bill for the necessary legislative amendments. I decided that it would be wonderful if Mr Yeo could rope in a few more MPs, to do the follow up by presenting a Private Member’s Bill in Parliament to amend the Animals and Birds Act.
In our Parliament history, there have not been many Private Member’s Bills. On MND matters, there has been none.
So, MPs Yeo Guat Kwang, Alex Yam, Gan Thiam Poh, Edwin Tong and Vikram Nair, made history when they tabled their Bill for first reading early this month. If passed, the Bill will give teeth to many of the recommendations put forth by the AWLRC. It will set new animal welfare standards for individuals and businesses in Singapore, and engender greater responsibility amongst pet owners. It will also update the penalties for convicted acts of animal cruelty.
The Bill is the fruit of more than two years of hard work. Numerous consultations were organised to ensure that all views were considered. It reflects a diversity of perspectives from animal lovers and those who are less comfortable being around animals. We need the understanding and cooperation of all, as we try to balance these diverse views. The key objective is to achieve a harmonious living environment for everyone. In this journey towards higher animal welfare standards, Mr Yeo’s Bill marks a big step forward for us and our companion animals.
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