Animal Abuse in Singapore: Offences, Penalties & How to Report Abuse
In 2023, animal abuse cases hit an all-time high in Singapore. According to statistics from the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA), the number of reported cases of animal cruelty and welfare issues that it investigated surged by 79% from 511 in 2022, to 915 in 2023 – this is the most reports the charity has received in a single year for the past 11 years.
There were also 558 cases relating to animal welfare and neglect, with the SPCA attending to 137 pet abandonment cases involving 285 animals in 2023, marking a two-fold increase from the 62 cases recorded in 2022.
This article explains the laws on animal abuse in Singapore, the penalties that offenders might face, as well as the steps that you can take should you encounter or witness animal abuse.
Offences Against Animals and their Penalties
Animal abuse falls under two categories in Singapore, and are recognised as criminal offences:
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).
First-time offenders can be fined up to $15,000, and/or be imprisoned for up to 18 months. In the case of subsequent offences, the offender faces a fine of up to $30,000 and/or imprisonment for up to 3 years.
A particularly egregious case 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 by the owner and subsequently died from its injuries.
Neglect of animals
According to the SPCA, it attended to 137 pet abandonment cases involving 285 animals in 2023 — a two-fold increase from the 62 cases recorded in 2022.
Small animals such as rabbits, hamsters, guinea pigs, terrapins and birds made up half of the number of pet abandonment cases. In one case, 17 guinea pigs were found inside two thermal GrabFood bags, while another case involved hamsters that were abandoned next to a rubbish bin without access to food or water.
Pet owners in Singapore are expected to abide by the Code of Animal Welfare (for pet owners), which was issued by the former Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore in 2017. The code specifies the minimum standards for animal housing, management, and care which pet owners are expected to comply with, which include 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 can be fined up to $10,000, and/or imprisoned 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. Recent cases include a video allegedly showing a trainer from dog training centre K9 Connection repeatedly hitting a dog with a metal bowl. In another case, two staff members from dog training firm Xavian and Pack were suspended after they were seen in a video pushing and hitting two dogs.
Other penalties for offenders of animal cruelty or neglect
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 previously discussed 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.
What to Do If You Witness an Act of Animal Cruelty
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@example.com.
- 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 physical injuries), you may fill out the Cruelty & Welfare Report and the SPCA will investigate further.
However, it must be noted that the SPCA does not have any powers of enforcement. The SPCA is a 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.
What Happens to the Animals that were Abused?
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.
- Singapore’s Extraterritorial Jurisdiction: What Does It Mean?
- Your Right to a Lawyer After Being Arrested in Singapore
- What to Do If Your Loved One is Under Police Investigation
- How to Write a Letter of Representation to AGC in Singapore
- What is Entrapment and is It Legal in Singapore?
- What Happens When You Voluntarily Surrender to the Police
- Juvenile Crime: What If Your Child is Arrested in Singapore?
- Seized Assets in Money Laundering Investigations: What Happens To Them?
- Tasers, Batons, Shields & Firearms: When Do the Police Use Them?
- Stopped by the Singapore Police For Spot Checks, Etc: What to Do
- What is the Appropriate Adult Scheme in Singapore?
- Police Investigation Process for Crimes in Singapore (4 Steps)
- Arrest Warrant Issued Against You in Singapore: What to Do
- Police Arrest Procedure in Singapore
- Arrestable and Non-Arrestable Offences in Singapore
- What Should You Do If You Witness a Crime in Singapore?
- Can the Public Make a Citizen's Arrest in Singapore?
- What to Do If You’re Being Investigated for a Criminal Offence in Singapore
- "Right to Remain Silent" to Singapore Police: Does It Exist?
