New guidelines to standardise dog rehoming and adoption practices, and dog training and behaviour rehabilitation
14 Jan 2022
- Put together by members of the Rehoming and Adoption Work Group (RAWG) incorporating inputs from close to 4,000 responses from a month-long public consultation
Pet owners, animal welfare groups, dog trainers, veterinarians and members of the public can now refer to new guidelines for dog rehoming and adoption practices, as well as for dog training and behaviour rehabilitation.
These guidelines were developed by the multi-stakeholder Rehoming and Adoption Workgroup (RAWG), which includes veterinarians, dog trainers and members of animal welfare groups. RAWG is led by Minister of State for National Development, Mr Tan Kiat How, and supported by the Animal & Veterinary Service (AVS), a cluster of the National Parks Board (NParks). Formed in October 2020 to improve dog rehoming and adoption processes, RAWG also identified the need to look into raising the standards of the dog training industry.
In drawing up the guidelines, the RAWG also incorporated inputs from the various stakeholders in the pet industry, taking reference from the science behind animal behaviour to improve animal welfare, and to encourage better adoption practices in the pet community. These guidelines were finalised after the RAWG held nine focus group discussions, followed by a month-long online public consultation from October to November 2021. The launch of these guidelines marks the completion of the work done by the RAWG.
More than 80% of the feedback received supported standard guidelines on the rehoming, adoption and training of dogs in Singapore
The online public consultation, that closed on 8 November 2021, drew close to 4,000 respondents, of which more than 90% were pet owners. Overall, the respondents were highly supportive of RAWG’s efforts to develop standard guidelines on the rehoming, adoption and training standards of dogs in Singapore and most of their suggestions have been included in the proposed guidelines.
Rehoming and Adoption Guidelines
The guidelines lay out the guiding principles for the adoption and rehoming of dogs which were previously left to the stakeholders involved in the adoption process, leading to varying levels of understanding and agreement. One key area identified from the survey was for open communication among all parties throughout the adoption process and post-adoption. This ensures common understanding on how best to safeguard the dog’s welfare, and for early intervention if issues arise. The guidelines also cover the roles and responsibilities of the rehomer and adopter, and how adopters could be better supported post-adoption.
These principles were also validated by the public during the online consultation, with many noting that potential adopters should be aware of the responsibilities and obligations that come with adopting a dog. Concerns were also raised about the transparency regarding the health status of the dogs, and the need to keep open communication between adopters and animal welfare groups (AWGs). These concerns have been addressed in the new guidelines, which state that existing medical conditions and behavioural history of the dog should be clearly assessed and made known to all relevant parties before adoption. Pre-adoption screening, adoption processes and post-adoption support should be robust and clearly communicated to adopters.
Dog Training and Behaviour Rehabilitation
The new set of guidelines seeks to educate dog trainers and pet dog owners on safe, science-based, and effective means of dog training to ensure animal welfare and behavioural outcomes throughout training and rehabilitation. The guidelines share information on the science of animal learning and recommend using the LIMA “Least Intrusive, Minimally Aversive” as the approach to animal training. This was supported by nine out of every 10 respondents who agreed that training devices and techniques that cause pain, fear, anxiety and distress should be avoided. It also includes a section which helps pet owners identify trainers who subscribe to this approach, who will develop a systematic training plan using the least aversive intervention to achieve effective behaviour change in their pets. The guidelines also share that aversive training devices and techniques (e.g. beating, kicking, or choking) which causes excessive pain, fear, anxiety, and distress should be avoided.
With these guidelines in place, the community will now have a reference guide for implementing best practices. The guidelines for the Adoption and Rehoming of Dogs are recommended for dogs which are adopted from and rehomed by AWGs. Likewise, the guidelines for Dog Training and Behaviour Rehabilitation are recommended to dog trainers and pet dog owners to ensure optimal animal welfare and behavioural outcomes throughout training and rehabilitation.
Pet Sector Review
AVS had embarked on the Pet Sector Review in August 2019, which aims to raise the standards of animal health and welfare in Singapore. Moving forward, AVS will be reviewing the current dog trainer accreditation scheme to benchmark to international standards, based on science-based training methods that utilise the LIMA approach. AVS will also be reviewing the use of dog training devices such as shock and prong collars.
One of the key focus areas is also to promote public education and outreach on responsible pet ownership and harmonious co-existence with animals. AVS will continue to forge relationships with like-minded individuals and communities to spread awareness on the science behind animal care and promote responsible pet ownership in Singapore. To raise awareness on the science behind animal behaviour, AVS has also been organising webinars that feature international experts in the fields of ethology, animal behaviour and welfare. These are part of AVS’ efforts to develop the competencies of the industry and the public, in the areas of animal interaction and behaviour modification through a science-based approach.
AVS will continue to engage with the public and stakeholders to raise standards within the pet sector. 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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