Adoption of Pets in Singapore: Legal Considerations and Procedure

Last updated on September 23, 2019

asian family with pet dogs

With an increasing number of households owning pets in Singapore, you too might be keen on adopting a pet to bring home. This article will explain the procedure and legalities associated with adopting a pet in Singapore. 

Are You Fit to be a Pet Owner?  

Prior to adopting a pet, take a look at the checklist by the National Parks Board (NParks) to determine whether you will be a suitable pet owner

As per the checklist, a “no” answer to any of the following questions would be reason to believe that you may not be an ideal pet owner: 

  • Does my family agree to having a pet?
  • Are we committed to looking after it for life?
  • Can we afford to pay for its veterinary bills, food, and grooming?
  • Do we have enough time to care for it?
  • Do we have enough space at home for a pet?
  • Do we know how to care for our pet properly?

Conversely, if you answer “yes” to every one of these questions, you are more likely to be equipped to be a good pet owner. You can then proceed to look into the type of pets you’re able to keep and the pet adoption process. 

Legal Considerations Prior to Adopting Pets 

Everyone has a different preference when it comes to their choice of pet. However, you must ensure that your desired species or breed is one that you can legally own in Singapore. 

This is because while a wide range of animals from dogs to gerbils and even turtles can be sold as pets in Singapore, as listed on this NParks webpage, not all breeds of these animals can be kept as pets. 

With the exception of the red-eared slider, Malayan box turtle and green tree frog, most undomesticated species such as birds of prey, reptiles, amphibians and non-human primates cannot be kept as pets in Singapore.

Pets allowed in Housing Development Board (HDB) flats and private properties vary as well.

Pets allowed and not allowed in HDB flats 

Most small breed animals, such as small dogs, rabbits and guinea pigs are allowed in HDB flats.

Keeping of pet dogs in HDB flats

Not all breeds of dogs are allowed as pets in HDB flats. At any one time, you can only have 1 of the 62 HDB-approved small dog breeds in your flat such as pugs, miniature poodles, Shih Tzus and silky terriers. You will need permission from HDB to keep more than 1 small dog in your flat.

Larger dogs from the scheduled list of breeds cannot be kept in HDB flats. 

Keeping of pet cats in HDB flats

It is illegal to keep pet cats in HDB flats. This is due to the potential inconveniences that a roaming cat can cause to neighbours, such as shedding of fur and urinating in common areas.

If you are discovered to be keeping a pet cat in your HDB flat, you can be fined up to $4,000

Pets allowed in private property 

Keeping of pet dogs in private property

In private properties, you are allowed to keep up to 3 pet dogs in one premises. Of the 3 dogs, only 1 can be from the list of scheduled breeds of bigger dogs while the remaining 2 dogs must be from the list of unscheduled breeds of small dogs.

Alternatively, all 3 dogs can be from the list of small dog breeds.

Procedure to Adopt a Pet in Singapore  

Adopting a pet is an opportunity to give a homeless animal a home where it is loved and cared for. The process involves multiple steps to ensure that you can provide the right environment for your pet.

Since each pet adoption agency has its own procedures, the following list gives a general outline of the stages you will go through in the adoption process:  

  1. Contact the pet adoption agency to inquire about its procedure.
  2. Meet the pets for adoption to pick your preferred match.
  3. Have an interview and home visit from the pet adoption agency’s adoption counsellor to ensure that you are prepared to take care of a pet, and that your home is safe and well-equipped to house the pet.  
  4. Depending on the pet adoption agency, the adoption counsellor may bring the pet to your house for a homestay to determine whether your household is a good fit for the pet.
  5. If the adoption counsellor deems that your house is suitable for the pet, and you are certain that the pet is suitable for you and your family, you will be asked to sign an adoption form to legally keep your new pet. 

Fees and documents required in the adoption process are largely dependent on the pet adoption agency. Adoption fees can range from not applicable to $350 depending on the agency approached.