- Police Custody in Singapore: What You Should Know
- Search Warrant: The Issuance and Execution of It in Singapore
- Penalties for Lying to the Authorities in Singapore
- Can You Say No to a Lie Detector Test in Singapore? And Other FAQs
- Surrender of Passport to the Police and How to Get It Back
- Extradition: What If I Flee After Committing Crime in Singapore
- Making Objections at Trial in the Singapore Courts
- When is a Witness Testimony Unreliable in Singapore?
- Burden of Proof in Criminal and Civil Cases in Singapore
- Falsely Accused of a Crime in Singapore: Your Next Steps
- What is Acquittal & How Can One Be Acquitted in Singapore?
- Using the Defence of Diminished Responsibility in Singapore
- Death of a Party in a Legal Case in Singapore: What Happens?
- The "Unusually Convincing" Test in "He Said, She Said" Cases
- How to Adjourn or Postpone a Criminal Court Hearing
- TIC: Guide to Charges Taken Into Consideration in Singapore
- Can I Use the Defence of Intoxication in Singapore?
- When Can I Raise the Defence of Provocation in Singapore?
- Writing Character References For Court: What’s Their Purpose?
- Giving False vs. Wrong Evidence: What’s the Difference?
- Can I Represent Myself in a Criminal Court Case in Singapore and How?
- Claiming Trial as an Accused
- Pleading Guilty in Singapore: Consequences & Withdrawal of Plea
- The Defence of Unsound Mind in Singapore: What is It?
- Gag Orders in Singapore: Whose Identity Can be Protected?
- Mitigation Plea: How to Plead for Leniency in Court in Singapore
- Recidivism: What Happens If You Reoffend in Singapore?
- Guide to Filing a Criminal Appeal in Singapore
- Criminal Motion: What is It and How to File One in Singapore
- Guide to Filing a Criminal Revision in Singapore
- Presidential Clemency in Singapore
- Repatriation or Deportation from Singapore: How Does It Work?
- Criminal Records in Singapore
- Visiting a Loved One in Prison or On Death Row in Singapore
- Getting Parole (Early Prison Release) in Singapore
- Fined for an Offence: What to Do If I Can't Afford to Pay Them?
- How Long Is Life Imprisonment in Singapore? And Other FAQs
- Corrective Training and Its Consequences in Singapore
- Consequences of Receiving a Stern Warning in Singapore
- Probation: Eligibility and Whether It Leaves a Criminal Record
- How Can Adult Offenders Get Probation in Singapore?
- Reformative Training in Singapore: When Will It be Ordered?
- Are You Eligible for a Mandatory Treatment Order (MTO)?
- Caning in Singapore: Judicial, School & Parental Corporal Punishment
- 7 Detention Orders in Singapore: When Will They be Ordered?
- Day Reporting Order: Eligibility and Offender's Obligations
- Ragging and Bullying: Their Penalties and What Victims Can Do
- Laws Protecting Informers/Whistleblowers in Singapore
- Counterfeit Medicine/Health Products: Redress for Victims in Singapore
- Breach of Protection Orders: What Can Victims Do?
- Using Your Right to Self-Defence When Attacked in Singapore
- Compensation for Crime Victims in Singapore: How to Obtain
- Rape Laws in Singapore and How Offenders Can Be Punished
- Sexual Misconduct in Singapore: Offences and What Victims Can Do
- Falsely Accused of Rape in Singapore: What to Do
- Incest and Family Sexual Abuse: Penalties and Victim Protection
- How are Sexual Offenders with Special Needs Penalised?
- Cybersexual Crimes in Singapore and Their Penalties
- Legal Age for Sex in Singapore and Common Sexual Offences
- Consent in Sexual Offences in Singapore and What Victims Can Do
- Accused of Molest: Outrage of Modesty in Singapore
- What Can Victims of Sexual Harassment in Singapore Do?
- What is the Law on Sexting in Singapore?
- Revenge Porn: What If Your Nudes are Leaked in Singapore?
- Crime of Voyeurism in Singapore (Penalties and Defences)
- Date Rape: What to Do If Your Drink Has Been Unlawfully Spiked?
