New educational programmes and resources on animal behaviour and ethology
18 Dec 2020
- Free resources produced by the Animal & Veterinary Service (AVS) will raise awareness about science of animal behaviour
- First comprehensive suite of learning resources on animals for students
The Animal & Veterinary Service (AVS), a cluster of the National Parks Board (NParks), launched new educational programmes and resources to raise awareness on the science behind animal behaviour, targeted at both pet and non-pet owners as well as students. For pet owners, they can look forward to online resources such as videos on basic pet care and animal ethology. For non-pet owners, they can learn more about co-existing with animals through upcoming webinars on animal ethology. For students, there will be new programmes such as Learning Journeys to the Sembawang Animal Quarantine Station or to the new animal classroom at the Jacob Ballas Children’s Garden, three new additions into the big storybook series on pets and an educational resource package for pre-schools.
Seeding the importance of responsible pet ownership at a young age
Since April 2019, AVS has reached out directly to students of different school levels on animal behaviour and what it means to be a responsible pet owner through new school plays, reading programmes and student school projects.
Recognising the importance of seeding information on responsible pet ownership at a young age, many of these new resources are targeted at pre-school to primary levels. Working with the Ministry of Education and Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA), messages on pet care, animal health and ethology as well as human-animal interaction were incorporated into the school curriculum and syllabus. Beyond teachers’ guides, there are special training sessions for pre-school educators on how to use these guides to develop lesson plans on community and companion animals, human-animal interaction, one health, and civic mindedness. Animal-related messages are carried via new school plays that are performed for pre-school students.
In addition, AVS has also developed new collaterals and resources that preschools, and teachers can tap on as part of their educational materials on companion animals in Singapore. Besides new exhibition panels that are available on loan to pre-schools and primary schools, educators can also download complementary online activity sheets. The paper model programme, which was updated to include new information on the importance of being civic-minded when it comes to pet care, complements the Character and Citizenship syllabus on Responsible Pet Ownership. About 40 000 sets of this model was distributed to all Primary 4 students. It is the 6th year that the paper models are being sent out to all primary schools.
Moving forward, AVS will be introducing a new programme for these young students, where they will get visit the new animal classroom at Jacob Ballas Children’s Garden, as a Learning Journey. The animals at the animal classroom are also featured in three additions to AVS’ big storybook series on pets. The books, which focus on pet care, will be distributed to all 1700 pre-school centres by March 2021. In addition to the books, an educational resource kit comprising of videos, posters, educational cards, 3D model construction kits and a teaching aid for educators, will also be launched in Q2 2021.
Education and outreach on different platforms for older age groups
To reach out to youths, AVS has worked with the uniformed groups such as St John Singapore and Singapore Scouts Association on human-animal interaction in their badge programmes. Beyond learning about basic pet care, students who participate in the Pet Care badge will be able to volunteer at AVS’ pet-centric events. Youths at Institutes of Higher Learning will also have opportunities to propose practical solutions on animal-related issues as part of the Final Year Projects. Projects that students have worked on include looking at ways to manage the stray dog population and the importance of sterilisation for community animals. AVS will continue to incorporate such animal-related issues and topics into tertiary school projects. We have also expanded our engagement platforms and are planning for new Learning Journeys to the Sembawang Animal Quarantine Station, targeted at tertiary and secondary school students.
Free webinars, online resources for the public
With increasing pet ownership in Singapore, the AVS has also been focusing its public outreach efforts on raising awareness on responsible pet ownership and animal ethology through events such as the monthly Pets Day Out and the inaugural webinar in the “Science behind Animal Behaviour” webinar series. The public can look forward to more monthly webinars on animal health, welfare and behaviour, starting with one on 19 December focusing on considerations before getting a pet. These webinars will feature AVS vets as well as professionals in the pet industry and will be held every 4th Saturday of the month.
Beyond the existing pet-related videos on DIY treats and toys, AVS will also be producing a series of videos on basic pet care for common pets. These videos will be available for free on NParks Buzz Youtube channel (@NParksSG), and Facebook (@AnimalBuzzSG). There will be 15 videos in total to be rolled out over 2021, starting with the first on pet cat care.
For industry professionals, AVS launched the “Science behind Animal Behaviour” webinar series. The first webinar was held in October 2020, focusing on canine behaviour with international animal experts. The next webinar will be held in January 2021 and will be about feline behaviour.
Volunteering opportunities for individuals and corporations
Beyond students, AVS is also developing volunteering opportunities for individuals and corporations through animal related programmes. One pilot scheme on Animal-Assisted Interventions involves pairing animals (which are assessed to be of suitable temperaments and possessing the necessary skills) with individuals who could benefit from these activities, to improve their psychological and physiological well-being. Pilot sessions that involved guided interaction sessions with cats, were carried out in November 2020 with youths from Youth GO!, a youth outreach programme run by Fei Yue Community Services, one of the agencies appointed by the Ministry of Social and Family Development to run the programme. Youth GO! supports at-risk youths, aged 12 to 21, so that they will be meaningfully engaged either in their studies or work, stay crime-free and be able to solve problems and be resilient individuals. Moving forward, AVS will be partnering Youth GO! to conduct animal-assisted intervention programmes for more youths. This hopes to provide youths with opportunities to engage in interest-based activities, while imparting life skills and developing them positively. Through feedback from the youths, AVS will finetune the programme to better benefit both the participants and animals involved and intends to expand the programme to other beneficiaries in the near future.
Individuals and corporations who would like to contribute to these programmes and resources can contact NParks’ registered charity, Garden City Fund at firstname.lastname@example.org or make a contribution online through https://www.giving.sg/garden-city-fund/communityanimals-wildlife. All donations received through giving.sg from now till 31 March 2021 will be matched through a Tote Board grant.
Pet Sector Review – complemented by outreach and education efforts
These new resources and outreach and engagement efforts complement the work that is being done as part of a holistic review of the pet sector to raise the standards of animal health and welfare in Singapore. Four areas were previously highlighted since AVS embarked on the review in August 2019, namely, traceability of pets, and the pet boarding and breeding sectors and the development of the veterinary industry. The team has been engaging the industry to review the licensing conditions for the breeding and boarding sectors.
In October 2020, a work group to look at rehoming and adoption practices of animals was also set up. Under this Rehoming and Adoption Work Group (RAWG), key areas of focus have been identified including working on guiding principles for dog rehabilitation, increasing post-adoption support and reviewing AVS’ panel of accredited dog trainers. The working group members have also developed challenge statements to improve the process of adoption, rehabilitation and rehoming of animals, namely how we might improve the success rate of rehoming, and how we might enhance the competency and standards of the dog training industry. These statements will help focus discussions and generate ideas to further enhance these areas. We will continue to work with the individuals from the Animal Welfare Groups, veterinarians and dog trainers to finetune these identified areas of concerns.
The work on the review of the pet sector is expansive and important, with the aim to raise the standards of animal health and welfare in Singapore. Complemented by the new resources on responsible pet care and animal ethology that target to share more science-based information with the community, the public can then play a more active role in creating a highly liveable environment with harmonious human-animal interactions. This is in line with the vision to transform Singapore into a City in Nature, for which community stewardship is a key thrust.
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