Licensing Your Dog

All pet dogs must be licensed to facilitate the tracing of their owners. When dogs are sold or adopted, the ownership of the dog licence is transferred to the new owner, who must renew the licence before its expiration. 

Owners can obtain a licence for their dogs by applying through the Dog Licensing E-Service with their SingPass. 

When applying for the licence via the e-service, you must have the following prepared:

  • Relevant documents, such as a photo of your dog and sterilisation certificate
  • Proof that your dog has been microchipped; and 
  • The appropriate licence fee:     

Licence fees for dogs, as obtained from the NParks website

 Category  One-year licence* Two-year licence   Three-year licence  
Dogs below 5 months of age S$15 per dog  N.A.   N.A.
 First 3 dogs Sterilised:

S$15 per dog

Non-sterilised:

S$90 per dog

Sterilised:

S$25 per dog

Non-sterilised:

S$165 per dog

Sterilised:

S$35 per dog

Non-sterilised:

S$230 per dog

Fourth and subsequent dog S$180 per dog

OR

A reduced licence fee of S$15 for the fourth dog**

S$325 per dog

OR

A reduced licence fee of S$25 for the fourth dog**

S$460 per dog

OR

A reduced licence fee of S$35 for the fourth dog**

*A 10% rebate is given to licensees who make payment via GIRO, online, or via AXS. 

**Dog has to be a sterilised, obedience-trained mongrel adopted from NParks’ Animal & Veterinary Services’ animal welfare rehoming partner.

Failure to obtain a licence for your dog can result in a maximum charge of $5,000.

What Happens If I’m No Longer Able to Keep My Pet? 

Despite your initial conviction that you will be able to care for your adopted pet, sometimes a situation may arise where you are no longer able to do so. For example, if your pet incurs behavioural or health conditions and you find it hard to manage. In these cases, owners often contemplate surrendering, abandoning or selling their pets. 

Surrendering your pet 

Owners may decide to surrender their pets to animal shelters. However, before surrendering your pet to a shelter or non-profit organisation, consider finding a foster family that is willing to adopt and provide a new home for your pet. 

Foster families can be sought out by asking family and friends if they are keen to take over the responsibility of your pet or through advertising in newspapers and on social media platforms. For instance, the SPCA allows one to post a rehoming advertising notice on their website for a period of 1 month. 

Rehoming your pet before surrendering it to a shelter gives the animal a chance to possibly go to a new home that can meet its needs better. By surrendering your pet, you transfer the responsibility of your pet to the shelter which then houses the animal and decides on further courses of action.

Pets that cannot be rehomed, or rehabilitated due to extreme illness or temperament, may be subjected to euthanasia if the shelter deems necessary.

Abandoning your pet 

Abandoning your pet is seen as a failure to adequately supervise and take reasonable care of an animal. Abandoned pets that are found by the authorities are sent to shelters where they are taken care of as investigations are conducted.

NParks’ Animal & Veterinary Service investigates all cases of pet abandonment by trying to trace the owner, interviewing possible suspects and witnesses and reviewing veterinary reports

As a result of this investigation, owners that are found guilty of abandoning their pets can be penalised as follows:

  • On the first conviction: Fined up to $40,000 and/or imprisoned for a term up to 2 years 
  • On subsequent convictions: Fined up to $100,000 and/or imprisoned for a term up to 3 years

Selling your pet

In addition, if the abandoned pets are not reclaimed by their owners, they may be subjected to the same fate as pets that have been surrendered to shelters – rehabilitation and rehoming, and if deemed necessary, euthanasia. 

If you no longer wish to take care of your pet and are considering selling it, do note that you are not allowed to do so unless you have a pet shop licence. If convicted, you can be fined up to $5,000 or jailed up to 6 months

Animals are sentient beings that deserve to be respected and cared for. Before adopting a pet, be sure to educate yourself on all matters related to owning and caring for the animal. You may refer to resources such as the Code of Animal Welfare (for pet owners) booklet or infographic by NParks. 

Owning a pet means being responsible for the well-being and safety of the animal, so be sure to be prepared for this responsibility by doing extensive research and preparation.