- STDs: Can I Go to the Police If a Partner Infected Me in Singapore?
- Alcohol Breathalyser Test in Singapore: Can You Refuse it?
- Are Sex Toys and Sex Dolls Legal in Singapore?
- Singapore's Legal Smoking Age & Common Smoking Offences
- Is Vaping Illegal in Singapore?
- Legal Drinking Age and Drinking-Related Laws in Singapore
- Is Watching, Downloading or Filming Porn Illegal in Singapore?
- Child Pornography in Singapore: Offences and Penalties
- Laws on Procuring Sex Workers & Sexual Services in Singapore
- Singapore's Drug Laws: Possession, Consumption and Trafficking
- Gambling Legally (at Home, in Public or Online) in Singapore
- The Offence of Human Trafficking in Singapore and Its Penalties
- What is a Protected Area and Place in Singapore?
- Penalties For Buying Stolen Goods in Singapore
- Penalties for Committing Theft in Singapore
- Committing Robbery in Singapore: What are the Penalties?
- Penalties for Dishonest Misappropriation of Property in Singapore
- Vandalism Laws: Penalties for Damaging Property in Singapore
- Criminal Trespass in Singapore: What Happens If You’re Caught?
- Penalties for Littering Offences in Singapore
- What is a POFMA Correction Direction and How to Appeal
- Penalties for Cheating/Scamming and What Victims Can Do
- Penalties for Impersonating Someone and Victim Redress
- Singapore Fake News Laws: Guide to POFMA (Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act)
- Laws and Penalties for Doxxing in Singapore (With Examples)
- Tax Evasion in Singapore: Penalties and Examples
- Criminal Breach of Trust (CBT) in Singapore: What is It?
- All You Need to Know About Corruption in Singapore
- Anti-Money Laundering Laws and You
- 5 Things You Need to Know about Insider Trading
- Dishonest Assistance and Knowing Receipt: The Case of David Rasif
- Charged with a Traffic Offence in Singapore: What to Do
- DUI: Here are the Penalties for Drink-Driving in Singapore
- What Happens If You’re Caught Speeding in Singapore?
- Road Rage: What is It and How are Offenders Sentenced in Singapore
- Penalties for Dangerous Driving for Singapore Drivers
- Fatal Traffic Accidents: Are Drivers Always Punished?
- Guide to E-Scooter and PMD Laws for Singapore Riders
- Is it Legal for Drivers to Carpool in Singapore?
- Radicalisation and Terror Attack-Related Penalties in Singapore
- Causing a Public Nuisance in Singapore: What are the Penalties?
- Causing Public Alarm in Singapore: Examples & Penalties
- Public Assemblies and Processions in Singapore
- Misbehaving in Public: 5 Things You Need to Know
- Racial Enmity: Sections 298 and 298A Penal Code Explained
- Religious Cults in Singapore: Are they Illegal? Penalties & More
- Penalties for Financing Terrorist Operations in Singapore
- Penalties for Abetting Minors or Committing Crimes Against Them
- Misusing the Singapore Flag and Other National Symbols
- What are the Penalties for Committing Forgery in Singapore?
- Arson and Fire-Related Offences and Their Penalties in Singapore
- Offences Against the Dead and What Family Members Can Do
- Laws on Prohibited, Replica and Self-Defence Weapons
- Laws to Tackle High-Rise Littering in Singapore
- Penalties for Attempting to Commit a Crime in Singapore
- Penalties for Assaulting a Person in Singapore
- Expats Charged With Offences in Singapore: What to Expect
- What are the Penalties for Hiring Phantom Workers in Singapore?
- What Are Ponzi Schemes? Are They Illegal in Singapore?
- Modification of Cars, Motorcycles, Etc: Is It Legal in Singapore?
- Penalties for Illegal Immigration and Overstaying in Singapore
- Criminal Intimidation: Penalties for Making Threats in Singapore