Animal Abuse in Singapore: Offences, Penalties & How to Report Abuse

Last updated on January 30, 2024

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:

  1. Animal cruelty; and
  2. Neglect/abandonment of animals

Animal cruelty

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.

The offender was sentenced to the maximum imprisonment term of 18 months for 1 charge of animal cruelty, and an additional 2 months for abandonment (i.e. a total sentence of 20 months).

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:

  1. Call the police at 999 immediately.
  2. Call the SPCA at 62875355 ext 9 (available 24/7).
  3. Take a video or picture of the suspect if it is safe to do so.
  4. Note any distinguishing features of the persons, or any clothing or accessories worn, or any vehicle numbers.
  5. Note the exact location the cruelty took place.
  6. Take pictures of the animal and the surrounding area. Forward all pictures and videos to the SPCA at inspector@spca.org.sg.
  7. 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.

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